A Bob Ames
Carrie meets Bob Ames at Mrs. Vance’s. Ames has a high forehead and a rather large nose, but Carrie finds him handsome. She likes even more his boyish nature and nice smile. Mr. and Mrs. Vance and Carrie and Ames have dinner together, and Carrie enjoys Ames’s scholarly manner. He discusses topics that seem of great importance to Carrie, and admits to her that money possesses little value to him. Carrie is intrigued by this unusual person and views her own life as insignificant in comparison.
B Caroline Meeber (Sister Carrie)
Carrie, the main character of the story, allows others to guide her actions. This is particularly true of her relationships with men. At the opening of the novel, eighteen-year-old Carrie sits on a train bound for Chicago from the rural Midwest. A Wisconsin farm girl, Carrie dresses true to her ordinary circumstances. She wears a plain blue dress and old shoes, and demonstrates a reserved, lady-like nature. She feels slightly regretful at telling her parents good-bye and leaving the only home and safety she has known, but she looks forward with curiosity and anticipation to her new life in the city.
When a salesman named Charles Drouet starts a conversation with her on the train, Carrie does not know how to be coy and is, instead, simply direct in her responses to him. It is this first bold encounter with Drouet that establishes Carrie’s fate in the world that exists beyond her farm home. Her exchange with Drouet sets the precedent for her relationship with him and other men she meets.
Carrie lives with her sister and brother-in-law until they are no longer willing to support her. Having run into Drouet on the street and renewed her acquaintance with him, Carrie accepts his invitation to take care of her. While her upbringing rings a cautionary bell in her subconscious, Carrie can see only the advantages to having Drouet provide her with room and board. Drouet offers all that Carrie desires-nights at the theater, beautiful clothes, and delicious restaurant dinners. Carrie ignores her misgivings and enjoys Drouet’s attentions.
These same enticements guide Carrie’s actions after she meets George Hurstwood. His expensive dress and money impress her. At about the same time, she has her first acting experience under the stage name Drouet has given her, “Carrie Madenda.” Carrie gains confidence in herself through Hurstwood’s attentions and the response she gets from her first audience. She eventually leaves Drouet behind.
Carrie and Hurstwood settle in New York. From this point on in the story, Carrie lives for the good things in life that money and fame can bring her. When Hurstwood fails to provide her with these, she leaves him. As Carrie Madenda, the actress, she lives for herself.
C Mrs. Vance
Mrs. Vance is Carrie’s New York friend. She lives with her husband across the hall from Carrie and Hurstwood, and Carrie delights in Mrs. Vance’s piano playing. She and Mrs. Vance visit one another and often walk along Broadway to see and be seen. Mrs. Vance introduces Carrie to Bob Ames.
D Charles Drouet
Charles Drouet travels around the country as a salesman, or drummer, for a dry goods firm. He meets Carrie on the train on her first venture from the farm to the city. Drouet perceives himself as quite a lady’s man. Dressed in a vested suit with shiny gold buttons on his sleeves, he fits the 1880 slang term of a “masher,” or a person who dresses to attract young women. He starts a conversation with Carrie, and she cannot help but notice his pink cheeks, mustache, and fancy hat. In addition to his fine dress and good looks, he possesses an easygoing nature that puts people, especially women, at ease. Drouet manages to learn where Carrie is going and to arrange to meet her on the following Monday.
Although the two do not meet on that Monday, Drouet thinks of Carrie often while he enjoys his clubs, the theater, and having drinks with friends, such as George Hurstwood. He brags to Hurstwood one night about meeting Carrie, “I struck a little peach coming in on the train Friday.” Drouet vows to Hurstwood that he will see Carrie again before he goes out of town.
Drouet runs into Carrie on the street and takes her out to dinner. He impresses her with his lavish spending and worldliness. He gives Carrie money to buy clothes. Carrie sees him as a kind person; Drouet simply enjoys women. He finally convinces Carrie to move in with him. He is thrilled with his “delicious … conquest.”
Unable to keep his conquest to himself, Drouet introduces Hurstwood to Carrie. When Hurstwood and Carrie become too involved with one another, though, Drouet shows his jealousy. He cannot understand why Carrie would be interested in Hurstwood when he, himself, has done so much for her. Carrie resents this and threatens to leave. Drouet leaves instead, angry that Carrie has used him.
Drouet and Carrie do not meet again until he arrives at her dressing room in New York. He tries to act as if nothing has happened, expecting to be able to win back Carrie’s fond regard. Carrie, however, ignores his advances and leaves town without telling him. He tries to tell himself that he does not care, but he feels a new sense of rejection.
E Mrs. Hale
Mrs. Hale lives with her husband in the apartment above the one Carrie and Drouet occupy. Mrs. Hale is an attractive, thirty-five-year-old woman who is Carrie’s Chicago friend. Carrie often accompanies Mrs. Hale on buggy rides to view the mansions neither of them can afford. Mrs. Hale gossips frequently, and Carrie becomes an object of her gossip when Mrs. Hale sees her with Hurstwood while Drouet is out of town.
F Minnie Hanson
Minnie, Carrie’s sister, meets Carrie at the train station when Carrie arrives in Chicago. Minnie dresses plainly and shows the wear and tear of a woman who has to work hard. Her face is lean and unsmiling. Only twenty-seven years old, Minnie appears older. She views her lot in life as duty to her family and sees no room for the pleasures that people around her enjoy. She disapproves of Carrie’s desire to experience the many distractions that Chicago offers. When Carrie leaves Chicago, Minnie is angry at first and then concerned for her sister’s welfare.
G Sven Hanson
An American son of a Swedish father, Sven Hanson is Minnie’s husband and Carrie’s brother-in-law. He works hard cleaning refrigerator cars at the stockyards and intends to provide a better life for his family in the future. The money he makes goes toward payments on a piece of property where he will someday build their home. Sven expects Carrie to not only do her share of work, but also to contribute to the family’s well being. While he generally demonstrates a serious nature, he handles his baby gently and patiently. He is a caring and ambitious person who sees no room for nonsense in his life.
H George Hurstwood Jr.
George Hurstwood Jr., the twenty-year-old son of George Sr. and Julia, works for a real-estate firm but still lives at home. He does not contribute to household expenses and communicates infrequently with his parents. He comes and goes as he pleases, doing little as a family member but reaping the benefits of free room and board.
I George Hurstwood Sr.
At the beginning of the novel, Hurstwood imagines himself a man of distinction. While not nearly forty years old, he has managed to achieve a certain level of success as the manager of Fitzgerald and Moy’s, an elaborately appointed saloon where the best clientele come to socialize. Given his position in the establishment, Hurstwood knows all the right people and can greet most of them in an informal manner. He dresses the part of an important person, too. His tailored suits sport the stiff lapels of imported goods, and his vests advertise the latest patterned fabrics. He complements his suits with mother-of-pearl buttons and soft, calfskin shoes; he wears an engraved watch attached to a solid gold chain. Hurstwood exudes a sense of self-confidence and notoriety.
Hurstwood impresses Carrie the first time they meet. Not only does Hurstwood’s appearance hint at class, but he also charms Carrie with his gentlemanly deference and refined manners. Carrie feels an immediate attraction to Hurstwood.
While Hurstwood associates with Drouet and Carrie as freely as if he were single, he does have a wife and children. At home, Hurstwood displays little of his public geniality although he is always the gentleman. The family revolves about him, generally intent on their own matters but enjoying the status Hurstwood provides for them.
Hurstwood’s downfall begins when Carrie discovers that he is married. Shortly after that, upset that Carrie wants nothing to do with him, he has a brief lapse of integrity and takes money from his employer’s safe. He tricks Carrie into leaving Chicago with him, and the two eventually settle in New York.
New York life brings Hurstwood the realization that he will not enjoy the same preference he had known in Chicago. The status to which he was accustomed in Chicago would cost him more in New York. When he looks for jobs, Hurstwood finds nothing comparable to his position in Chicago. He goes into business with a man whom he later finds to be less than desirable. The business begins failing. With it, Hurstwood’s confidence begins to flag, and his conscience nags him about his crime.
Hurstwood’s business fails, and he has squandered the money he stole. The stress begins to wear on him, and he shows signs of depression. As money becomes tighter and Hurstwood acts more strangely, Carrie feels more dissatisfied. After meeting Bob Ames, a man who represents an entirely different ideal than the men she has always known, Carrie begins to imagine a different life than the one she has with Hurstwood. At the same time, Hurstwood’s psychological state further deteriorates. Eventually, he finds no reason to get dressed. When a friend offers to share an apartment with Carrie, Carrie moves out. After Carrie leaves him, Hurstwood wanders aimlessly through life, one of New York’s homeless, until he can no longer will himself to live.
J Jessica Hurstwood
Seventeen-year-old Jessica, daughter of George and Julia, displays too much independence to suit her parents. Accustomed to having the latest fashions, she insists on replenishing her wardrobe with the change of the seasons. She has high aspirations for herself, picturing a future wherein she will be loved and further pampered by a rich husband.
K Mrs. Julia Hurstwood
A vain person, Mrs. Hurstwood dresses in the latest fashions and enjoys all the luxuries her husband’s success allows her. She is not an overly affectionate woman and finds pleasure in her relationship with her children rather than with her husband. She oversees the housework done by a succession of maids with whom she always finds fault. Mrs. Hurstwood has little faith in mankind and does not hesitate to point out people’s faults. She knows, however, that finding fault with her husband will do nothing to serve her position in life, even though much of the family’s property is in her name.