As an English Literature major, I’ve read numerous novels and one that I find super interesting is Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. The novel introduces Carrie, a young woman who yearns for fame and wealth. She moves to the city to live with her sister and brother-in-law whose meager lifestyle is anything but extravagant. Longing for something more and unhappy with her condition, she falls into the hands of a casanova by the name of Drouet, who promises to shower her with fine clothes and jewelry. Despite her initial apprehension, she leaves her sister and moves into an apartment with him but even with her new life, she is still unhappy. After Drouet introduces her to his refined friend Hurstwood, the latter, who’s old enough to be her father, begins an affair with her. He confesses his love for her, a love which in reality is an infatuation with her youthfulness. Life subsequently happens when Carrie discovers he is married and has two children.
I interpreted the novel as a perfect paradigm of our society. Everybody is out to attain the best in life because everybody believes that living in mansions, driving fast cars and indulging in expensive habits constitute happiness. For Carrie happiness is in elegant dresses and houses, for Drouet happiness is in being a wealthy member of society and in the ability to conquer beautiful women, and for Hurstwood happiness lies in wealth as well as youthfulness. The society in the novel is built on one belief: money.
Imagine bees in a beehive. It is in this beehive that bees live, survive and raise their young. They are a community working toward the betterment of each other and there is a constant sense of togetherness. Now imagine our human hives. Our houses and apartments have become our place of refuge from the community. Rarely do we work together, instead we work against each other quarreling, fighting and hurting those we love all in the name of searching for life’s ultimate price: money. And always, buried deep in the steadfast beats of our hearts, is the impelling goal to possess that green paper which promises to buy us happiness. What we don’t understand until it’s too late is happiness cannot be bought or sold.
Carrie’s materialistic dream becomes a reality; she garners fame and fortune as an actress. But in the end, she learns that the happiness she once believed was feasible through money and fame is still far from reach. In the end, she is rich, lonely and unhappy.
“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” ~ Frederick Keonig