Theodore Dreiser And The Use Of Psychological And Essay

This essay has a total of 2081 words and 9 pages.

Theodore Dreiser And The Use Of Psychological And Sociological Theorie




At the time of Theodore Dreiser's writings world culture was looking to find the
psychological reasons for society's miscreants. Psychology was the new science fad due to
the popularity of Freud and other psychologists. People were beginning to delve into the
world of the subconscious as the source of their troubles. No longer were all mental
illnesses considered maladies of the brain. Some were being able to be treated through the
treatment of the psyche, a Freudian term. Hypnotism was a popular method of therapy. By
investigating the dreams and hidden memories psychotherapist believed they could find the
root of the afflictions of their patients. The lounging couch now so greatly associated
with the psychotherapeutic method of free association was just coming into popular use.

This time period reflects the ideas that surrounded Dreiser. Growing up poor in Indiana as
the ninth of ten children in a devout Catholic German immigrant family, Dreiser received
little formal education as his family moved from town to town. While able to secure a
college education at the University of Indiana he only managed to stay enrolled for one
year. However, he was voracious reader. One of his favorites was Dr. Sigmund Freud, the
preeminent psychologist during Dreiser's life. This fascination with psychological
theories as well as his ability to understand them would become a major trademark of his
later work such as Sister Carrie, in which he details the rise and fall of a working girl.
It is also predominant in his most successful work An American Tragedy, in which he spins
the tale of a psychopathic, overly ambitious young man who will stop at nothing including
murder to attain wealth and great status.

Sister Carrie is preoccupied with Dreiser's statement that society is two concerned with
the societal demands for material success. This is the sociological declaration made in
this novel. The author makes the reader see this. Take the following passage:

"A woman should some day write the complete philosophy of clothes. No matter how young, it
is one of the things who wholly comprehends. There is an indescribably faint line in the
matter of man's apparel which somehow divides for her those who are worth glancing at and
those who are not. Once an individual has passed this faint line on the way downward he
will get no glance from her. There is another line at which the dress of a man will cause
her to study her own."


Here is the statement of the Sister Carrie, the conflict between human needs and the
demands society places on the possession of material goods.

The woman described in this passage is the woman that Dreiser sees as the everyday woman.
It is a cynical portrait. If one were to read this passage word for word he would read
that the author sees the ideal woman as one who discriminates between men solely by their
appearances.

However, this is not the intention Dreiser. He wants us to see the pathetic state of the
woman of his culture of the day. She is a person who does not see a true being but rather
as model of clothes. The material possessions that they display on their person indicate
their status in society and thus denote whether or not they are attractive. The man in
question could be the ugliest thing to have ever stomped on Planet Earth, but if he's
portraying wealth he is worthy of every woman's attractions.

Dreiser is making the point that wealth has taken over the American society so much so
that true human desires such as love and lust are sacrificed to the artificial and
manufactured desires to acquire material goods.

Carrie Meeber lives in Chicago, the then-Mecca of the cosmopolitan consumer world. She is
overwhelmed with the desire to purchase objects and things. They may not be of any
significant value but she feels she needs them.

Carrie loses her first job as a low-paid factory worker. When she loses her job she is
still overwhelmed by the need to purchase things from the capitalistic society she lives
in. Her sister and brother-in-law with whom she boards in Chicago can no longer support
her so she becomes Charlie Drouet's mistress.

By being the mistress of a man who is more in love with romance than her she is able to
live a comfortable life in the home of a man who she can be with. But one must realize
that she is his mistress because he is paying for her life. She is whoring herself to this
salesman to support her lifestyle. However, he never truly pays attention to her as a
being because she has no materialistic wealth, she is only good for the sex.

Eventually Carrie leaves Charlie to live with George Hurstwood, a wealthy manager of
Fitzgerald and Moy's, a saloon in Chicago. However, George is married. When his wife
learns of the affair George flees with Carrie to Canada with ten thousand dollars he
steals from Fitzgerald and Moy's.

While in hiding in Montreal George never tells Carrie of the theft until an investigator
discovers him. He is forced to return the majority of the money after which he descends
into apathy and poverty. Carrie eventually leaves him, as she is no longer able to support
the lifestyle in which she had become accustomed. George becomes a homeless beggar and
eventually commits suicide.

By the finish of the novel Carrie has become a famous, high-paid actress in New York City
thus fulfilling her capitalistic dream. But at what cost did this success come? She tapped
her sister's resources which were small enough to begin with. She became a whore to
support her need to purchase. She became the participant in the demise of her husband
George Hurstwood. Yet in the end she became a great success in New York City. Was it worth
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