The Achievement of True HappinessPlot
The novel, Sister Carrie, written by Theodore Dreiser commences in 1889 with Caroline Meeber, an innocent, naive eighteen-year-old girl, departing from her home in Columbia City to reside with her sister Minnie in Chicago. While on the train, Carrie encounters a young man by the name of Charles Drouet, whom she hopes to visit with once she settles into her new residence. Unfortunately, Carrie learns that she will be unable to receive Drouet as a houseguest at her sister\'s flat. Carrie is encouraged to search for employment in order to facilitate her sister and brother-in-law in paying their rent. She manages to hold down a job for a short period of time but then falls ill. After regaining her strength, Carrie has trouble locating another job. Coincidentally, she reencounters Drouet and takes him up on an offer to move in with him. Soon after Carrie settles into her new living arrangement, Drouet invites his friend, Hurstwood, over to meet her. Carrie and Hurstwood fall in love despite the fact that he is married and believes that she is Drouet\'s wife. Upon discovering that Hurstwood is married, Carrie becomes upset and refuses to contact him any longer. Drouet moves out after his discovery that Carrie has been meeting with Hurstwood behind his back. Subsequently, Hurstwood steals ten thousand dollars from the safe where he works and tricks Carrie into traveling to Canada with him. The pair settles in New York and Hurstwood begins a fruitless search for employment. A long period of time elapses and Hurstwood, who had been a member of high-society in Chicago, is unable to obtain a job. Carrie abandons him and pursues her dream of becoming an actress, while living with her friend, Lola Osborne, who is also an actress. Carrie becomes successful, yet she never achieves the state of happiness based on material possessions that she left Columbia City to pursue at the commencement of the novel. Rather, she discovers that her ideal happiness is merely an unattainable illusion.

Caroline Meeber, often referred to as Carrie by most other characters, serves as the character whose actions the reader follows throughout the course of the novel. Carrie represents the opportunity for advancement within the class system that Dreiser creates for the novel. She believes that becoming a part of high-society will allow her to obtain the happiness that she so desires. She begins as part of the lower stratum of society and climbs higher through her relationship with Drouet. Although Carrie enjoys her improved social standing, she still wishes for more. She wishes to be part of the high-class society that Hurstwood represents. Her goal throughout the novel remains to achieve happiness by acquiring enough money and status in order to gain access to “high society.” Carrie also acknowledges that she does not desire to return to where she came from. "She could possibly have conquered the fear of hunger and gone back; the thought of hard work and a narrow round of suffering would, under the last pressure of conscience, have yielded, but spoil her appearance?-be old clothed and poor-appearing?-never!" (Dreiser 81) Rather than achieving happiness, at the conclusion of the novel, after Carrie has obtained both the money and independence she so desired, she realizes that she is still alone. "Amid the tinsel and shine of her state walked Carrie, unhappy.” (399)

Minnie Hanson, Carrie\'s sister in Chicago, represents the beginning of Carrie\'s search for something "better.\'\' The sisters do not have much in common. “Minnie was no comparison for her sister-she was too old.” (41) When Minnie greets her in Chicago, Carrie, "...[feels] cold reality taking her by the hand." (8) Minnie serves as Carrie\'s transition between living at home with her family and living alone with a man in the "real world."

George Hurstwood epitomizes the achievement of the "American dream," even still today. He possesses money and a seemingly perfect family; however, as is often the case, "Hurstwood\'s residence could scarcely be said to be infused with this home spirit." (68) To Carrie, Hurstwood represents everything that she desires to be and to have. She falsely infers that he must be happy; for he has everything that one could possibly desire. She falls