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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Carrie at last could scarcely sit still. Her legs began to tire and she
wanted to get up and stretch. Would noon never come? It seemed
as if she had worked an entire day. She was not hungry at all, but
weak, and her eyes were tired, straining at the one point where the
eye-punch came down. The girl at the right noticed her
squirmings and felt sorry for her. She was concentrating herself
too thoroughly-what she did really required less mental and
physical strain. There was nothing to be done, however. The
halves of the uppers came piling steadily down. Her hands began
to ache at the wrists and then in the fingers, and towards the last
she seemed one mass of dull, complaining muscles, fixed in an
eternal position and performing a single mechanical movement
which became more and more distasteful, until at last it was
absolutely nauseating. When she was wondering whether the
strain would ever cease, a dull-sounding bell clanged somewhere
down an elevator shaft, and the end came. In an instant there was
a buzz of action and conversation. All the girls instantly left their
stools and hurried away in an adjoining

room, men passed through, coming from some department which
opened on the right. The whirling wheels began to sing in a
steadily modifying key, until at last they died away in a low buzz.
There was an audible stillness, in which the common voice
sounded strange.

Carrie got up and sought her lunch box. She was stiff, a little
dizzy, and very thirsty. On the way to the small space portioned
off by wood, where all the wraps and lunches were kept, she
encountered the foreman, who stared at her hard.

"Well," he said, "did you get along all right?"

"I think so," she replied, very respectfully.

"Um," he replied, for want of something better, and walked on.

Under better material conditions, this kind of work would not
have been so bad, but the new socialism which involves pleasant
working conditions for employees had not then taken hold upon
manufacturing companies.

The place smelled of the oil of the machines and the new leather-a
combination which, added to the stale odours of the building, was
not pleasant even in cold weather. The floor, though regularly
swept every evening, presented a littered surface. Not the slightest
provision had been made for the comfort of the employees, the
idea being that something was gained by giving them as little and
making the work as hard and unremunerative as possible. What
we know of foot-rests, swivel-back chairs, dining-rooms for the
girls, clean aprons and curling

irons supplied free, and a decent cloak room, were unthought of.
The washrooms were disagreeable, crude, if not foul places, and
the whole atmosphere was sordid.

Carrie looked about her, after she had drunk a tinful of water from
a bucket in one corner, for a place to sit and eat. The other girls
had ranged themselves about the windows or the work-benches of
those of the men who had gone out. She saw no place which did
not hold a couple or a group of girls, and being too timid to think
of intruding herself, she sought out her machine and, seated upon
her stool, opened her lunch on her lap. There she sat listening to
the chatter and comment about her. It was, for the most part, silly
and graced by the current slang. Several of the men in the room
exchanged compliments with the girls at long range.

"Say, Kitty," called one to a girl who was doing a waltz step in a
few feet of space near one of the windows, "are you going to the
ball with me?"

"Look out, Kitty," called another, "you’ll jar your back hair."

"Go on, Rubber," was her only comment.

As Carrie listened to this and much more of similar familiar
badinage among the men and girls, she instinctively withdrew into
herself. She was not used to this type, and felt that there was
something hard and low about it all. She feared that the young
boys about would address such remarks to her-boys who, beside
Drouet, seemed uncouth and ridiculous. She made the average
feminine distinction between clothes, putting worth, goodness,
and distinction in a dress suit, and leaving all the unlovely
qualities and those beneath notice in overalls and jumper.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

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