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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


Chapter VII
THE LURE OF THE MATERIAL: BEAUTY
SPEAKS FOR ITSELF


The true meaning of money yet remains to be popularly explained
and comprehended. When each individual realises for himself that
this thing primarily stands for and should only be accepted as a
moral due-that it should be paid out as honestly stored energy, and
not as a usurped privilege-many of our social, religious, and
political troubles will have permanently passed. As for Carrie, her
understanding of the moral significance of money was the popular
understanding, nothing more. The old definition: "Money:
something everybody else has and I must get," would have
expressed her understanding of it thoroughly. Some of it she now
held in her hand-two soft, green ten-dollar bills-and she felt that
she was immensely better off for the having of them. It was
something that was power in itself. One of her order of mind
would have been content to be cast away upon a desert island with
a bundle of money, and only the long strain of starvation would
have taught her that in some cases it could have no value. Even
then she would have had no conception of the relative value of the
thing; her one thought would, undoubtedly, have concerned the
pity of having so much power and the inability to use it.

The poor girl thrilled as she walked away from Drouet. She felt
ashamed in part because she had been weak enough to take it, but
her need was so dire, she was still glad. Now she would have a
nice new jacket! Now she would buy a nice pair of pretty button
shoes. She would get stockings, too, and a skirt, and, and-until
already, as in the matter of her prospective salary, she had got
beyond, in her desires, twice the purchasing power of her bills.

She conceived a true estimate of Drouet. To her, and indeed to all
the world, he was a nice, good-hearted man. There was nothing
evil in the fellow. He gave her the money out of a good heart-out
of a realisation of her want. He would not have given the same
amount to a poor young man, but we must not forget that a poor
young man could not, in the nature of things, have appealed to
him like a poor young girl. Femininity affected his feelings. He
was the creature of an inborn desire. Yet no beggar could have
caught his eye and said, "My God, mister, Iím starving," but he
would gladly have handed out what was considered the proper
portion to give beggars and thought no more about it. There
would have been no speculation, no philosophising. He had no
mental process in him worthy the dignity of either of those terms.
In his good clothes and fine health, he was a merry, unthinking
moth of the lamp. Deprived of his position, and struck by a few of
the involved and baffling forces which sometimes play upon man
he would have been as helpless as Carrie-as helpless, as non-
understanding, as pitiable, if you will, as she.

Now, in regard to his pursuit of women, he meant them no harm,
because he did not conceive of the relation which he hoped to
hold with them as being harmful. He loved to make advances to
women, to have them succumb to his charms, not because he was
a cold-blooded, dark, scheming villain, but because his inborn
desire urged him to that as a chief delight. He was vain, he was
boastful, he was as deluded by fine clothes as any silly-headed
girl. A truly deep-dyed villain could have hornswaggled him as
readily as he could have flattered a pretty shop-girl. His fine
success as a salesman lay in his geniality and the thoroughly
reputable standing of his house. He bobbed about among men, a
veritable bundle of enthusiasm-no power worthy the name of
intellect, no thoughts worthy the adjective noble, no feelings long
continued in one strain. A Madame Sappho would have called
him a pig; a Shakespeare would have said "my merry child;" old,
drinking Caryoe thought him a clever, successful business man. In
short, he was as good as his intellect conceived.

The best proof that there was something open and commendable
about the man was the fact that Carrie took the money. No deep,
sinister soul with ulterior motives could have given her fifteen
cents under the guise of friendship. The unintellectual are not so
helpless. Nature has taught the beasts of the field to fly when
some unheralded danger threatens. She has put into the small,
unwise head of the chipmunk the untutored fear of poisons. "He
keepeth His creatures whole," was not, written of beasts alone.
Carrie was unwise, and, therefore, like the sheep in its unwisdom,
strong in feeling. The instinct of self-protection, strong in all such
natures, was roused but feebly, if at all, by the overtures of
Drouet.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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