I have read very few books written in the year 1900. having just finished reading sister carrie, by theodore dreiser, though, I am astounded by how very little we’ve changed in these past 112 years. we have more tools and toys and engines, but remain plagued by many of the same insecurities, social challenges, and inequities. emotionally and philosophically I don’t think we, as a society, are much better off.
I came to select this book after reading a ny times book review by rachel shteir, from which I quote:
Her [rachel’s] favorite novel about Chicago is “Sister Carrie,” by Theodore Dreiser, in which a small-town girl moves to the big city in search of her fortune. “Dreiser captures everything that is important in modern life,” Shteir explained: “struggles between classes, between men and women; the struggle to exceed what you’ve come from and to become something else, and the price you pay for that, especially if you’re a woman.”
mr. dreiser took well over 400 pages to tell the story of about 6 years of carrie’s life, and from the beginning I was intrigued and never disappointed. he does wax philosophical more than a time or two, but as much in that arena remains today as it did when he put pen to paper, I found it interesting and often thought-provoking. amazing–disheartening, shocking–what little difference 110 years can make.
now I’ve moved on to another turn-of-that-century book, the awakening by kate chopin. writing styles have changed, but internal and interpersonal experiences are little different from those of the late 1900s. perhaps they are similar to those of the late 1800s. and further back, and further beyond that.
perhaps human nature is truly human nature.