Hidden under layers of error and corruption, the original version of Sister Carrie has finally emerged. The American classic that has been read in English courses for many decades is not the text as Dreiser wrote it. Even before it was submitted to Doubleday, Page and Company, the manuscript of Sister Carrie had been cut and censored. Dreiser's wife Sara--nicknamed "Jug"—and his friend Arthur Henry persuaded the author to make many changes. Both Jug and Henry felt that the novel was too bleak, the sexuality too explicit, the philosophy too intense.
In a description of Carrie, for instance, Dreiser had written, "Her dresses draped her becomingly, for she wore excellent corsets and laced herself with care. . . . She had always been of cleanly instincts and now that opportunity afforded, she kept her body sweet." Apparently this passage was too intimate for Jug, for she revised it to: "Her dresses draped her becomingly. . . . She had always been of cleanly instincts. Her teeth were white, her nails rosy." Jug and Henry urged Dreiser to make his bleak ending more equivocal. He changed it, but Jug, still dissatisfied, rewrote his second ending. Her version was published with the first edition and has appeared with every edition since printed. Doubleday, Page and Company further insisted that all real names—of theaters, bars, streets, actors, etc.—be changed to fictitious ones.
The editors of this new edition have gone back to the original handwritten manuscript as well as to the typescript that went to the publisher and have restored the text of Sister Carrie to its original purity. Errors of typists and printers have been corrected; cut and censored passages have been reinstated. Not only have original names been restored, but the Pennsylvania edition includes maps, illustrations, and historical notes that further identify these people and places. The edition also includes a selected textual apparatus for the scholar. The characters are significantly altered in this new text: Carrie has more emotional depth, conscience, and sexuality; Hurstwood shows more passion; Drouet is a bit less likable; Ames is a bit more vulnerable. With the inclusion of the original ending, Dreiser's vision becomes- more bleak and deterministic: In its expanded and purified form, Sister Carrie is more tragic and infinitely richer; in effect it is a new work of art by one of the major American novelists of this century.
John C. Berkey was Professor of English at Rutgers University, Camden. Alice M. Winters was a journalist, editor, and researcher. James L. W. West III is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English at Penn State University. Neda M. Westlake was Curator of the Rare Books Collection at the University of Pennsylvania.
"In restoring Dreiser's masterpiece, the editors of the Pennsylvania Edition have given us more than a literary curiosity; like art historians cleaning a da Vinci fresco, they have uncovered the original glowing with an ancient newness."—Richard Lingeman, The Nation
"No work of such historical repute…has ever been republished with such major changes. . . . The 'new' novel . . . will probably become the accepted standard."—Herbert Mitgang, New York Times
"The 'restored' Sister Carrie . . . is in many ways a different book, fuller, less cruel, more recognizably Dreiser's own work."—Alfred Kazin, New York Review of Books