The Language of Clothes in “Sister Carrie” by Theodore Dreiser

By Olivera Stankovic.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study of Dreiser’s novel will focus on a semiotic approach to show the reader how Dreiser’s delicate description of clothes signifies their multifaceted meaning, and the reader’s quest for interpreting the language of clothes that convincingly narrates their own story on an individual’s change amid economical circumstances. The clothes “speak” in multilingual language and influence on the characters’ actions. Simultaneously, the clothes articulate to the reader a tapestry of meaningful messages. The clothes of Dreiser’s characters represent symptoms of social inequality as well as a desire for shaping and transforming their behaviours. As a semiotic theorist Marcel Danesi puts, “clothing is a sign system that is interconnected with other social codes of a society through which social variables such as attitudes, gender, age, class, status, and political beliefs can be encoded.” The paper will analyse how clothes in the role of an independent narrator in Dreiser’s novels connects the body experience to the body of material culture testifying Dreiser’s unconditional acceptance of human beings with all their flaws and virtues, their expectations, and alienation from the world they live in.

Keywords: Language, Clothes, Material Culture, Consumption, Signifier, Signified, Communication

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp.79-88. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 980.024KB).

Olivera Stankovic

Graduate Student, The Department of English and Communication, SUNY Potsdam, Potsdam, New York, USA

I am an English and Communication graduate at SUNY Potsdam, New York, United States. I am finishing a Master of Arts in English. My Master Thesis is about the interpolation of mass culture and gender inequality in Theodore Dreiser’s major fictional works. Besides American literature of the twentieth century, I am very passionate about researching other famous writers such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and Ralph Emerson. I have a desire to continue being engaged in literary criticism regarding books and movies. I also write poetry. I have written over 50 poems which I hope to publish.

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