Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Carol tries to salvage some of her self-esteem with a renewed determination to do what she had originally set out to do: reform the town. She ventures into "Swede Hollow" on the outskirts of town, a slum that contradicts the townspeople's claim that there is no poverty in Gopher Prairie.

Miles Bjornstam, the town handyman who once fixed Carol's furnace, greets her enthusiastically. Miles, known as the "Red Swede" in town, is well informed, intelligent, and a radical at heart. He tells her he is considered a pariah in town because of his liberal ideas. He also thinks the Jolly Seventeen are stupid, and that in Gopher Prairie "the dollar sign has chased the crucifix clean off the map." He tells Carol the only other people in town with brains are herself, Guy Pollock, and the foreman at the flour mill. He would include Vida Sherwin in his list but feels she is not so much a reformer as someone trying to patch up a sinking ship. Carol leaves Miles buoyed by his beliefs. She even finds the courage to go back to the Jolly Seventeen.

Analysis

Once again, Carol finds herself most comfortable with an outsider. Miles Bjornstam delights her with his disdain of the Jolly Seventeen, and the other smug, superior townspeople. In addition, despite his low social status and rough speech, Miles seems better informed than anyone else she has met. He does not care what others think of him and is determined to let them know he considers himself their equal, no matter how much they make, or how big their houses are.

Carol's own spirits are refreshed after talking to Miles, yet she hasn't really internalized his unflinching attitude toward Gopher Prairie. He tells her not to care what people think of her, but she craves company and companionship too much. As a result, she uses her rediscovered confidence to insinuate herself back into the good graces of the Jolly Seventeen. She succeeds by acting demurely, pretending to admire them, and telling them exactly what they want to hear.

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