Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

Carol encounters Guy Pollock near his office, and he invites her in for a visit. They immediately begin the kind of discussion Carol has been craving. She asks Guy what is wrong with Gopher Prairie. He suggests the town itself isn't the problem—the people are, with their inflated notions of what a town should be. But then, more bitterly, he adds that because small towns face the challenge of overcoming the hardships presented by the natural world, they are forced to make themselves "unhappy artificially" to have any excitement. At that point, they create their own problems: politics, race-hatreds, labor disputes, and especially professional jealousy and rivalry.

When Carol asks Guy why he remains, he says he has the "Village Virus" that many ambitious and intelligent people contract when they move to a small town. After staying too long, they forget the challenges and excitement of the city. If they try to return to it, as Guy once did, the virus pulls them back. The tone of the discussion gradually changes. Guy, although 20 years older than Carol, is attracted to her, and she to him. A subtle flirtation begins.

Analysis

Through Guy Pollock, the reader may be getting a fairly unfiltered view of Lewis's own love-hate relationship with small-town life. In fact, Lewis wrote that at one time he had intended Guy to be the central character of the book, rather than Carol. Guy does not mince words, or try to hide his opinions behind carefully selected phrases. But he is something of a paradox. He is critical of the town but feels it cannot help but be what it is—the mid-point of the country's evolution from farm to city. He is more critical of himself and people like him, the professionals who allow their own intelligence and drive to be leeched out of them by the "Village Virus."

The flirtation between Guy and Carol reveals another side of both people. Guy, by clearly stating he is old enough to be her father, is nonetheless revealing he would like to be something more. And Carol, while saying they could not spend too much time together because of the town's prying eyes, is intrigued by the idea of starting a forbidden relationship. It is perhaps one way they can both strike back at the boring, judgmental town they feel trapped by.

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