Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 14 | Summary

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Summary

When Carol returns home, she finds she is troubled by some of what Guy has said about materialism and professional rivalries, and she begins questioning Kennicott about his colleagues. At first, he remains neutral, but gradually his comments about his competitors' business ethics, integrity, and skills become more barbed. When Carol mentions an "overheard" comment about doctors undercutting each other, Kennicott explodes, and says her comment is typical of her usual willingness to think the worst of the citizens of Gopher Prairie. He accuses her of thinking she is superior to the rest of the town.

The fight escalates and turns to a discussion of the treatment of women. Carol once again brings up the idea of an allowance, and accuses Kennicott of wanting "a nice sweet cow of a woman," who doesn't mind having his dear friends spit on the floor. He retorts that many of his friends are far more educated and cultured than she has bothered to discover, and that he has ambitions she doesn't even know about. Eventually, she backs off her tirade, realizing there is some truth in what he has said.

Analysis

Chapter 14 presents the first real conflict between Carol and Kennicott. More importantly, it shows Kennicott to be a much more complex and interesting character than he has been portrayed in earlier chapters. This is likely because the reader has seen him only through Carol's eyes. To Carol, he is a good and "useful" man who is "perfectly satisfied" with his life. But as their fight continues, his growing fury with Carol reminds the reader that this is an intelligent man, who lived in the city for a time and is proud of his profession. He also has ambitions of his own—to be wealthy, to build a big house, to travel, and to be sure that he and Carol are set for retirement. He wants her to see him as more than a "dollar-chasing roughneck." It is an awakening Carol needs, and she dismisses her earlier concerns as much as she is able.

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