Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 16 | Summary

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Summary

Carol attempts to keep her newfound infatuation with her husband alive, but she is already struggling. At Christmas, Kennicott shows no interest in the holiday traditions she so treasures. He also delays their plans for a family, saying they first need to be more financially secure. The differences between them flare up again, and Carol suddenly feels she must somehow break free before she succumbs to the Village Virus and becomes a "nice little woman." The phrase "I must go on" becomes her mantra.

For support, she turns to Guy Pollock. She asks him to help her find what has caused the "darkness of the women," which she feels is shared by the poor, the farmers, the "negro race," and other marginalized groups. She states they are all tired of deferring hope until the next generation. To her disappointment, Guy tries to talk her out of her feelings, telling her she doesn't want to get mixed up with all of the discontented lower classes. She realizes he is timid and very much a part of Gopher Prairie, not the romantic outsider she thought he was.

Analysis

After a few weeks of believing she was happy as "the doctor's wife," Carol's feelings of discontent return. Her husband once again becomes, to her, a symbol of the small-town mediocrities she thinks are eating away at her soul. Carol also fears she is becoming like him. She realizes she has stopped reading and stopped planning, and has even stopped playing the piano and violin. But it isn't clear who is really to blame for Carol's unhappiness since Carol—as her husband and even Guy point out—is eternally discontent.

Carol's feelings may be the result of years of pent-up frustration. In her eloquent speech to Guy, she articulates the discontent of a number of groups in the early 20th century who were tired of being held down by the politicians, priests, husbands, and overly cautious reformers telling them to be patient. She expresses a sense of desperate urgency, saying she and others like her are tired of waiting—they want their utopia now, and are ready to revolt. In fact, her own revolt is beginning to take shape in her mind. She is toying with the idea of leaving Kennicott but is uncertain whether fear of him or her already depleted energy is stopping her.
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