Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 18 | Summary

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Summary

The dramatic association begins well, with all participants enthusiastically involved. But Carol's first disappointment occurs quickly, when the group ignores suggestions of both classic and serious contemporary plays, and settles on a farce called "The Girl from Kankakee." Still, Carol throws herself into the project, showing more dedication to producing and directing the play than she has to any of her other projects. Finally, the night of the show arrives, with Carol dreaming that she might finally "convert Gopher Prairie to conscious beauty." Within minutes, though, she realizes "it was a bad play abominably acted."

Her troupe, however, has no idea they are terrible. Carol takes this as a sign she has failed completely. She tries to comfort herself by saying that Gopher Prairie needn't be a center of culture, because its real purpose is to support the farmers surrounding it. But then she overhears farmers talking about how the town manipulates commerce to pay them as little as possible and prevents them from taking their produce to the bigger cities. She feels trapped, and realizes she may never escape from the people who so depress her.

Analysis

By choosing a farce instead of a serious play, members of the dramatic association continue to demonstrate what Carol finds frustrating about the town. "The Girl from Kankakee" is a light comedy—nothing that meets Carol's definition of art or sophistication. Her frustration, though, says something about Carol as well. Had she been less intent on "art," she might have been able to take satisfaction in the group's excitement.

The most disquieting part of the show's failure, however, is that Carol suddenly loses confidence in herself and belief in her goals. She also realizes that the inability of the citizens of Gopher Prairie to see that the play is bad makes any future cultural efforts pointless. Even her last desperate effort to see good in the town by describing it as a support system for the local farmers is shattered when she hears those very farmers describing how the town takes advantage of them. At that moment, something seems to break within Carol. She is consumed by apathy, rousing herself from it only when she thinks of escape.

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