Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 20 | Summary

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Summary

As Carol's pregnancy progresses, she is suddenly embraced by all of the women of Gopher Prairie and pelted with constant, unwanted advice. Her annoyance increases when she and her husband are visited by his aunt and uncle, Whittier and Bessie Smail. Despite being new to the town, they display all the traits Carol finds most upsetting about Gopher Prairie—a focus on money and Christianity, a firm certainty in their own version of morality, and the belief that modern ideas are foolish. Carol tells herself to be patient, that they will soon be leaving. Instead, they decide to move to Gopher Prairie. Carol realizes they have traded their own Main Street for this one, and that if she herself moved, she would only be changing her superficial surroundings.

When the baby is born, Carol falls desperately in love with the child, whom she names Hugh, after her father. For two years nothing else matters to her. She enters a period of domestic bliss, and even Kennicott is changed by fatherhood, establishing a child welfare week, and awarding a prize to the healthiest baby. When Bea and Miles's son, Olaf, wins, the town is upset that the prize doesn't go to "decent parents." And "so violent was the current of their respectability" that Carol finds herself having to sneak over to Bea's house to let their children play together.

Analysis

In the eyes of the townspeople, Carol's pregnancy automatically transforms her into what her neighbors fondly think of as, "Our Young Mothers." But the transformation is not entirely superficial. To some extent, Carol really has changed because the child forces her to "take Gopher Prairie and the brown house seriously." She has also allowed herself to become an engaged member of the Jolly Seventeen. But by naming her baby after her father, Carol seems to be remembering the person who encouraged her to go to school and challenge herself, and who put no limits on her future. She also continues to be disturbed by the town's "indifferent cruelty" to the Bjornstams, and quietly rebels by continuing to visit Bea.

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