Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 25 | Summary

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Summary

In this chapter, readers see yet another side of Will Kennicott, but this time from his perspective, instead of Carol's. Kennicott broods about how Carol is always trying to turn him into something he is not. He also realizes that Carol herself took on a role she is not suited for—a Gopher Prairie housewife. He thinks of Carol as cold and without passion, and he almost wishes she knew that other women are always making advances.

As if to prove Kennicott right, Maud Dyer comes to his office, desperate to be "examined." When he says an examination isn't necessary, she persists, eventually asking him to stop by her house that night when her husband is away. Later, as Kennicott grapples with her invitation, Nat Hicks and Harry Haddock try to persuade him to join them for an evening of drinking and sex with Mrs. Swiftwaite, a dressmaker recently arrived from New York who is said to be a "good goer." Kennicott declines, saying he is "married for keeps." But later that night, after he is again rejected by Carol, he goes out for a walk, and finds himself at the Dyers' gate. The next morning, he is quiet and thoughtful at breakfast. Mrs. Bogart and Aunt Bessie come to call on Carol, subtly hinting that even men like Kennicott may be tempted by certain women. Carol lashes back at them, telling them Will's odd mood means he is probably just thinking about whether the grass needs cutting.

Analysis

This chapter is the only one in the novel told entirely from Will Kennicott's point of view. Because of this switch in perspective, the reader sees different sides of Gopher Prairie and Carol than those that have been presented up to this point. Far from being a cornerstone of decency and respectability, Gopher Prairie appears to be a hotbed of illicit affairs and frustration, the latter both sexual and emotional. And while Carol thinks Will is committed to her and would never stray, her coldness and disappointment in him drive him to think about—and finally follow through on—actions he probably never otherwise would have considered.

The evening suggested by Nat Hicks and Harry Haddock is obviously not uncommon in the town. Nor are the complaints of Maud Dyer, who represents a type of woman very common in an age of repressed sexuality. Unable to find satisfaction with their husbands or in a career, these women developed imaginary aliments to occupy their minds and their time. In Maud's case, she is even desperate enough to seek out physical pleasure through a medical examination, which involves undressing in front of a man and having him touch her. When this fails, she becomes more direct, inviting Will to "visit" her. Thanks to Carol's coldness, he complies, although he fights against his impulses literally every step of the way, and seems regretful the next morning.

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