Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 29 | Summary

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Summary

Carol once again encounters Erik while taking her baby for a walk. She urges him not to give up his dreams and to "go and play till the Good People capture [him]." Then Erik startles her, asking her why she isn't happy with her husband. She won't answer, but as they walk back into town, Carol is aware they are being watched by Mrs. Bogart, Aunt Bessie, and Mrs. Westlake.

Over the next few weeks, Erik tries to impress the townspeople. He volunteers to organize a tennis tournament, first getting the approval of people like Harry Haydock. Almost no one shows up to Erik's tournament—the smart set has decided to play instead on courts by the lake cottages. When Carol later tries to rebuke them, Haydock shows no remorse, convinced they've done nothing wrong, and that foreigners like Erik are too thick skinned to be hurt. Juanita—perhaps more perceptive—remarks that Carol may be upset because she "likes" the boy. Carol denies it, but over the next days and weeks she becomes increasingly attracted to Erik.

Analysis

As Carol continues to mentor Erik, she becomes more and more attracted to him. She sees him as a beautiful young man—intelligent, sensitive, and courageous. She stops him when he begins to listen to the voices telling him the future is in the fields and prairie towns, rather than back east in the cities. Her biting comment about escaping the clutches of "the Good People" is a vicious rebellion against the people she has been living with.

Carol's comments seem to once again be the author's voice rather than the character's. This becomes even more apparent when she tells Erik, "Young man, go East, and grow up with the revolution!" Her statement is a reversal of a famous quotation: "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country." This advice, usually attributed to news editor Horace Greeley (but thought to have originated with the Indiana journalist John B. Soule) was a call for westward expansion. In Greeley's editorial, he expanded on the phrase by saying, "Do not lounge in the cities! There is room and health in the country, away from the crowds of idlers and imbeciles." By playing with the quotation, Lewis is directly challenging the popular belief that cities have become wastelands, and "that broad plains make broad minds."

The chapter then returns to the more personal elements of the story. Carol is not prepared for Erik's perceptiveness, or for his flashes of maturity. He sees her unhappiness, and he is sensitive to the romantic nature that has been buried under years of Gopher Prairie propriety. He becomes more and more honest about his feelings for her, but she tries to keep him at a distance, as propriety demands.

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