Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 30 | Summary

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Summary

Fern Mullins begs Carol to go on a picnic with her before she is once again trapped in a schoolroom. Also invited are Cy Bogart (whom Fern describes as "a brat, but ... lively"), Erik Valborg, and Maud and Dave Dyers. Carol watches jealously as Maud seems to flirt with Erik. Eventually, Carol's jealousy is put to rest when Erik convinces her to take a boat ride with him, and tries to persuade her to take their relationship a bit further. She is tempted, but resists. The next morning, Mrs. Bogart comes to call, trying to build on the bits of gossip that her son Cy delivered after the picnic.

At a church dinner a week later, Carol sees Erik again. He seems to be paying a great deal of attention to Myrtle Cass, and Carol sees Maud Dyer looking at him with interest. Carol's jealousy flares, and she thinks how much she hates "these married women who cheapen themselves and feed on boys." At one of the last parties of the season, Erik reveals to Carol that while visiting Myrtle one evening, her father offered to bring him into the flour mill business. Carol is upset, and tells Erik they will stamp him into conformity. Erik lashes back, saying he would go with Myrtle only to forget Carol. But then he vows to make Carol love him, too.

Analysis

Carol continues to deceive herself about her feelings and those of the people around her. She sees Maud as kind, cheery, and pleasant, ignoring ongoing gossip that there may be something going on between the woman and Kennicott. To her, Will is too solid and dependable for her to even entertain the notion of his infidelity.

She also deceives herself about her feelings for Erik. Even while criticizing certain married women for "feeding on" younger men, she is doing the same thing. She leads him on, playing at infidelity, and enjoying the speculation and excitement surrounding her actions. She is even disappointed when her husband does not "read her adventuring in her face." She feels safe, though, because she is always careful to virtuously resist Erik's advances. She tells both Erik and herself that she doesn't really care for him, and perhaps she doesn't. As she herself realizes, in a true escape from an insufferable situation, there must be "not only a place from which to flee but a place to which to flee." What she is really seeking, though, is not a place, but "universal and joyous youth," which Erik perfectly represents.

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