Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 31 | Summary



One night not long after the party, Erik turns up on Carol's doorstep when Kennicott is on a country call. Carol attempts to affect a proper, matronly manner, but they both feel a growing sexual tension between them. Once inside the house, Erik kisses her on the eyelids. At that moment, Carol knows the relationship is impossible. She begs Erik to stop and simply be her friend, explaining that in reality she is feeling crushed by all the "gaping dull people," and may just be looking for a way out.

The next day, Kennicott is upset. He has spoken to Mrs. Westlake, in whom Carol sometimes confides, and Carol learns that the woman has been spreading all her secrets. Carol apologizes, but now feels herself being scrutinized by every woman in town. When she is visited by her good friend Vida, Carol feels some relief. But Vida has come because her "dam of repressed imagination" has burst upon hearing the whispers about Erik and Carol. She reveals her old love for Will, and tells Carol that since Vida "gave him up," she is not beyond her rights in insisting that Carol not betray that gift. Carol, astonished, sees Vida's fantasies for what they are, but reassures her friend. Later, she feels a flicker of worry for Kennicott, whom she fears may be hurt by the rumors. To her relief, he seems unaware of them.


Carol's romanticizing of Erik continues in this chapter. When Erik enters the house, Carol thinks he fits the surroundings much better than her husband does. But when he kisses her, she realizes—at least for a time—that she is just looking for a way out of a situation she continues to detest.

The gossip resulting from Carol's actions foreshadows a much more disturbing event that is about to take place with Fern. But even in its less dangerous form, the vicious nature of the town—symbolized by the betrayal by Mrs. Westlake—begins to upset Carol. She is certain everyone is gossiping about her, even as she subconsciously realizes her sense of guilt is one of the only ways for women like her to "escape from blank tediousness." Carol's temporary guilt over any pain she might cause her husband quickly disappears when he seems untroubled by any rumors. She does not consider for a moment that his complacency may be because he is hiding his own secrets.

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