Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 33 | Summary

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Summary

For a month, Carol avoids Erik, although she has once again convinced herself she loves him. Then one night he appears on her doorstep, and they go for a walk. As Erik expresses his love for her, Kennicott drives up, on his way home from a country call. He takes the two back to town, chatting pleasantly, but once they are home he tells Carol he knows of the rumors, although he knows she has not yet done anything wrong. He also tries to make her see reality, suggesting that despite her fantasies, Erik may never amount to much.

Unexpectedly, Kennicott then tells Carol she is his soul, and "all the things ... I see in a sunset." He asks why she can't admire and be happy with a good man like him, one who saves lives. Carol is pained, and tries to think of some way to break up with Erik. But before she has come up with a solution, Kennicott delivers a letter from Erik. He is leaving, although he loves her, to avoid making trouble for her. That night, Carol goes to Kennicott, and "for the first time in years they were lovers." But the rest of the town, who had taken a liking to Erik, is suspicious of Carol's role in his disappearance. Kennicott defends her, but the couple decide to go on a trip for several months.

Analysis

Kennicott displays a great deal of patience, compassion, and even wisdom, when he finally confronts Carol. Even after hearing months of rumors, he doesn't show anger with either Carol or Erik. This may be because he sees what Carol doesn't—Erik is attractive to her only in contrast to the duller men in the town, and she wouldn't even notice him in a place like New York. Kennicott also points out, quite correctly, that Erik is never likely to be a big success, and Carol would never be content living in poverty. He then points out the obvious—he himself is a good man, a good father, and a doctor who saves lives. His gentle plea of, "Oh, honey, am I so bad? Can't you like me at all?" is both poignant, and a wake-up call for Carol.

Carol hears Kennicott pacing after their talk, suggesting he is struggling with the situation, but she notes that he seems surprisingly cheerful the next morning. That evening, it is he who delivers Erik's letter. It is very possible that he had a talk with Eric and convinced him it would be best to leave town, for Carol's sake. Although this is true, it may also have been Kennicott's way of fighting for his family and his own self-respect.

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