Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

In November, Carol begins to redecorate in earnest, capturing the attention of the entire town with her contemporary taste. She gains the particular interest of her widowed neighbor Mrs. Bogart, who comes to visit and subtly criticizes everything she sees. As she works on the house, though, Carol thinks about how she and other women must beg their husbands for every dollar they spend. She sets up a budget, and demands an allowance. Kennicott is quick to agree she should be given more money, but he continues to be the one to control it.

Carol's attention shifts to throwing a housewarming party, where she is determined to change the low social expectations of Gopher Prairie. She plans elaborate games, supplies costumes for her guests to wear, and serves unheard-of Chinese food. The party is pronounced a great success in the local paper. Carol feels she has proven herself as a reformer, but the next parties in Gopher's Prairie revert to the tedious, dull gatherings they have always been.

Analysis

Early in this chapter, Lewis's talents as both a satirist and a creator of delightful character portraits are on full display. Mrs. Bogart is introduced as a devout Christian and a Good Influence (with capital letters). She raised three boys according to her strict religious beliefs, but one became a bartender, and the youngest, a gang member. The narrator describes her as "the soft, damp, fat, sighing, indigestive, clinging, melancholy" kind of Christian. But she is also a hypocrite, prying into Carol's life and judging her actions. In a page and a half, Lewis creates a character that is comic, vicious, and unforgettable.

The chapter also introduces the struggle between men and women, and shows how women are viewed as less capable than men. By having to beg for even a quarter, the women are at their husbands' mercy. Even a bright woman like Carol—capable of putting together budgets and expense accounts—is not given the respect she deserves. That said, she does not fight for it too hard or for too long.

Carol's party, though, is the focal point of the chapter. It could have foreshadowed her ability to reform Gopher Prairie and change its thinking. Instead, it shows once more that the citizens of the town are not interested in change, since future parties show them immediately retreating to their comfort zone. The party also exposes one more thing: Carol's own hypocrisy. Despite her modern views and speeches about equality, Carol has invited only the "aristocracy" of the town to her party. This echoes her earlier sentiment at Sam Clark's dinner party, where she was surprised to see the undertaker and the tailor among the guests.

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