Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Winter begins to take hold of the North Middlewest. In order to look sophisticated, Gopher Prairie residents avoid all outdoor activities, limiting their recreation to driving in their cars and playing bridge. Carol realizes she has nothing to do, since the wife of a doctor is not "allowed" to have an outside job. She sees herself as "a woman with a working brain and no work."

In her attempt to at least become more active in the town, Carol attends a meeting of the "Jolly Seventeen," a group of "nice" young married women. She finds she is less than welcome. First, she has committed the sin of not yet learning to play bridge. Worse, Carol begins to praise the hardiness of the Scandinavian farmers who live outside the town, as well as the hired girls like her own Bea. She wishes they could be given more help. But the other women are appalled, seeing "that class of people" as ungrateful, demanding, and overpaid for simple menial labor.

Carol is temporarily saved from their anger by her friend Vida, and makes one last attempt to get into the group's good graces. She tries to compliment the local librarian, Miss Ethel Villets, but is shocked to find that Ethel sees the patrons of the library as a bother, and their children as threats to the pristine condition of her books. Carol despairs that women like these will be the arbiters of the rest of her life.

Analysis

After briefly feeling she had found her place in Gopher Prairie, Carol realizes her "working brain" is not going to allow her to sit back and be silent about the problems she sees. But the local women's disdain for her is overwhelming, and she does not feel strong enough to continually oppose them. Instead, she finds herself backing off and trying to make agreeable noises in their direction. She even begins to blame herself, feeling she must have opposed them too much. Deep down, though, she knows she is not wrong to be concerned about poor working conditions and hungry children, or to believe that nurturing minds is more important than keeping books clean and protected. The Jolly Seventeen conflict becomes a commentary on the world, which has "a billion Juanitas denouncing a million Carols," and a "hundred thousand Vida Sherwins" trying to keep the peace.

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