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Main Street

Sinclair Lewis

Chapters 17–20

Chapters 14–16

Chapters 17–20, page 2

page 1 of 3
Summary

In January, the Kennicotts and a group of friends bobsled to their lake cottages. As the others dance and play games, Carol enjoys herself thoroughly. Inspired, Carol proposes that they form a dramatic club. In order to get ideas for staging a play, she asks Kennicott to take her to Minneapolis so she can watch four modern one-act plays. He reluctantly agrees. Having lived in Gopher Prairie for two years, Carol now feels out of place in the big city. Once in Minneapolis, she also observes how much her unsophisticated husband clashes with the city. Nevertheless, she enjoys staying in their luxurious hotel, eating out, and shopping. Although Kennicott tries to coax Carol to skip the plays, she drags him to see the performances. Carol feels transported by the plays, but Kennicott says he prefers cowboy movies.

The members of the dramatic club—Carol, Vida Sherwin, Guy Pollock, Raymond Wutherspoon, and Juanita Haydock—meet and elect Carol president. Although Carol wants to perform a modern play by Bernard Shaw, the others reject staging a "highbrow" play and instead chose to perform a farce called "The Girl from Kakakee." Carol directs the play and chooses the cast. While Vida and Guy help Carol prepare the stage props, the other members of the troupe complain about Carol's bossiness.

Carol knows from the beginning that the play is not going to be a success. The actors do not attend rehearsals regularly, and Raymond Wutherspoon is the only one who can act convincingly. After a while, everyone feels tired of rehearsing. Wanting to give up, Carol holds the play anyway because all the tickets are sold. On the day of the performance, everything goes wrong. The lights do not work, and the actors feel nervous and act badly and refuse to stage another play next year. However, the Gopher Prairie newspaper praises the play, which only makes Carol feel worse, as she is discouraged by the town's poor taste.

In June, Bjornstam marries Bea Sorenson, Carol's maid. Although Carol seemingly persuades all her female friends from the Jolly Seventeen to attend the wedding, none of them show up. Bjornstam aims to give his new wife a higher social status. Carol manages to find another maid named Oscarina, who loves Carol as her own daughter.

The new mayor appoints Carol to the library board. Carol expects to take charge of the board, but feels humbled when she discovers how learned all the board members are. After a few meetings, however, Carol realizes that the board has no clue how to make the library more useful to the town. The library lacks books and funds, but the board resists Carol's proposals to buy more books. Carol gives up hope of improving the library, and the mayor does not reappoint her to the board.

When Kennicott hints to Carol about having a baby, she dreams of escape, becoming fascinated by the trains that pass through town, considering them a means to run away. Meanwhile, a traveling lecture series known as the Chautauqua arrives in Gopher Prairie. Excited at first, Carol finds the lectures disappointing because they are not very educational. World War I erupts in Europe around this time, but the isolationist townspeople of Gopher Prairie do not take it seriously.

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