Skip over navigation

Main Street

Sinclair Lewis

Chapters 21–23

Chapters 17–20

Chapters 21–23, page 2

page 1 of 3

Fearful of remaining a spinster, Vida Sherwin marries Raymond Wutherspoon at the age of thirty-nine. She takes a very active part in all the activities of the town. She sometimes recalls how Kennicott had tried to woo her before he met Carol. Vida discouraged Kennicott but secretly hoped that he would continue to court her. Instead, he married Carol. Dejected, Vida feels that she shares a mysterious link to Carol. Though she becomes Carol's friend, she often feels jealous of Carol. She resents how Carol takes Kennicott's love for granted and how she thinks that she can rebuild the town overnight.

Living in the same boarding house and sharing many interests, Vida and Raymond become friends. Vida often talks to Raymond about Carol and Kennicott. When Vida tells Raymond that she plans resign from her job and leave Gopher Prairie, they become engaged. They move into a small house, and Vida resigns from her job to do housework. Raymond, who works in the men's department of Harry Haydock's Bon Ton Store, becomes a store partner due to Vida's efforts.

Carol cannot share Vida's contentment with simple housework. Instead, Carol reads many novels by contemporary authors. In the books she reads, Carol finds only two popular traditions of representing small-town life: one tradition sentimentalizes small towns as "the one sure abode of friendship, honesty, and clean sweet marriageable girls," while the other tradition pokes fun of "shrewd comic men who are known as 'hicks' and who ejaculate 'Waal I swan.'" Carol asserts that small-town life only offers dead contentment, in which people accept a mechanized life by thinking and talking alike.

To Carol, Gopher Prairie represents a typical American small town. The people in small towns compare their town to great European cities but care more about material matters, such as land prices or cheap labor, than any great achievement in scientific or culture. The citizens of small towns feel virtuous in their ignorance, considering anyone with knowledge to be snobbish. All small towns resemble one another so that people will feel at home wherever they go.

Vida and Carol argue over Carol's opinion of Gopher Prairie. Vida informs her friend that the people of Gopher Prairie are making efforts to improve their town through small, sensible improvements—installing school ventilation, planting gardens—not through the fantastic reforms Carol wants. Vida also points out that Carol gives up too easily. She informs Carol that some townspeople are persuading the town council to build a new school. Carol feels hurt at being left out of the new school campaign. After their conversation, Carol humbly tries to help Gopher Prairie in small ways: she campaigns to hire a welfare nurse for poor families, teaches a group of Camp Fire girls, and plants gardens.

When America enters World War I, Raymond Wutherspoon enlists. Although Kennicott is eager to enlist as well, the doctors' council of Gopher Prairie persuades him to remain to town where his services are needed. Many people in Gopher Prairie express their antipathy toward German-Americans. Cy Bogart, the leader of a gang of young boys, wins admiration for beating up a German farmer's son. The ladies in town give up their bridge parties to make bandages for the Red Cross. Carol joins the women but does not share their blinding hatred of the enemy.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us