Main Street

Summary

Chapters 14–16

Summary Chapters 14–16

Carol continues to feel frustrated that she cannot reform the town. One evening, she invites Guy Pollock and Vida Sherwin to her house to discuss her ideas. When Carol tries to discuss her idea of utopia to Guy, he fails to understand her dreams. Guy assumes that Carol wants to return to the past, to an age of tranquility and charming manners. Carol is disappointed that Guy does not really understand her and that she must reform the town by herself.

Miles Bjornstam arrives at Carol's house to cut wood. She goes outside to talk to him and invites him to have lunch inside. While Bea and Miles have lunch in the kitchen, Carol eats alone but later decides to join them. After lunch, she joins them and discovers that Bea and Miles are quite attracted to one another.

Analysis

In these chapters, Lewis throws more light on the personalities of Carol and Will Kennicott. Because both are "real" characters, both have character flaws. Carol sees herself as superior to all the other women in Gopher Prairie and often acts in a childish manner. Kennicott is rather dull and unimaginative, and feels superior to the other doctors in town. Although Lewis presents his two main characters with flaws, he does not satirize them as he satirizes the other townspeople, such as the religious hypocrite Mrs. Bogart and the materialistic, socially unconscious bank president, Ezra Stowbody.

As marriage proves to be one of the major themes of the novel, Lewis portrays a realistic modern marriage rather than an idealistic romance. Although Carol loves her husband fondly, she catches herself fantasizing about a "Prince Charming" in Chapter 14. Furthermore, the two possess sharply contrasting personalities. Whereas Carol prefers being lively and spontaneous, Kennicott follows a monotonous routine. However, Kennicott is more easygoing and possesses many friends, unlike Carol. Whereas Carol reflects change and the progressive spirit of her time, her husband represents Gopher Prairie and its stability.

In Chapter 15, Lewis delves into Kennicott's profession in much detail, recording his fine training and skill as a doctor and his ability to handle emergencies. Lewis knew much about the medical profession, as both his father and elder brother were physicians, and his father encouraged him to become a doctor himself. Lewis wrote about the medical profession in even greater detail in his Pulitzer Prize winning novel Arrowsmith (1925), in which the protagonist is also a Midwest physician. Lewis wrote that he based Kennicott on his father, a strict man whom he both feared and respected. In fact, Lewis claimed that he based the incident of Kennicott amputating the arm of a patient on an actual event that occurred when he accompanied his father on a professional call.

In Chapter 15, Carol (and we as readers) first observe Kennicott playing the role of a hero. Indeed, he proves to be both a skillful physician and a humanitarian. Although he has many ambitions and is somewhat materialistic, he does not charge high fees and does not force his patients to pay their fees on time. Kennicott can even communicate to the farmers in their native German. However, the picture Lewis paints of Kennicott is not idealistic or romantic: the doctor smokes, once chewed tobacco before he met Carol, and does not speak German fluently or even correctly. Consistent with his tack in the novel as a whole, Lewis portrays Kennicott with both admirable qualities and flaws