As Lewis indicates in his preface, Gopher Prairie represents a microcosm of America in the early twentieth century. Lewis creates many characters as caricatures, or archetypes, rather than individuals, to suggest that the people and institutions found in Gopher Prairie can be found anywhere. By criticizing Gopher Prairie, Lewis therefore attacks American society as a whole.
In Chapter 2 and Chapter 38, Kennicott shows his wife pictures of Gopher Prairie as he attempts to court her and convince her return to the town. In Chapter 2, Carol sees only "streaky" pictures of "trees, shrubbery, a porch indistinct in leafy shadows, [and] lakes." The fact that she sees the pictures in Chapter 2 are "streaky" and "indistinct" symbolizes her detachment from the community. However, in Chapter 38, she sees her own house and familiar faces in the photographs, symbolizing her connection to the town.
Carol's interests in trains, books, and nature all symbolize her desire to escape the narrow confines Gopher Prairie. In Chapter 19, she daydreams about taking a train to escape the town. In Chapter 22, she escapes the town mentally through reading a number of books. Beginning in Chapter 5, she finds natural beauty in the countryside that she does not find in town. Indeed, throughout the novel, Carol often takes walks and spends time in the countryside in order to escape Gopher Prairie.