Main Street Essay

Main Street
Lewis, Sinclair
Copyright 1948
David Snow
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The protagonist in this story is Carol Kennicott. She is a young woman attending college in St. Paul Minnesota. She wants to go somewhere in her life. She has gone out and gotten a college education so that she won’t have to be a house wife. She has an outgoing personality and is continuously trying to change the things around her. She meets a man named William Kennicott. They fall in love and move to the small town of Gopher Prairie. While there Carol tries to change her home, as well as all of the other buildings in town. Carol is identified as the protagonist because she’s the main character and she has a conflict to overcome.

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The antagonist in this story is Carol’s personality. She is always trying to stay in love with William, but at the same time she can’t stand the thought of living in a small town where the people don’t change. It’s important to the antagonist that she change the world one small community at a time. All of the attempts made by Carol are failures because she’s moving too fast for the citizens of Gopher Prairie.
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The conflict in this story is best described as Carol vs. Herself. Carol wants to love Will and be a loyal wife. She wants to love his mother and be a mother herself. Carol has the desire and willingness to stay with Will, but at the same time the thought of changing the town and not adapting to their ways is always implanted in her mind. Carol wants to change the town to a more contemporary time. She has always had this thought, even during her stay at college. The reason she attended college is so that she wouldn’t have to live the cliched life of being a house wife, with darling children, and an adoring husband. Carol has a desire from both ends of this argument. She loves her husband, but small town life doesn’t suit her. This conflict is internal because Carol is always at war with her conscience.
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The climax of this story comes in the last two chapters. Carol has moved to Washington and is pursuing a career that will help change the city. Will comes out to visit and he brings photographs of Gopher Prairie and the surrounding fields. It becomes apparent at this point that Carol no longer wants to stay in Washington. She realizes that all the time she spent in Gopher Prairie she never gave the town a chance; rather, she tried to change everyone around her. She asks Will if she should stay or return with him. He says that the decision is hers and hers alone. She becomes so home sick that she knows she has to return and spend her life with her loving husband Will.

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Carol gets on a train and proceeds to make her way back to Gopher Prairie, Will, her friends, and her life. As the train gets closer and closer to the town Carol becomes even more homesick. She moves back in with Will and it doesn’t take her long to get back into the motions of small town living. Carol and Will pursue a life of happiness together in the small town with all of their friends… Carol thinks the townspeople should change their routine and have an annual get together.

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Main Street takes place during the early 1900’s in the small town of Gopher Prairie. Gopher Prairie is a close-knit community located in the western part of the United States. The town consists of a group of people who haven’t advanced over time with the rest of America. Carol is affected a great deal because she is always trying to change the townspeople and their way of life. The townspeople have become set in their ways and are not willing to allow Carol to change their world. However, after every attempt to change them Carol fails. These failures don’t discourage her. Rather, they only rekindle her drive to change the world.

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The mood of the novel Main Street is best described as one of continuous despair. Around every corner Carol is met with disappointment. The small town is very run down and dilapidated. Its appearance gives a feeling of blandness. It leaves the reader with an image that is little to be desired. Carol is continually being brought down by the town’s physical appearance, the same physical appearance that she is trying to change. The story shows that Carol is knocked down, but at the same time motivated to alter this poor excuse for a town.
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An additional character in this novel is Carol’s husband, Dr. William Kennicott. Will is a man of above average stature and of somewhat considerable strength. His years in Gopher Prairie have made his skin weathered and red. He was well known as a great doctor and he was also well read in many other areas. He was the town’s pharmacist, doctor, surgeon, and tax consultant. He always tried to be a good husband to Carol, but their views of married life were varied. Will felt she should stay home and mind the children, while he went out and made a living. He wasn’t a bad person because this was the typical situation of the early 1900’s, he was only naive.

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The dynamic character of this selection is also the protagonist. In the beginning all Carol wanted to do with her life is go out and change the world. She loved a man in college, but left him forever because she felt she needed to pursue her life’s ambition. Shortly after she encountered William Kennicott. He was so overwhelming that she immediately fell in love with him. After a year Carol moved to Gopher Prairie with Will. Throughout the time they spent together all of her attempts to change the community failed. Eventually Carol became so fed up that she left and went to Washington. While there Carol realized that she loved Will, she decided that she would go back to Gopher Prairie and become the house wife which he always desired.

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In the novel Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, the theme is that of a young America coming up into the 20th century and the obstacles that women of the time had to face. Carol meets Will and has great expectations about her life. However, William is caught up with the typical mind set that women should stay home and mind the house. They fall deeply in love but are torn apart because America isn’t ready for women to be independent. Carol moves away to find independence, but her goals are never met; she decides to move back with Will and become a typical woman of the 1900’s.

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This novel is written in the third person omniscient point of view. The narrator is constantly informing the reader on how everybody feels. By doing this he is able to express two opposing opinions to the reader. The reader is allowed to make his own assumptions and opinions on the different situations that arise. The narrator tells the reader of Carol’s aspirations of changing small town America. At the same time he is able to give Will’s feelings about Carol being a “normal” wife. The narrator is also able to express the feelings of the other characters who occupy the town. These thoughts are very insightful and make for a better understanding of Carol.

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Personification: “the trees by Sam’s hardware shop reached out as to consume the daylight.”
Simile: “Kennicott was as fixed in routine as an isolated old man.”
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This novel was interesting but at the same time it failed to really catch my attention and intrigue me. I was under the assumption that it was risky and questioned peoples values. My only thought on this is that I’m reading it in 2001 and the novel was published in 1948. My views are drastically different from those of a country who put women on a lower standard than men. I would give this book a moderate rating because it didn’t catch my eye but at the same time had a decent point to prove.

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