Main Street: Novel Summary: Chapters 13-18
In November she calls on the Perry's but they are not in their apartment. Hoping to leave a message, she knocks on the door of the adjacent lawyer's office and is surprised to find that it belongs to Guy Pollack. Against the rules of propriety she accepts his invitation to wait for the Perry's in his office. She expresses her frustration with the town, which he shares, and he explains his theory that the fault lies with them, not the town. He outlines the particulars of a condition he calls "The Village Virus" in which ambitious people leave their small towns, experience something of the greater world, but find themselves inexorably drawn back to a small town, unable to depart. He describes his own sad condition and Carol has the urge to comfort him. He surprises her with the information that her husband and Dr. Westlake have a profound dislike for one another. He takes her hand briefly and offers to help her reform the town if only by being a confidant. He invites her to have coffee, she demurs, but he insists and for decorum's sake invites the young couple, the Dillons, to join them.
On the walk home Carol flirts with the idea of infidelity but convinces herself that she is too fond of Will to engage in such activity, even if Prince Charming were to come. At home Will is surprised that she has been out late but she tells him the truth. By questioning her husband she gleans that he does have a low opinion of Dr. Westlake and is deeply enmeshed in the petty professional rivalries among the town's physicians. This leads to their first real argument - he accuses her of elitism and she counters by pointing to the town's inherent snobbery. He accuses her of being uneconomical and she reminds him that she has no regular income with which to make a budget. The argument reaches a fever pitch during which Carol coldly tells her husband she will leave him since he has decided that she is a hindrance. Will becomes reasonable and tries to defend the town against her judgments; he explains that he has ambitions; that he is investing in farmland and wants to buy a fine house and one day to travel. She sees his point and concedes that she has been unjust.
Carol gains a new appreciation for her role as a country physician's wife. She sees elements of self-sacrifice, bravery and skill in Kennicott that make her proud. On a chance visit to his office she notices that the waiting room furnishings are sad and decrepit and against his wishes she installs new chairs and decorations. Afterward, he admits that the place looks much better. In her quest to be the perfect doctor's wife she even pays a call upon the widow Bogart whose gossipy opinions and pious moralizing are important to Kennicott's practice. One cold afternoon she accompanies him on a house call where she meets the child, now five years old, that she had first seen in a photograph when Kennicott was courting her. While at the Erdstrom farm Kennicott receives a call that Adolph Morgenroth, some ten miles away, has been in an accident and may need his arm amputated. At the Morgenroth farm Kennicott sees the injured man, has a quick meal and begins to wash up for the operation. At the sight of the hideously mangled arm Carol becomes nauseas and flees to the kitchen. Fighting the urge to faint, she returns to the injured man and, follwing Kennicott's directions, begins to administer the ether drip. At the sound of the saw on the man's bone, however, her sickness begins to overwhelm her. Kennicott tells her to run outside. When she returns she observes her husband engaged in the surgery and feels something akin to worship. His gruff German directions to the man's wife sound wonderful to her and make her ashamed of the sentimental French and Italian she has imbibed. After the surgery, Kennicott is surprised by her adoration. Due to the late hour and signs of an approaching storm they stay at the farm for the night.
They depart early the next morning and soon afterward a blinding snow starts to fall. Kennicott lets the horses steer themselves across the bumpy country. Discerning the shape of a barn in the white haze, Kennicott steers the team into the shelter. He rubs Carol's feet to restore warmth.
At Christmastime Carol is sad at the lack of gaiety and magic that she remembered from her childhood holidays.
Motoring and hunting are Doctor Kennicott's primary hobbies. He fusses over his two year old Buick and takes pleasure from the cleanliness of his firearms. He also spends a great deal of time speculating on land investments. Carol tries to take an interest in each of these hobbies but, despite her best efforts, none of them entice her. After a typical night at the movies, Carol derides the low-brow comedy that is the common fare but Kennicott defensively laughs at her ideas of high-brow art. Later that night Carol realizes that worshiping her husband's work will not sustain her and she must strive to save her soul. She invites Vida Sherwin and Guy Pollack to dinner and in conversation with Guy posits the theory that women all over the world want a more conscious life. She is disappointed to find that he believes that the world is better off being stratified and that injustices are the necessary cost of fighting the mediocrity of the masses. She mentally dismisses him and resolves to carry on.
One day Miles Bjornstam arrives with his gas saw to cut firewood. Carol invites him inside for lunch and enjoys listening to Bea and Miles laugh, though she decorously dines apart in the main room. It's obvious that Miles and Bea are becoming fond of each other and Carol, although jealous of their love, resolves to look to her own life.
One January night Carol and Will are part of a large group that bob sleds to the lake cabins. The ride itself is magical and the ensuing party at the cabins is equally mirthful. Inspired by a game of charades, Carol makes several of the group promise to help her form a dramatic association. On the way home, Carol muses that she will finally be part of the village life. Fifteen people join the dramatic association and of these only seven come to the first committee meeting. Soon afterward Carol sees an advertisement in a Minneapolis paper for a program of four one-act plays by contemporary writers Schnitzler, Shaw, Yeats and Lord Dunsany. She convinces Kennicott to take her. Carol finds that the city noise is unsettling and the haughtiness of the elegant hotel makes her feel like a rustic. Once they are in their room with food service and a cocktail, however, she is overcome by the novelty and comfort of staying in a nice hotel. They spend the next day shopping and the following day they run into the McGanums from Gopher Prairie and ask for news of the town they left only two days before. They explore the city and suffer through a boring dinner with Carol's sister. Though exhausted herself, Carol drags the weary Kennicott to the dramatic school for the plays that evening. They are bored by the Schnitzler play, Kennicott is somewhat scandalized by the Shaw conceit but Carol is rapturously transported by the Yeats piece. The play by Lord Dunsany is high brow and confuses Kennicott but Carol sees through the shabby stage and bad acting to the exotic thrust of the piece and she secretly morns that she will never see a real jungle.
Carol goes to the play-reading committee settled upon presenting Shaw's "Androcles and the Lion." Carol is shocked when the committee votes to put on a production of "The Girl from Kankakee" which tells the story of a farm lass who rises to success and wealth by marrying a millionaire's son. Juanita Haydock triumphs over Ella Stowbody to become the lead actress and this marks the first in a series of petty fights which plague Carol as the director. They rent the town hall for two months and work hard to clean the room and prepare a stage with scenery. Carol studies books and struggles to bring some art to the production. The cast snipes but she perseveres. Many of the players arrive late if at all to rehearsals and Carol is surprised to discover that she and Guy Pollack are very bad actors but that Raymie Wutherspoon is very good. Time and again she dissuades the group from mutiny. On the night of the play, however, all the seats are filled. As soon as it begins Carol realizes that it is a bad play with horrible actors but they receive polite praise from the community. Carol realizes that she will never reform the town with drama and she takes comfort in the knowledge that Gopher Prairie is a valuable link between farmers and the outside world until she hears a disgruntled farmer berating the town's unfair business practices.
Though she tries to find the mystery and romance of Gopher Prairie, Carol's two great attempts, through her husband and through drama, fail to satisfy. Though she takes great pleasure in admiring her husband's work, the Christmas holdiday reminds her of the magic that is missing from her life. Similarly, she is able to convince herself that the theater will be her salvation, particularly while she is in Minneapolis, but when her company's small town production takes the stage she immediately recognizes that it is really quite bad.
Her distancing from Gopher Prairie increases during the argument with Will, when he accuses her of being overly critical of the town and purposefully argumentative. From this, Carol discerns that the town wants her to conform to its opinions without giving any credence to her own. As such, these chapters mark a turning point for Carol when instead of trying to save the town she begins to try and save her own soul. Guy Pollack and the theater fail to provide an adequate solution, so Carol is forced to wait and hope and struggle for an answer.