Study Guide

Main Street Marriage

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

Marriage

Even the girls who knew that they were going to be married pretended to be considering important business positions. (1.2.8)

At Carol's college, women have two options after they graduate: get a job or get a husband. In Sinclair Lewis's time, it was assumed that married women would quit their jobs to be full-time homemakers.

"Why do these stories lie so? They always make the bride's home-coming a bower of roses. Complete trust in noble spouse. Lies about marriage." (3.3.24)

Carol thinks that all the sweet stories she's heard about marriage over the years have been total lies. Now that she's actually married, she looks ahead to a life of boredom and dissatisfaction. Is there a middle ground between fairy tales and total dissatisfaction? If there is, Carol hasn't found it yet.

But the advocate of freedom in marriage was as much disappointed as a drooping bride with the alacrity with which he took that freedom and escaped to the world of men's affairs. (4.1.7)

When Carol and Will first arrive at their new home, Will asks permission to go check on his office to see if anything has happened with his work. Carol tells him to go ahead, but she secretly feels disappointed when he does. Even at this early point, she realizes that she will always have to compete for Will's attention with his job.

"Oh, my dear, don't you suppose I know? These first tender days of marriage—they're sacred to me" (5.5.18)

Vida Sherwin tells Carl that there are lots of things to be involved in in Gopher Prairie. But she also says that she respects Carol's right to get settled in first—after all, Carol has only been married a short time, and Vida wants to make sure that the new bride gets to enjoy her first days of marriage.

She could not have outside employment. To the village doctor's wife it was taboo. (7.2.3)

Carol is sad to realize that she can't get a job now that she's married to Will Kennicott. The society of her time simply wouldn't understand why the wife of a doctor would want to have a job. And you know how small-town folks are with things they don't understand—not pleased, apparently.

[It] was as a Nice Married Woman that she attended the next weekly bridge of the Jolly Seventeen. (7.3.3)

Carol quickly realizes how difficult it's going to be to fight the entire town of Gopher Prairie. When she first moves in, she openly expresses her opinions on politics and a bunch of other subjects. But she tones it down for a while when she realizes how unwanted her opinions are.

"Was it all a horrible mistake, my marrying him?" (9.3.4)

Carol can't help but wonder if she's made a huge mistake in marrying Will. She continues to wonder about this for the rest of the book, and she even separates from him for two years to see if she'd be happier alone.

"Am I really this settled thing called a 'married woman'? I feel so unmarried tonight. So free. To think that there was once a Mrs. Kennicott who let herself worry over a town called Gopher Prairie when there was a whole world outside it!" (10.2.11)

Carol has a very tough time identifying herself as a typical married woman. She prefers to think of herself as someone who's free to do whatever she wants, especially when there's such a big world out there. These thoughts just go to show how trapped she feels by marriage—or at least by this specific marriage.

"They say that marriage is a magic change. But I'm not changed." (14.1.3)

Carol has always heard stories about how marriage can magically change your life. But she doesn't feel like anything's different at all—and if things are different, they seem to be different for the worse. What kind of change do people actually expect from marriage?

They had two meals with Carol's sister, and were bored, and felt that intimacy which beatifies married people when they suddenly admit that they equally dislike a relative of either of them. (7.4.6)

Even though she's unhappy in her marriage, Carol still has some bright moments when she feels close to Will. In one instance, she feels close to him because both of them realize that they're bored by Carol's sister. Maybe it's not a great thing to bond over, but hey, Carol will take it.

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