Study Guide

Main Street Chapter 11

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

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Chapter 11

  • One day, a woman from the town's Thanatopsis Club barges into Carol's house and says Carol should go to the club's next meeting, where they'll discuss English poetry. Carol didn't realize this group was so literary, and she answers that she'd be delighted to go.
  • Unfortunately, Carol quickly learns that the discussion of the poets is totally superficial. All they do is talk about the poets' lives and accomplishments without ever actually looking at their work. Carol tries to correct this, but what she says is over the heads of her listeners. Still, Carol tries hard to fit in, despite her dissatisfaction.
  • The next day, Carol decides to check out the building for City Hall. She also visits the town library and asks the librarian there to give a talk sometime for the Thanatopsis Club, since she's the only woman in the town who might actually know about books. The woman (Miss Villets) says that the Thanatopsis Club has never been very keen on her.
  • Carol decides to confide her dreams for Gopher Prairie to Miss Villets. But Miss Villets thinks that if the town is going to be improved, it'll have to be done through the churches. Carol doesn't like this idea, because she thinks that churches are stuck in the past.
  • Unfortunately, Carol gets stuck contributing to plans that the town has already set in motion.
  • Carol asks another woman named Mrs. Cass if they could find ways to rebuild the town's major buildings. Mrs. Cass rejects the idea by saying that taxes are too high as it is, and the town shouldn't be allowed to spend one more cent.
  • Carol finally decides to approach a millionaire in the town, Luke Dawson, and ask him to give all his money to making Gopher Prairie more beautiful. Dawson basically laughs her out of his house. Plus, he thinks the town is fine just the way it is.
  • After failing, Carol heads back to hang out with Miles Bjornstam to vent her frustrations about the town. He actually agrees with Mr. Dawson because he doesn't want some millionaire stepping in to help the town—he wants the town to help itself.
  • At her next Thanatopsis meeting, Carol suggests that the club should try to help the poor people of the town by creating an employment bureau. She doesn't want to offer charity, but a chance to help the poor help themselves.
  • The women are only interested in charity, though, since they figure there's no point in helping the poor if it doesn't make them feel good about themselves. Plus, the women don't really believe there's any true poverty in the town.
  • The women of the club are more interested in getting more Bible study into the town. Carol thinks they've already got enough Bible study, but the women are offended at the idea that anyone can ever have enough Bible study.
  • After this meeting, Carol more or less gives up on ever trying to change her town.

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