Study Guide

Main Street Chapter 4

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 4

  • Will tells Carol that his friends—the Clarks—have invited them over to meet some of the townsfolk after they've gotten settled. Carol thinks this'll be nice.
  • Before he does anything else, Will wants to drop by his office for an hour to make sure everything's all right with his work. Carol tells him to go but is secretly disappointed when he does.
  • When she looks around Will's home, Carol realizes how ugly everything is. She basically has a panic attack when she realizes that this home and town will be her prison for the rest of her life.
  • Carol runs into the street to take a walk, but the town doesn't make her feel any better. She only confirms what she already thought: that the place is awful, and she has no chance of changing it.
  • Carol looks at the buildings on Main Street one by one and finds nothing in them worth exploring. Eventually, she gives up and retreats to her new home.
  • We find out that a woman named Bea Sorenson was travelling on the same train to Gopher Prairie as Carol and Will. We look in on her now to find her arriving in her cousin's home and looking to find a job in the town. Bea takes a walk down Main Street and sees the exact opposite of what Carol has. She loves all the stores and the people, which just goes to show how much of a difference your perspective can make.
  • Now we look in on the party that Sam Clark and his wife are hosting for Will and his new bride Carol.
  • Will takes Carol and shows her to the room, telling her about the people before introducing her to them. Carol feels vulnerable and exposed, especially considering how much she dislikes the town so far. She never feels like she's saying anything good to the people because she can't tell how judgmental they are. She's certainly judgmental of them and their boring lives.
  • Eventually, Carol gives up and just tries to say whatever the people around her want to hear.
  • Carol's phony acting soon exhausts her, so she retreats to a chair to sit by herself.
  • The host, Sam Clark, decides to make the party more exciting by calling people to tell stories and give short performances. Carol doesn't realize that she's about to hear the same stories at every party she attends that winter. She also listens to a bunch of petty gossip that makes the people spreading it seem like losers.
  • Then the conversation turns to workers' rights, which the people in Sam's house are not fond of. They think that as businessmen, they should be able to run their businesses however they bloody well want. Carol doesn't agree with any of it.
  • Finally, the evening ends, and Carol heads home with Will. On their way, Will cautions her about being too edgy with some of her comments. For example, she might not want to bring up any labor-related politics from now on.

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