Main Street: Novel Summary: Chapters 19-21

Chapter 19
Time passes: Miles Bjornstam gets a job at the mill and marries Bea. Carol organizes their small wedding but none of the towns matriarchs attend or call on the new couple. An older woman named Oscarina replaces Bea and soon becomes a mother figure to Carol. Carol becomes a member of the library board and though she is surprised to find that the other members are well-read she soon discerns that they have no interest in making the library more vital; she placidly serves for two years. Kennicott makes some money on a land deal and hints that they can now afford to have a child. Carol hesitantly agrees, but they take no action. That summer at the cottage she dreams of exotic places. Living at the lake she finds that she misses the sound of the trains which are the towns link to the outside world. She dreams of the day when she can escape on a train. The Chautauqua comes to town and Carol is disappointed to find that instead of being a traveling University it is more of a vaudeville-styled entertainment spectacle. Only one of the many lecturers suggests that Gopher Prairies appearance could use some improvement.
That summer Gopher Prairie is briefly excited by news of war in Europe but the distant events fail to hold the towns attention. Carol visits Bea and Miles and finds that they are happy though the town treats them as pariahs. That autumn Carol realizes she is pregnant.
Chapter 20
Carol dislikes being pregnant and when the baby is born she initially hates it. The next day, however, she finds that she loves it with all her heart. It is a boy and they name him Hugh. For two years Carol devotes herself entirely to being a mother. During the later stages of her pregnancy, Wills relatives – Uncle Whittier and Aunt Bessie – sold their creamery in North Dakota and came to Gopher Prairie for a visit of indeterminate length. They moved into the Kennicott house, were fussy, intrusive and mocking but they were family and Carol had to bear them. Eventually they purchased a grocery store in Gopher Prairie and moved into their own house but thereafter they visit often and without warning. The Jolly Seventeens gossip proves to be a viable outlet for Carols frustrations.
Kennicott organizes a child-welfare week and for a brief period everyone in town feels community spirit and pride. This good feeling ends, however, when Miles and Beas son Olaf wins the prize for healthiest baby. Carol takes Hugh to play with Olaf often even though the town looks down upon Miles and his former servant girl wife. One day, two years after Hughs birth, Vida Sherwin resigns from the school and gets married.
Chapter 21
At the age of thirty-six, Vida Sherwin had given up ever being married. Will Kennicott had flirted with her before he met Carol, but she had suspected his motives and dissuaded him, though she secretly hoped that he would renew his advances. After Will married Carol, Vida loved her as a sister and hated her as a rival. She found felt that Carol took Will for granted. When Vida moves into the boarding house she and Raymie Wutherspoon develop a close friendship that develops into a halting and unspoken romance. Vida encourages Raymie to stand up for himself and to demand more responsibility and respect from Harry Haydock, his manager at the Bon Ton. They are married in June. Afterward, Vida bullies Harry Haydock who makes Ray a partner. Vida is secretly upset when she sees Ray and Will together and suspects that people suppose Will superior to her husband.
This middle trio of chapters centers around Carols pregnancy and the birth of Hugh who arrives at the exact middle of the novel in chapter 20. Through the activities of motherhood Carol persists in her attempts to improve Gopher Prairie but she is ready to concede to defeat much more readily than before.advertisementInstead, she begins to daydream of escape, exemplified by her long afternoons at the lake, her desire to one day take a train away from the town and her conviction that change, even if it meant simply moving to another Main Street in another small town, would be an improvement. These chapters are also noteworthy in that they provide a glimpse of Vida Sherwins psyche and sexual frustrations which explain her critical yet loving attitude toward Carol. With a war raging in Europe and a new baby at home, Carol fights to maintain her sense of self.