Summary and Analysis
The idea of the Gopher Prairie Dramatic Association is born during a midwinter frolic at Jack Elder's shack. Carol again is jubilant and believes that she can yet "escape the coma of the Village Virus." Only twelve members form the nucleus of the association, and from the first there is diversity of opinion about the choice of a play. Dr. and Mrs. Kennicott go to Minneapolis for a few days to witness plays by Schnitzler, Shaw, Yeats, and Lord Dunsany. Carol feels at first like a "hayseed" in the big city after a year and a half in Gopher Prairie, although she likes the luxury of the large hotel. So strenuously do the Kennicotts enjoy the city that they are almost too tired to go to the plays they have come to observe. Schnitzler proves uninteresting, Shaw's "How He Lied to Her Husband" amusing, Yeats' "Land of Heart's Desire" entertaining, and Dunsany incomprehensible. Carol is enthusiastic about returning to Gopher Prairie and recreating the strange things of the world in plays.
The Girl from Kankakee is the final choice of a drama to be presented in the opera house of Gopher Prairie. Shaw, Sheridan, and Greek drama are rejected. Carol casts Juanita Haydock in the lead. Members of the cast, particularly the leading lady, consider Carol "too bossy." As director, Carol puts all her time and energy into the project and mortgages the association by buying high-priced lighting equipment. The actors are bored at times and irregular in attendance at rehearsals. Carol discovers that her best actor is Raymie Wutherspoon in the part of the villain and that she and Guy Pollock are the poorest performers. Carol attends a performance of Sunbonnet Nell by professionals. When she returns, she wonders if she can possibly stay in Gopher Prairie through all of tomorrow, so deadly is its monotony.
The Girl from Kankakee is badly acted, the actors having either stage fright or a tendency to show off. Only Raymie Wutherspoon concentrates on acting. Miles Bjornstam leaves at the end of the first act. The members of the cast refuse to respond to Carol's plea that they begin immediately rehearsing another play, to be given in September. Though the audience and the Gopher Prairie Dauntless compliment the play, Carol again feels beaten. Her interest then becomes rekindled in the romance of Bea and Miles Bjornstam and in her expected baby.
A new interest, dramatics, captivates Carol. In it she sees an avenue of escape from the humdrum life in Gopher Prairie. She finds, too, that she has changed in her attitude toward city life in the year or more since she left it. She and Kennicott both dislike Carol's married sister, a bond between the couple. Playwrights, such as Schnitzler and Yeats, though now considered standards, were apparently not too well known in America at the time. Kennicott himself would have preferred seeing a "regular play," like "Cops and Crooks" or "Lottie of Two Gun Rancho," with New York casts, but he is tolerant of Carol's interest in the products of the Cosmos School of Music, Oratory, and Dramatic Art.
After three years in Gopher Prairie, however, Carol finds herself still unable to adjust to the bourgeois aspects of the town and its people. She is too much of a manager and has ideas too exalted for their tastes and training. Because her husband had wanted to postpone parenthood until they "could afford it," she has had to turn extravagant and rely on other people and outside interests for entertainment and social companionship. Whether motherhood will change her is something the reader wants to know, as Lewis keeps up interest in Carol and her activities.