Summary and Analysis
All that summer Carol analyzes her husband, deciding that he is only a grown-up Hugh. One hot evening after a poker party at which she had been permitted only to serve food and drink to the men, she rebels, telling Kennicott that his friends have "the manners of a barroom." As the result of an argument wherein he calls her a "neurotic" and she mentally dubs him "plain stupid," Carol decides to move into the spare bedroom. Mrs. Westlake, the wife of the elderly doctor, encourages Carol in this decision.
Oscarina, the maid, goes home to work on the farm, and Carol has to do her own housework, which she finds hard and depressing. Plans for building a new house are discussed and discarded, since husband and wife cannot agree. Uncle Whit does not help matters by forcing his views on them.
The Kennicotts attend a Beaver Lodge street fair and convention in Joralemon, a neighboring town. They visit Dr. Calibree and his family. Joralemon is a duplicate of Gopher Prairie, from the red frame railroad station to the main street. Carol stifles Will's enthusiasm over Joralemon by stating that she thinks it "an ash-heap." He worries over this remark for a week.
Dr. Kennicott is tempted by Maud Dyer to visit her at her home one evening while her husband, Dave, is working late at the drug store. Finding Carol tired and cross at home, the physician rather reluctantly accepts the invitation and stays out late. In the next day or so, Mrs. Bogart and Aunt Bessie Smail call on Carol and hint broadly about how "designin' women" can tempt men, especially a doctor. Carol, entirely unsuspicious, does not welcome their meddling.
Carol gradually discards the Jolly Seventeen and becomes better friends with the Bjornstams, of whom her husband disapproves. The two children, Hugh and Olaf, are also companionable. Misfortune overtakes the Bjornstam family when both Bea and her child die of typhoid, caused by drinking contaminated water. The townspeople feel little sympathy for Miles, who, according to gossip, is at least in part to blame. Carol acts as nurse for the patients, and Dr. Kennicott uses all his professional skill, but to no avail.
Miles sells his dairy and moves to Canada to get as far away from people as possible. Dr. Kennicott reflects that perhaps the citizens' committee should have forced Bjornstam to be more patriotic. Carol realizes from conversation with Mrs. Flickerbaugh that it is possible to remain in Gopher Prairie for thirty-seven years, always disintegrating, and never really becoming a part of the town. Dr. Kennicott continues to make frequent professional calls on Mrs. Dyer.
Sinclair Lewis considers all small towns of his day cut to one pattern and vicious in their monotony. Carol and her husband are drifting apart, since to her his manners are boorish and his aesthetic sense lacking. Dr. Calibree and Dr. Kennicott talk of nothing but their cases, entirely excluding their wives from the conversation. Carol feels slighted; she cannot even indulge in the gaiety of the merry-go-round, here representing the lighter side of life in contrast to her husband's absorption in his profession.
Maud Dyer, described as "neurotic, religiocentric, faded," represents a class of bored women, with plenty of psychoses and imaginary ailments. Dr. Kennicott knows that a vacation from her stingy husband would be the best cure for her ills, but he also realizes that this is an impossible one. As Carol has now and then wearied of the marriage bond, so is her husband for the first time since marriage inclined to seek understanding elsewhere. Carol and Will are drifting apart, as he has become interested in a makeshift romance with a woman patient.
Water pollution, the treatment of typhoid (a disease now almost extinct), and the role of Carol as a nurse for a stricken family are all treated in this chapter. Miles' haughty resentment of the callers and his slamming of the door in their faces are symbolic of his independent spirit and his break with the traditional. Miles is practically forced by public opinion to leave Gopher Prairie.