Sinclair Lewis makes point of the efforts that Carol produces to reform her new home.
These efforts can be perceived by the townspeople as unwelcomed and unsuccessful. Some of Carol’s ideas are ludicrous, out of proportion and not ready for the slow-moving town. She tries several different approaches to reforming the town from the moment of her arrival. She goes from architectural reform to poetic reform to artistic to introducing liberalism to amusing social functions. All of these tactics she hopes will spring forth a reform movement to beautify and culturalize the town and people.
Her initial attempts at bringing the town out of its shell consisted of throwing fun and exciting parties. Such as her Chinese house-warming party on page 66. She plans this social event as a way to bring the people out of their normal funeral parlor routine of sitting in a circle and making small talk. For the moment she is successful, but soon after she implements sledding, skiing and skating outings, people begin to recoil back into their normal routines. Again, Carol is frustrated with the progress of the town, and she soon feels rejected by the social elite at the Jolly Seventeen club on page 78. Her attempts to open the minds of the Jolly Seventeen to the issues of the lower class, backfires into a discussion of foreign incompetencies and laziness.
Her reputation becomes the antithesis of Gopher Prairie social beliefs and structure. After presumably months of social reclusion, Carol is coerced to attend a meeting of the Thanatopsis club. She is revitalized and excited about this new opportunity she has been given to discuss a favorite topic of English poetry. Assuming an in-depth reading of selected poems and lively discussions will take up the time, she is startled by the biographical and historical information that is shown off as great literary papers. Her idea of starting a dramatics association after a night of charades, becomes such in the weeks to follow.
She experiences the overwhelming control of small town politics and agreement with association that is exhibited in the play selection process. Her choice for the leading lady is dictated by the longing for social acceptance and the simple art of sucking up. She ascertains that her vision of the perfect play has been tainted by the unmotivated, unreliable and unscrupulous cast she has assembled. The consistent snide, off-handed remarks and unannounced, unwanted suggestions echo the toils of community theater groups across the present Midwest.
Carol has wonderful aspirations and ideas to help awaken the sleepy town of Gopher Prairie, but she is held back by the stiff, stubborn close-mindedness of the small town. The obstacles she encounters are her own self-criticisms. It is quite true that the townswomen gossip about her to no end, but if she could stop and listen, they gossip about each other just as much. She does not comprehend that the common means of conversation in the town are achieved through the criticizing of others.
Carol will never attain her dream village if she does not learn how to communicate with, understand and work with the people of Gopher Prairie.