Carol Milford, an idealistic young librarian in turn-of-the-century St. Paul, marries a country doctor who convinces her that, as his wife, she will be able to uplift and reform a grateful society in a Minnesota prairie town. Instead, she finds that cliquishness, petty rivalries, social injustice, and a smug resistance to outside ideas distinguish most of her new neighbors -- including her husband.
Carol does not succeed in reforming the town, but through various struggles she comes to appreciate that belonging to a family and to a community are human needs which go largely unrequited in the life of a full-time social reformer. She realizes that even in a cosmopolitan city, she has only a finite circle of close friends and aquaintances, and that the proximity of cultural opportunities does not guarantee their appreciation. Carol is forced to admit to herself that in her efforts to reform and educate others, she was herself practicing narrow-minded intolerance as surely as she was deploring it. Finally, she realizes that her opportunity for real impact on society will be in her raising of her children to strive, to question, to be full participants in the brave new world thinking people of her generation were only beginning to conceive of.
This report prepared by Charlotte Streeter
This is the story of one woman's alienation from the dull mediocrity of American middle-class life. One of the earliest books of this genre (pub. 1920), it is startlingly feminist in its sentiments. Carol Kennicott follows her new husband to his small Minnesota town and tries to make a life for herself among its narrowly-focused, complacent elite.
This report prepared by Gretchen Boger