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Carol Kennicott is the protagonist of the novel. She is a romantic in her outlook and rebels against many of the established ideas of the society. Her idea of reformation is to bring beauty and color into the lives of every citizen of Gopher Prairie. She is an agnostic in her faith but shows Christian love towards all the suffering people who need her loving care. She combines her sense of Aesthetic beauty with her sympathy and wins the hearts of many people in Gopher Prairie.
The people of the orthodox provincial town called Gopher Prairie collectively take the role of the antagonist of the novel. In this town, what the grocer says to the banker is presumed to be the law for the whole world. What the banker does not know is considered unnecessary for anyone to know. The Main Street of the town is considered to be the climax of civilization. Any one who dares to question this faith is considered to be an 'alien cynic'. Carol dares to tell the people that their ideas are wrong. It is not just any one single citizen of Gopher Prairie, who criticizes Carol's idea but the majority of the people collectively criticize and thwart Carol's attempts to transform the town. Carol is able to make peace with the people of Gopher Prairie when she accepts that Gopher Prairie is better in many ways than many of the other prairie towns.
Carol Kennicott's mission in life is to change a prairie town into a beautiful place. She settles down in Gopher Prairie with dreams of effecting a transformation in the appearance of the town. She also dreams of bringing about a change in the attitude of the people. The people of the town resist all her efforts to change the place and a lot of unhappiness is generated in the process. When Carol reaches the breaking point she is unable to bear the opposition and criticism of the town. In the thirty sixth chapter she confronts Kennicott and announces her decision to leave. This decision is the climax of the story because it enables Carol to distance herself from the town so that she can find out what she wants to do with her life. She convinces Kennicott to let her go and promises him that she will come back if she can bring something, that is better than what she has to help the town.
The outcome of the novel is comedy-a happy reunion of Carol and Kennicott and the reconciliation with the town, in accepting it as it is. Carol stays in Washington for two years and has her fill of exposure to radical ideas like the suffrage movement and sophisticated people. She learns that she has to be impersonal and have endurance if she wants to change anything. This helps her to give up fretting and make life a lot easier for herself and her husband.