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The main theme of the story is rebellion and reformation. The rebellion is against materialism, disparity between the rich and the poor, the ugliness of the town, its provincialism and Puritanism and its prejudices. Carol wants to reform the town by teaching the people to appreciate poetry and to surround themselves with beauty and by teaching them to play. She tries to put up a play, read poetry to Kennicott and campaign for a new city hall, school and a better rest room and also by organizing parties and games. But the town defeats her. Though she can not bring about any radical changes, her triumph lies in putting up a fight and keeping her faith.
The minor theme of the novel is marriage. Carol does not accept the institution of marriage blindly. Her expectations and demands as a wife are juxtaposed with the other wives in Gopher Prairie. Her rebellion seeps into her personal life as well and makes it so much the better for it.
The atmosphere of hostility is produced by the conflict between Carol's desire to change the town and the town's resistance to Carol's ideas. She is bewildered and hurt by the rebukes and rebuttals. Carol develops the right attitudes necessary for a reformer in the last three chapters of the novel. This helps her to face life with more sympathy, tolerance and hope.