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When small town doctor Will P. Kennicott marries Carol, a Chicago woman, the townspeople are displeased that he has married an outsider. Carol is determined to make friends, but the town's women resent her popularity with the men. She further alienates everyone with her suggestions on how to fix up the town, which they all think looks fine the way it is. She befriends Erik Valborg, a young man with artistic inclinations. In a gesture of support, she encourages him to leave the farm and study architecture in the city. His parents are convinced that she has seduced him. Erik, himself, is sure that Carol is in love with him and says as much to Will. At Will's suggestion, Erik asks Carol to leave with him. She is stunned, admitting that she sees him only as a friend. In despair, Erik gets drunk and is killed in a car crash. When Carol realizes that the whole town blames her for Erik's death, she decides to leave. All her efforts to fit in have failed, and although Will begs her to stay, she takes the next train out of town. After she is gone, the townspeople hypocritically claim to miss her. Will is so sure that she will come back that he waits every afternoon for the train from the city. One afternoon, Carol does return, having learned that there are small minds everywhere and that her love for Will is what is important.