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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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After an account of winter in Gopher Prairie and its associated activities, two new characters-Miles Bjornstom-the town’s handyman and Miss Ethel Villets the librarian-are introduced in this chapter. Miles Bjornstorm is a Swede, an atheist and a democrat a deadly combination according to the conservative people of Gopher Prairie, and so he is disliked by many but in winter his services are very essential in every household. He is usually very curt to everyone but is very courteous towards Carol -probably because he discovers a kindred spirit in her, which opposes the provincialism of the town. Only he is daring enough to demonstrate it openly. Surprisingly Miss Villets who is also a librarian (as Carol was before her marriage) is totally opposed to Carol’s liberal views on the duties of a librarian, is very hostile towards Carol.

The men of Gopher Prairie are as thrifty as their wives are. They all-including Sam Clark and Kennicott - themselves fix up their storm windows. Their wives demonstrate their thrift by eating more at the parties so that they could save on their supper and by paying their maids very less for the domestic work.

After her experiment with her house warming party and the skating and sliding parties, Carol finds that she has nothing to do. The writer’s remark ‘She was a woman with a working brain and no work’ neatly illustrates the predicament in which she finds herself. In the midst of her zeal for reformation is the wisdom to belong to the town to be effective as a reformer.

Carol’s attempt to find the reaction of the people of Gopher Prairie to her ideas serves the purpose of exposing the narrow mindedness of the people. The women in Jolly Seventeen are all up in arms against Carol obviously because Carol dares to be different from them. Ella Stowbody’s question whether Carol would get her new dress from Minneapolis sounds very sarcastic. She seems to be sniggering at Carol’s highbrow taste. Mrs. Howland’s criticism about the new couch being too broad shows that she would never


miss a chance to rebut Carol. When Carol praises the pretty display in Howland’s store Mrs. Howland retorts "Gopher Prairie is not so much behind the times." She is obviously taunting Carol for ordering her furniture and food from Minneapolis.

Besides such trivia they fight about larger issues as well. Carol’s chance remark about the Scandinavian farmers snowballs into a labor issue. All the ladies of Jolly Seventeen are opposed to foreigners and grudge them the meager wages they pay them. They direct their anger on Carol because she dares to point it out. Mrs. Dave Dyer proudly proclaims that she makes her servants pack and unpack in her presence. It is indeed shocking that they feel proud of their lack of trust. They consider it unfair on Carol’s part to pay six dollars a week to her maid. When Carol justifies the wages she pays by pointing out the amount of work a maid has to do, she is reminded vehemently that any housewife without a maid would do the same amount of work. They refuse to accept the fact that a maid does it for strangers.

Vida Sherwin’s intervention halts the quarrel. But it does not solve the issue. Vida can only divert the attention of the warring parties - without taking any sides. The writer draws a parallel between the domestic issue and international issues. He asserts that for every million Carols who want liberal, humane standards in the treatment of laborers there are billions of Juanitas who oppose such ideals and a hundred thousand Vidas who would pacify the warring parties without resolving anything.

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