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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Notes

This chapter is a satire on the way people behave in a provincial town. The people are self-righteous and narrow-minded. They reveal this in the way they react to Carol. Carol is genuinely friendly and natural with them. She is not used to such prying and backbiting. She cries out in agony to Vida "I wonder if you ought to have told me?" Vida justifies the squealing as the empowering of Carol with knowledge. If Carol knew what they thought about her, she will be able to change them for the better.

The gossip itself is a revelation of their narrow mindedness. They do not bother to understand Carol’s idea of life. Any one who does not confirm to their ideas is suspect in their eyes. They do not care to know Carol’s background. They fail to see what Carol is but criticize her for not behaving like one of them. To expect Carol to dress like them, to think like them or talk like them is absurd. But to condemn her for, her liberal views on labor, for treating her maid as a friend, is outrageous. It is indeed surprising that the citizens of the country, which gave the world the principles of democracy, equality and liberty, should be so narrow minded. They read motives in Carol’s spontaneous actions and statements. When she referred to Mrs. Elder’s car as ‘pretty little’ she expresses her fondness whereas Mrs. Elder interprets it as belittling her big car. When she learns about their criticism of her party she feels mortified because she wanted them to have a good time and had ordered the food very carefully. She feels sorry for herself because she had been very economic and had stitched her clothes herself yet she should be called a showoff.


Vida Sherwin who carries the gossip admits that ‘the one who carries tales is enjoying the situation most and is to be blamed’. Yet she gives Carol all the details and expects her to be impersonal and understand why such things are said. She manages to prick Carol’s ego and deflate it completely.

This chapter also brings out the difference in perceptions. Carol sees herself as "inconspicuous and normal-so normal that there is nothing about me to discuss". But the people of Gopher Prairie see her as a showoff. They think they are responsible citizens who should let things be as it is. But Carol considers them to be provincial. Vida sees herself as the one who would usher in peace between the two warring factors. But as the latter part of the novel reveals she is as narrow minded as the others. Kennicott declares that he did not believe in ‘binding oneself to trade with the person who trades with him’. Yet he expects Carol to buy provisions from Jenson, who cheats and Ludlmeyer, whom he considers to be a ‘shiftless Old Dutch hog’ because they are his patients.

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