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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Notes

The focus in this chapter is on Carol. What she wants from life and why she settles down to live the mundane life of Gopher Prairie is explained here. When she shows keen interest in Kennicott’s work and reveals her adoration for him he takes her love for granted. She is full of curiosity and thirst for knowledge. When the initial curiosity about Kennicott’s work is over she wants to learn more about it. Her happiest time is when she helps him as his anesthetist. She adores him when he takes her to safety through a blizzard. But when he gives her news about who is expecting a baby when she wants to know about his work she feels disappointed. Similarly when she tries to understand the financial aspects of his real estate deals she gets statements like ‘a good deal, ten plunks more to an acre’. Kennicott expects her to appreciate questions like where they should take a break when they go on the ‘fabulous trip’. She has to watch Kennicott cleaning his guns religiously and spending ‘ecstatic moments aiming at the ceiling’. She is expected to fondly recollect the time when he ‘got two ducks on a long chance’.

The movies Kennicott and the people of Gopher Prairie love to watch are equally frustrating to Carol. She frets over the fact that when they are ready to appreciate films with suggestive gestures and vulgar display of legs, they ban frank novels. When Kennicott mocks her with remarks like ‘Going to tell fellows that have been making movies for ten years how to direct 'em; and tell architects how to build towns...’ she feels offended. She feels that he is taking her for granted. She feels that she has to save her soul.

Yet she knows that she too has caught the village virus. Her violin lies untouched with its strings broken. She does not read anything. She does not care to have any emotional scenes with Kennicott by ‘asserting independence’. The writer compares her to the revolutionaries when they turn fifty. Though they are not afraid of death they cannot bother to go through the inconvenience of having to go without even the minimum sanitary facilities or having to sacrifice their sleep. The same inertia possesses Carol.


Her disillusionment with Guy Pollock is also highlighted here. From the time she had heard about Guy Pollock, Carol had a very high opinion of him. She expects him to know what is wrong and also the way to set it right. When she talks to him about the discontent she feels because women are not allowed to be independent he fails to understand her. He believes that the world would be a better place if they could bring back the days of chivalry and good taste. She clarifies that she did not want dead elegance but everything for everyone. He promptly concludes that she is a communist. He asserts that she has nothing in common with the labor leaders and that they should not allow the world to be reduced to ‘a dead level of mediocrity’. She knows immediately that he is a coward and a stranger. She also realizes that it was she who had seen glories in him which he never possesed.

When Bjornstam comes to build the kitchen range in her house she is excited by the activity. She invites him to have lunch with Bea. She longs to join them. She considers them to be her friends. She does not care for the social distinctions. Yet she considers them to be retainers and herself to be the lady. So she eats alone. But she joins them in the kitchen later and also considers herself to be absurd. She listens to Bjornstam’s tales to impress Bea and listens to Bea’s delighted giggles. They appear to be a Swedish Othello and Desdemona. She feels happy for them yet envies their love. A few of the contradictions in her nature are thus highlighted.

The presentation of Kennicott in this chapter is not in keeping with the way he is idealized in the previous chapter. The way he takes Carol for granted does not become a doctor because a doctor should also understand the psychology of people. He appears ridiculous when portrayed as wandering out in the ‘winter noons’ and staring ‘owlishly’ at his car. Similarly his aiming the gun at the ceiling ecstatically sounds very amusing. He does not seem to understand Carol.

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