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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Notes

This chapter is about another confrontation between Carol and Vida. The writer unsympathetically describes Carol's appetite for reading the books of American socialists, English realists and Russian horrorists. "She got the same confused desire which the million other women felt, the same determination to be class- conscious without discovering the class of which she was to be conscious". But her observations on the American small towns are clear enough. Her objection to the depiction of the small- towns in the fiction is not because it is wrong but because it is not true. She also objects to the claim that any other place is vicious. She dislikes the standardization because it makes life dull and colorless she considers standardization to be 'self imposed slavery'.

Vida does not seem to understand Carol's ideas. When she remarks that whenever anything original was experimented the rectors preach at them, Vida takes it as a compliment to rectors and observes that Raymie would have made an excellent rector. They both perhaps have a different perception of preaching. It is a derogatory term to Carol but Vida considers preaching to be good because people need it. The architect endorses Carol's comments about the ugliness of the plan of the town. About the prairie towns turning parasites, Carol is right. Wes Brannigan complains that the shipper and the grocer in Gopher Prairie would not pay them a decent price for their potatoes. He adds that the commission merchants of the outside market wouldn't pay them a cent more. He also says that the merchants hate to carry them over bad years, and that their daughters put on swell dresses and look down at them as if they were a bunch of hoboes. But people refuse to see it or acknowledge it. The only solution Carol can offer, as remedy, is "criticism". Vida loftily asserts that Carol wanted 'perfection', as if it is a sin to expect perfection. What Carol obviously means when she refers to a cynical French man is somebody who will point out the people's faults and who will have the courage to do what he thinks is right. By 'kiss my hand' she does not mean that she wants to be kissed by strangers. It is not a personal reference at all but a manner of speaking, which means that one should be natural.


Vida appears to be very harsh when she accuses Carol of giving up too easily on her attempts to reform the town. Yet she is right. Though Vida herself had warned Carol to watch her step and the members of the dramatic club were not ready to commit themselves, Carol also does not show the persistence that a reformer should possess. Yet it may be said in Carol's defense that she is consistent in her faith in beauty, variety and individuality. When she trains the girls she does it not because it will make them good wives as Vida says but because she believes that 'the Sioux dances would bring subversive color into their dinginess'. When she works on the garden of the parking space she imagines that she is 'scrubbing a temple deserted by the Gods' and imagines herself to be running garlanded through the streets of Babylon'. It is escapism indeed. But Carol is an incurable romantic. When Hugh -with his hands full of grass and cheeks smeared with pollen-asks "what does the buttercup say Mummy? She feels glad. "Even when she does things for the town that she is expected to do, she beholds-'the burly cynical French man' and the 'diaphanous dancers' as clearly as a child sees its air-born playmates".

Vida is not portrayed as a loyal friend of Carol in this chapter. Her rudeness is unwarranted. She does not have the bond or the sympathy that strengthens friendship. She is very mean, in keeping the new school building campaign a secret from Carol. It is praiseworthy that Carol does not sulk but joins the campaign whole-heartedly.

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