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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Notes

Two new characters are introduced in this chapter. Erik Valborg- the Swede farm boy who aims to become a fashion designer and Fern Mullins -the new English teacher. Gopher Prairie does not accept Erik. It is because Erik loves to dress well and is very polite and reads a lot. The people feel that it does not become a tailor's assistant to put on airs. So they all make fun of him. Even Carol joins the fun before she meets Erik. But once she meets him, she longs to talk to him and wants to invite him home. Fern Mullins gets a better response because she is a teacher.

Carol feels that Erik looks like a poet and has the taste of an artist. She has to find an excuse to go to the tailor's shop to meet him. Once she is there and Erik reveals his eagerness to talk to her she tries to be 'virtuous' like Ella Stowbody and 'advisory' like Vida. But she cannot put on the act for long and reverts to her natural self. She listens to Erik with sympathy. She feels that though he has read a lot, he has read without judgement. He mispronounces words but he is sensitive like Keats. She imagines him to be a 'bewildered spirit fallen on Main Street'. She remembers the way people made fun of him and is sure that they would laugh at him till 'the spirit doubts his own self and tries to give up the use of wings'. This explains Carol's need to protect him. He is the image of romance which she finds wanting in Gopher Prairie. She appreciates Erik's attempts to educate himself.

The other character Fern Mullins attracts Carol's attention as much as Erik does. She feels an affinity with Fern because Fern feels Gopher Prairie to be as stifling as Carol feels it to be. Fern's longings are Carol's longings too. Fern feels impressed by Carol because Carol was educated and had worked in a big city. They become good friends. Fern's interest in dramatics, gives Carol the chance to invite Erik along with Fern to make an attempt to revive the dramatic club. Kennicott talks very cordially with Fern and even jokes that he is a great hand for running away with pretty schoolteachers. He does not give any importance to Erik because he is only an assistant in a tailor's shop. It is very important here to recollect that on Carol's first day in Gopher Prairie, her remark to Kennicott when she learns that the tailor belongs to Kennicott's social circle, "it must be charming to meet one ... would you go hunting with your barber, too?" Both seem to have changed their views about selecting their social circle. Kennicott does not make fun of Erik even if he does not give him any importance. In fact it is Kennicott who comes to Erik's defense when he is criticized for not joining the army. It is he who informs Carol that according to Guy Pollock Erik borrowed more books than anyone else does in the whole town. This shows Kennicott to be a through gentleman. The others on the other hand make fun of him without bothering to find out anything about him.


A digression in this chapter devoted to Erik and Fern is the preacher's sermon. The topic 'America, Face Your Problem' leads Carol to believe that the preacher would discuss the war, the labor problem and the women's suffrage movement. She goes to the church with genuine enthusiasm. The writer here reveals Carol's religious faith. She is an agnostic-, which means that she cannot believe in the existence of God unless it is proved materially. The belief of the people in the prayer meeting, which she attended, in a 'vengeful God' and Mrs. Bogart's idea of every day confession makes her feel that the religion of Gopher Prairie is abnormal. But the church suppers and Mrs. Perry's joy of coming into the abiding grace makes her see the humanness of religion. As for Kennicott -he believes in the church but hardly ever goes to attend mass. He feels shocked at Carol's lack of faith without seriously thinking about what faith he expected her to have. Carol feels disappointed by all the talk about Mormonism and considers the whole affair to be futile. There is no more discussion of religion in the rest of the novel.

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