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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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THEMES

Major

Main Street is a social satire, bringing to light the discontent of the protagonist because of her inability to bring about a change in the attitudes of the people of Gopher Prairie. She appreciates beauty of simplicity. She believes that life should uphold the virtues of equality and freedom. She disapproves of exploitation. Therefore she opposes the industrialization which wipes out the beauty of the land and the spirit of adventure of the pioneers of America. Luxuries like cars and telephones seem to have encouraged people to be materialistic and this wipes out sympathy, humanism and the sense of fairness.

She also rebels against the American standardization and uniformity. She tells Vida about the colorful Norwegian fair where the women in 'scarlet jackets embroidered with gold thread and colored beads' had served 'sweet cakes and sour puddings'. Now those women have exchanged their 'red jackets' for 'congealed white blouses' and the 'sour pudding' has made way for the 'fried pork chops'. She regrets that they have lost whatever pleasant new customs they might have added to the life of the town. She also rebels against the exploitation of the farmers and the laborers. She incurs the wrath of the matrons of Gopher Prairie by paying six dollars a week to her maid and also by justifying the wages by pointing out that the job they did is very tedious. She insists that the rest room for the farmer's wives should have better facilities, because it brought the farmer's business to the merchants of the town.


The reforms she proposes are very simple. She wants beautiful buildings. She wants to cultivate the taste of the people. She wants to teach the farmer's wives the proper way to care for their babies and to make good stew. She suggests setting up an employment bureau so that they will not depend on charity. The women of Gopher Prairie snigger at Carol's suggestions. They oppose the idea of empowering the poor women to be self sufficient because that will deny them the chance to be charitable. When Carol suggests that they should mend the clothes before handing them out as charity, the women pounce once again on Carol and overrule the suggestion as unnecessary because it would make those women too lazy.

Carol feels frustrated by this mindlessness. Hence she leaves Gopher Prairie so that she can find out what she can achieve in life. In Washington, she gains the objectivity necessary for any reformer. She gains courage and poise and learns how to canalize her energy to effect changes, and returns to Gopher Prairie reconciled.

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