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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Chapter 9

Summary

Carol is frightened by the way people criticize her. She longs to be back in the city where she could be anonymous. She wishes to go away to St. Paul for a few days but does not know how to convey her wish to Kennicott. She feels painfully self-conscious in front of people and keeps wondering if they are laughing at her even when they greet her. She realizes that all she wants is to be accepted. Though she gets over her self-consciousness after a few days she keeps the habit of avoiding people. She keeps up the habit of acting all the time to avoid being criticized.

She realizes that Vida had told her the truth about people watching her all the time. Even as she convinces herself that villagers do gape at every one she notices that as soon as she entered Ludlmeyer’s shop, the grocer, his Clark and Mrs. Dave Dyer who were giggling about something, stopped giggling and started talking about onions. When Carol and Kennicott called on the Casses, they appear to be agitated at their arrival. She suspects that everyone except Sam Clark, Dave Dyer and Raymie wutherspoon is laughing at her. They pointedly remark in her presence that one man is as good as another is.

The merchants like Ole Jonson and Howland are bad tempered as if to prove that they are Americans, because American merchants are bad tempered. The customers are expected to fight back. Carol finds it difficult ‘to play the friendly game of rudeness’. Therefore she prefers to shop at Axel Egge’s. She prefers it also because Axel never bothers about her and his customers do not even know her. Carol becomes painfully conscious about even her clothes. Once when she wears a checked black suit, she finds Mrs. Boggart staring at her dress. Mrs. Mac Ganum asks her if it is very expensive. The boys comment that they could play a game of checkers on her skirt.


The boys of the town loaf in front of Dave Dyer’s store wearing flashy clothes, smoking and teasing every passing girl. Carol feels sickened by their behavior. They play pool and dice in stinking rooms and listen to the bartender’s juicy stories. They eat decayed bananas, acid cherries, whipped cream and gelatinous ice cream. Carol had read about the problems of boys and had the impression that they were unhappy. But the boys of Gopher Prairie terrified her by their behavior and comments. She knows that they make personal comments about her. She feels that they were born old and senile. She had seen Cyrus Bogart once hanging a cat. She had also seen him stealing melons and even throwing tomatoes at their house, and she is afraid of him. Kennicott’s garage loft serves as a hiding place for them. Once Carol overhears Cyrus Bogart and Earl Haydock talking. They talk about how Kennicott used to chew tobacco and spit. Carol finds it difficult to believe that her husband had the habit. Then they discuss Carol. She learns that Mrs. Bogart thought that Kennicott looked sick because Carol paid more attention to her clothes than to her husband. They thought that she was showing off her beautiful clothes and that she fussed around the house. Then they start discussing her low cut dresses and her shapely ankles. Carol finds it impossible to listen to them anymore. . She never fails to pull down the window shades after listening to the boys. She feels ashamed that Kennicott once had the habit of chewing tobacco, which brought him down to the level of the loafers. She tries to find consolation in the fact that he gave up the habit for her sake even before she married him.

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