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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Chapter 10

Summary

Though Carol opts to stay at home to avoid the scrutiny of the ladies of the Jolly Seventeen, she longs to have a party. She hopes that Vida or Guy Pollock or Mrs. Westlake would visit her. She gets tea ready, warms up raisin cookies, sets the table and waits for someone to call on her. After a long wait she breaks down and has a good cry.

Her despair gives way to clear thinking. She realizes that she can not accept the outlook of the town as hers and change herself accordingly. She decides to keep up the fight to change the intellectual squalor and the prejudice around her. She feels convinced that she has to introduce at least one idea that would appeal to the people, which would eventually change their attitude. After a lot of hard thinking, she decides to make Kennicott appreciate poetry. The vision of Kennicott reading poetry along with her cheers her up and she starts singing. Her dinner and Bea’s chatter cheers her further and she starts dreaming of Kennicott reading poetry and Guy Pollock calling on her.

On the second day of Kennicott’s absence Carol finds it unbearable to stay at home and goes for a walk. The houses look defenseless against the snow covered vast prairies. The streets look bleak with dirty snow. On the outskirts of the town she sees the poverty of the people and feels sympathetic. But she knows not how to help them. The activities in the industries cheer her up. She even wishes that she could work there but knows that her social position would not permit it.


On her way back home through a slum she meets Bjornstam. She recollects that he is the town handyman. He declares that even though they have no sewage system or any street cleaning in the slum he is happy to be there because he need not attend Juanita’s party. He informs Carol that he is considered to be a pariah and an anarchist. He however apologizes for talking about the Jolly Seventeen without any reverence. Carol asserts that he is free to criticize them if he wants to. He tells her that their dollar power is greater than the power of the crucifix. He explains that he is considered a pariah because he does not envy the rich. He also tells her that he earns enough money. He trades horses, saws wood, works in lumber camps and is also a good swamper. But he regrets that he could not fulfil his desire to go to college. Carol wishes to know why he considers the Jolly Seventeen to be stupid. Bjornstram answers that it is because in the whole town only himself, Carol, Guy Pollock and the foreman at the flourmill had really imaginative brains. Carol wants to know why he left Vida out of the list of intelligent people. Bjornstram admits that Vida did have brains and that she was the reason behind all the reforms in the town but he dismisses them as too small to bring any real change.

He invites her to have a cup of coffee. She finds his shack neat and tidy. She inspects his collection of books - poetry, a manual of gas-engines, a treatise on poultry and cattle and similar ones. He makes her feel at home without fussing around her and talks about his opinion of the people of Gopher Prairie and about how he despised ignorance. Carol understands his proletarian philosophy and senses his need for friends. She asks him if he would worry if people thought that he was affected. He asserts that he would not care for them. She ret urns home with a new vigor and even invites Vida over. She learns that Vida considers Bjornstam to be impertinent.

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