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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Chapter 11

Summary

Though Carol had been invited to the meetings of the Thanatopsis several times, she had never considered attending any. One day Mrs. Westlake invites Carol to the meeting. Mrs. Dawson has to preside over the meeting but she feels nervous. So she wants Carol to give her moral support. When Carol learns that papers on English poetry are to be read, Carolís interest is kindled and she attends the meeting. Seated uncomfortably, she listens to the papers on English poets. She finds them concentrating more on their lives than on their works. Mrs. Ole Jenson informs the gathering that Shakespeareís Merchant of Venice is a beautiful love story, which appreciates the fine brains of women. The story, according to Mrs. Jenson is of a Jew named Shylock, who does not want his daughter to marry a Venice gentleman named Antonio. Mrs. Leonard Warren, wife of the pastor reads a paper on Byron, Scott, Moore and Burns, informing the dates of birth and death. She highlights the misfortunes suffered by Burns and criticizes the loose ways of Lord Byron. Papers written in similar fashion about Tennyson, Browning, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Gray, Mrs.Hemans and Kipling are read by each of the members. Carol is requested to give her comments. She does not want to offend them. So she just suggests that they should read the works of Keats, Mathew Arnold, Rossetti and Swinburne. They decide to have one more reading of English poetry. Carol is elected a member of the Thanatopsis. She hears the remark that the city hall seemed inadequate and feels delighted that the town has decided to call itself a city.


The next day she goes to inspect the city hall. It looks bleak and unattractive. It contains the municipal court, the volunteer Fire Company and a two-cell jail. The hall is on the second floor, cluttered with folding chairs, Fourth July floats and a stage. She visits the library, the same afternoon. She tells Miss. Villets that she should have read a paper on English poetry at the Thanatopsis meeting. Miss. Villets grumbles that Vida never asks her to read a paper. She comments that Mrs. Mott the school superintendentís wife and Mrs. Warren the pastorís wife are more important. Carol tells her that she is too modest about the good work she does in the library and requests her to show her the magazine section. She is escorted to the room where the magazines are kept and is left alone. She finds beautiful pictures of New England streets with gardens and arcades and beautiful architecture. She creates a mental picture of a beautiful city hall with a wide hall, a courtroom, public library, rest room, and a theater, lecture hall, a ballroom and a gymnasium. Since the husbands of the members of the Thanatopsis club are the most influential people, she believes that her dream city hall can be constructed without much ado.

She describes her dream hall to Mrs. Warren, who listens to her without any comments. Then she assures Carol that her husband, the pastor was trying to unite all the churches together. Once it is done there would be a beautiful church instead of the city hall, Carol has in mind. Then the church would be the center of all activities. She informs Carol that things are moving fast and they will accomplish their dream soon.

Carol recovers her zeal only after two days to approach Mrs. Mott with her dreams. Mrs. Mott agrees with Carol, but points out that a better school building had priority. Carol gets the idea of building the city hall and the school together and approches Mrs. Dyer with her plan. Maud Dyer informs Carol that her husband wanted to wait for an appropriation from the state and combine the city hall with a National Guard armory, so that the youngsters could be given military training. As for the school building she asserts that it was good enough for them when they were students, so it should be good enough for the present generation.

The arrival of spring after the long winter revives everybodyís spirits. Carol too is distracted from her dreams of rebuilding the town by the plans of spring cleaning her house. She listens to papers on Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austen, George Elliot, Scott, Hardy, Lamb, Dequincy and Mrs. Humphry Ward under the topic of English fiction and essays.

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