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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Notes

This chapter describes Carol’s experience in the Thanatopsis club. She feels thrilled that the members are reading papers on poetry. She sees the Thanatopsis as her anchor for changing the attitude of the people of Gopher Prairie. Carol is dismayed to listen to the members describing the lives of the poets from their point of view without any appreciation for their poems. She had come with great enthusiasm to help in their ‘belated quest’. But the ladies are very proud of their understanding of the poets. Carol feels that ‘they think they are doing Burns a favor’. She thinks wryly ‘they have culture salted and hung up’. This is a vivid picture of the smug middle class ladies of the 1920s.

Carol is cautious because she remembers their criticism about her and also because she wants to avoid controversy. Yet so great is her desire for educating, for changing, for ‘planting a seed’ that she ventures to suggest more English poets for further reading. She feels elated at being elected a member of the club and wants to be one of them. She is almost certain that they are the people who will help her to change Gopher Prairie. But as usual she is at a loss to know from where to start her reforms. When Mrs. Mott remarks that the city hall is inadequate she decides to use the city hall as the starting point. She is not very unhappy to find a very pathetic city hall because it gives her scope for improvement.

Even as she goes to the library she has visions of a beautiful library and also wonders at her own discontentment about the way things are. She also wonders if she will ever have any rest from her desire to improve things.

At the library she gets the magazines she wants from the librarian Miss. Villets very tactfully. She finds a suitable plan, which combines aesthetic taste and utility. Very naively she believes that the members of the Thanatopsis will sponsor the new city hall. She approaches each member of the Thanatopsis club individually and finds her idea being rebutted, ridiculed and even rejected. It is a credit to Carol that with a die-hard crusader’s spirit she pursues her dream undaunted by the narrow mindedness, she encounters. The excuses she hears from the members of the Thanatopsis for not constructing a new city hall are examples of the meanness and narrow-mindedness of the people of the 1920s.


The pastor’s wife believes that church should be the center of all activities like education and other social activities. Mrs. Mott in a similar fashion believes that a new school building should be given priority. Mrs. Dyer comments that Mrs. Mott wanted her husband to sit in a big office and look important. She even remarks that Mrs. Mott wanted to run everything and expresses her dislike for would-be women politicians.

The rest room, flaunted as the achievement of the Thanatopsis is another example of their smug self-satisfaction. The members of the club consider it charity on their part but Carol knows that their husbands get the business of the farmers. Mrs. Perry not only rejects the idea of a better rest room but also ridicules the idea of establishing farm-bureaus and holding demonstrations in stew making. She condemns the idea of scientific farming. She comments that if Carol’s ideas were adopted the town would look like a ‘Dutch storybook’.

The viewpoint of Mrs. Cass is similar. The description of the Cass house is an exercise in sarcasm. Cass’s parlor is decorated in the ‘crammed-Victorian’ fashion where ‘every thing must resemble something else’. A rocker has a back like and arms like Scotch Presbyterian lions. Every inch of the house is filled with useless objects. Like Mrs. Westlake, Mrs. Cass also considers Tolstoy's socialistic ideas to be silly.

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