Main Street By Sinclair Lewis Chapters 14-16

"Well, you'll have plenty of privacy when we build a new house.

"When?"

"Oh, I'll build it all right, don't you fret! But of course I don't expect any credit for it."

Now it was she who grunted "Huh!" and ignored him, and felt independent and masterful as she shot up out of bed, turned her back on him, fished a lone and petrified chocolate out of her glove-box in the top right-hand drawer of the bureau, gnawed at it, found that it had cocoanut filling, said "Damn!" wished that she had not said it, so that she might be superior to his colloquialism, and hurled the chocolate into the wastebasket, where it made an evil and mocking clatter among the debris of torn linen collars and toothpaste box. Then, in great dignity and self-dramatization, she returned to bed.

All this time he had been talking on, embroidering his assertion that he "didn't expect any credit." She was reflecting that he was a rustic, that she hated him, that she had been insane to marry him, that she had married him only because she was tired of work, that she must get her long gloves cleaned, that she would never do anything more for him, and that she mustn't forget his hominy for breakfast. She was roused to attention by his storming:

"I'm a fool to think about a new house. By the time I get it built you'll probably have succeeded in your plan to get me completely in Dutch with every friend and every patient I've got."

She sat up with a bounce. She said coldly, "Thank you very much for revealing your real opinion of me. If that's the way you feel, if I'm such a hindrance to you, I can't stay under this roof another minute. And I am perfectly well able to earn my own living. I will go at once, and you may get a divorce at your pleasure! What you want is a nice sweet cow of a woman who will enjoy having your dear friends talk about the weather and spit on the floor!"

"Tut! Don't be a fool!"

"You will very soon find out whether I'm a fool or not! I mean it! Do you think I'd stay here one second after I found out that I was injuring you? At least I have enough sense of justice not to do that."

"Please stop flying off at tangents, Carrie. This — — "

"Tangents? TANGENTS! Let me tell you — — "

" — — isn't a theater-play; it's a serious effort to have us get together on fundamentals. We've both been cranky, and said a lot of things we didn't mean. I wish we were a couple o' bloomin' poets and just talked about roses and moonshine, but we're human. All right. Let's cut out jabbing at each other. Let's admit we both do fool things. See here: You KNOW you feel superior to folks. You're not as bad as I say, but you're not as good as you say — not by a long shot! What's the reason you're so superior? Why can't you take folks as they are?"

Her preparations for stalking out of the Doll's House were not yet visible. She mused:

"I think perhaps it's my childhood." She halted. When she went on her voice had an artificial sound, her words the bookish quality of emotional meditation. "My father was the tenderest man in the world, but he did feel superior to ordinary people. Well, he was! And the Minnesota Valley — — I used to sit there on the cliffs above Mankato for hours at a time, my chin in my hand, looking way down the valley, wanting to write poems. The shiny tilted roofs below me, and the river, and beyond it the level fields in the mist, and the rim of palisades across — — It held my thoughts in. I LIVED, in the valley. But the prairie — all my thoughts go flying off into the big space. Do you think it might be that?"

"Um, well, maybe, but — — Carrie, you always talk so much about getting all you can out of life, and not letting the years slip by, and here you deliberately go and deprive yourself of a lot of real good home pleasure by not enjoying people unless they wear frock coats and trot out — — "

("Morning clothes. Oh. Sorry. Didn't mean t' interrupt you.")

" — — to a lot of tea-parties. Take Jack Elder. You think Jack hasn't got any ideas about anything but manufacturing and the tariff on lumber. But do you know that Jack is nutty about music? He'll put a grand-opera record on the phonograph and sit and listen to it and close his eyes — — Or you take Lym Cass. Ever realize what a well-informed man he is?"

"But IS he? Gopher Prairie calls anybody 'well-informed' who's been through the State Capitol and heard about Gladstone."

"Now I'm telling you! Lym reads a lot — solid stuff — history. Or take Mart Mahoney, the garageman. He's got a lot of Perry prints of famous pictures in his office. Or old Bingham Playfair, that died here 'bout a year ago — lived seven miles out. He was a captain in the Civil War, and knew General Sherman, and they say he was a miner in Nevada right alongside of Mark Twain. You'll find these characters in all these small towns, and a pile of savvy in every single one of them, if you just dig for it."

"I know. And I do love them. Especially people like Champ Perry. But I can't be so very enthusiastic over the smug cits like Jack Elder."

"Then I'm a smug cit, too, whatever that is."

"No, you're a scientist. Oh, I will try and get the music out of Mr. Elder. Only, why can't he let it COME out, instead of being ashamed of it, and always talking about hunting dogs? But I will try. Is it all right now?"

"Sure. But there's one other thing. You might give me some attention, too!"

"That's unjust! You have everything I am!"

"No, I haven't. You think you respect me — you always hand out some spiel about my being so 'useful.' But you never think of me as having ambitions, just as much as you have — — "

"Perhaps not. I think of you as being perfectly satisfied."

"Well, I'm not, not by a long shot! I don't want to be a plug general practitioner all my life, like Westlake, and die in harness because I can't get out of it, and have 'em say, 'He was a good fellow, but he couldn't save a cent.' Not that I care a whoop what they say, after I've kicked in and can't hear 'em, but I want to put enough money away so you and I can be independent some day, and not have to work unless I feel like it, and I want to have a good house — by golly, I'll have as good a house as anybody in THIS town! — and if we want to travel and see your Tormina or whatever it is, why we can do it, with enough money in our jeans so we won't have to take anything off anybody, or fret about our old age. You never worry about what might happen if we got sick and didn't have a good fat wad salted away, do you!"

"I don't suppose I do."

"Well then, I have to do it for you. And if you think for one moment I want to be stuck in this burg all my life, and not have a chance to travel and see the different points of interest and all that, then you simply don't get me. I want to have a squint at the world, much's you do. Only, I'm practical about it. First place, I'm going to make the money — I'm investing in good safe farmlands. Do you understand why now?"

"Yes."

"Will you try and see if you can't think of me as something more than just a dollar-chasing roughneck?"

"Oh, my dear, I haven't been just! I AM difficile. And I won't call on the Dillons! And if Dr. Dillon is working for Westlake and McGanum, I hate him!"

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As research for Carol's new Gopher Prairie Dramatic Association, she and her husband attend several plays in




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