skip the i-GuideIllinois State UniversityAdmissions at ISUAcademics at ISUEvents at ISUMap of ISUISU A to Z ListingISU AccessibilityISU 150th Anniversary
Web Support Services's eStoryboard

Main Street , 1920

(pagination from the Signet Classic edition)

"...in four months, she had beheld Cy hanging a cat, stealing melons, throwing tomatoes at the Kennicott house, and making ski-tracks across the lawn, and had heard him explaining the mysteries of generation, with great audibility and dismaying knowledge. He was, in fact, a museum specimen of what a small town, a well-disciplined public school, a tradition of hearty humor, and a pious mother could produce from the material of a courageous and ingenious mind." 9-II, 104.

"Miss Sherwin's trying to repair the holes in this barnacle-covered ship of a town by keeping busy bailing out water. And Pollock tries to repair it by reading poetry to the crew! Me, I want to yank it up by the ways, and fire the poor bum of a shoemaker that built it so it sails crooked, and have it rebuilt right, from the keel up." 10-III, 116.

"She was not a Respectable Married Woman but fully a human being." 10-III, 117.

"There had to be one man in town independent enough to sass the banker!" 10-III, 118.

"[The city hall] had an unobstructed view of a vacant lot and Nat Hick's tailor shop. It was larger than the carpenter shop beside it but not so well built." 11-II, 128.

"She reflected that in Gopher Prairie it is not decent to call on a man; as she decided that no, really, she wouldn't go in; and as she went in." 13, 152.

"I went to a denominational college and learned that since dictating the Bible, and hiring a perfect race of ministers to explain it, God has never done much but creep around and try to catch us disobeying it." 13, 154

"[Dr.] McGanum goes into everything bull-headed, and butts his way through like a damn yahoo, and tries to argue his patients into having whatever he diagnoses them as having!" 13, 163

"The outhouse was so overmodestly masked with vines and lattice that it was not concealed at all." 15-VII, 180

"Julius Flickerbaugh ... handled more real estate than law, and more law than justice." 16-II, 193

"I think perhaps we want a more conscious life. We're tired of drudging and sleeping and dying. We're tired of seeing just a few people able to be individualists. We're tired of always deferring hope till the next generation. We're tired of hearing politicians and priests and cautious reformers ... coax us, 'Be calm! Be patient! Wait! We have the plans for a Utopia already made; just wiser than you.' For ten thousand years they've said that. We want our Utopia now and we're going to try our hands at it." 16-V, 197

"Miss Stowbody expressed the fundamental principle of the American drama: the only way to be artistic is to present Shakespeare. As no one listened to her she sat back and looked like Lady Macbeth." 17-II, 204

"'I wonder if you can understand the 'fun' of making a beautiful thing, the pride and satisfaction of it, and the holiness!' The company glanced doubtfully at one another. In Gopher Prairie it is not good form to be holy except at church, between ten-thirty and twelve on Sunday." 18-III, 219

"Nine lecturers, four of them ex-ministers, and one an ex-congressman, all of them delivering 'inspirational addresses.' The only facts or opinions which Carol derived from them were: Lincoln was a celebrated president of the United States, but in his youth extremely poor. James J. Hill was the best-known railroad-man of the West, and in his youth extremely poor. Honesty and courtesy in business are preferable to boorishness and exposed trickery, but this is not to be taken personally, since all persons in Gopher Prairie are known to e hones and courteous. London is a large city. A distinguished statesman once taught Sunday School. ...After it the town felt proud and educated." 19-VII, 232-233

"She alternately detested herself for not appreciating the kindly women, and detested them for their advice: lugubrious hints as to how much she would suffer in labor, details of baby-hygiene based on long experience and total misunderstanding..." 20-I, 234

"She listened to the Smails and Kennicott trying to determine by dialectics whether the copy of the Dauntless, which Aunt Bessie wanted to send to her sister in Alberta, ought to have two or four cents postage on it. Carol would have taken it to the drug store and weighed it, but then she was a dreamer, while they were practical people (as they frequently admitted). So they sought to evolve the postal rate from their inner consciousnesses, which, combined with entire frankness in thinking aloud, was their method of settling all problems." 20-II, 237

"Carol was discovering that the one thing that can be more disconcerting than intelligent hatred is demanding love. "She supposed that she was being gracefully dull and standardized in the Smails' presence, but they scented the heretic, and with forward-stooping delight they sat and tried to drag out her ludicrous concepts for their amusement. They were like the Sunday-afternoon mob starting [sic] at monkeys in the Zoo, poking fingers and making faces and giggling at the resentment of he more dignified race.... They were staggered to learn that a real tangible person, living in Minnesota, and married to their own flesh-and-blood relation, could apparently believe that divorce may not always be immoral; that illegitimate children do not bear any special and guaranteed form of curse; that there are ethical authorities outside of the Hebrew Bible; that men have drunk wine yet not died in the gutter; that the capitalistic system of distribution and the Baptist wedding-ceremony were not known in the Garden of Eden; ... that there are Ministers of the Gospel who accept evolution; that some persons of intelligence and business ability do not always vote the Republican ticket straight; ... that a violin is not inherently more immoral than a chapel organ... 'Where does she get all them the'ries?' marveled Uncle Whittier Smail..." 20-II, 238-239

"Aunt Bessie was a bridge over whom the older women, bearing gifts of counsel and the ignorance of experience, poured into Carol's island of reserve." 20-II, 239

"The greatest mystery about a human being is not his reaction to sex or praise, but the manner in which he contrives to put in twenty-four hours a day. It is this which puzzles the longshoreman about the clerk, the Londoner about the bushman." 22-I, 254

"It has not yet been recorded that any human being has gained a very large or permanent contentment from meditation upon the fact that he is better off than others." 22-I, 255

"With ... small-town life ... there are hundreds of thousands ... who are not content. The more intelligent young people ... flee to the cities ... and ... stay there, seldom returning even for holidays. The reason, Carol insisted ... is an unimaginatively standardized background, a sluggishness of speech and manners, a rigid ruling of the spirit by the desire to appear respectable. It is contentment ... the contentment of the quiet dead, who are scornful of the living for their restless walking. It is the prohibition of happiness. It is the slavery self-sought and self-defended. It is dullness made God. A savorless people, gulping tasteless food and sitting afterward, coatless and thoughtless, in rocking-chairs prickly with inane decorations, listening to mechanical music, saying mechanical things about the excellence of Ford automobiles, and viewing themselves as the greatest race in the world." 22-III, 257-258

"Except for half a dozen in each town the citizens are proud of that achievement of ignorance which is so easy to come by. To be 'intellectual' or 'artistic' or, in their own word, to be 'highbrow,' is to be priggish and of dubious virtue." 22-IV, 258

"A village in a country which is taking pains to become altogether standardized and pure, which aspires to succeed Victorian England as the chief mediocrity of the world, is no longer merely provincial, no longer downy and restful in its leaf-shadowed ignorance. It is a force seeking to conquer the earth... Sure of itself, it bullies other civilizations, as a traveling salesman in a brown derby conquers the wisdom of China and tacks advertisements of cigarettes over arches for centuries dedicate [sic] to the sayings of Confucius. Such a society functions admirably in the production of cheap automobiles, dollar watches, and safety razors. But it is not satisfied until the entire world also admits that the end and joyous purpose of living is to ride in flivvers, to make advertising-pictures of dollar watches, and in the twilight to sit talking not of love and courage but of the convenience of safety razors." 22-VI, 259

"Once she kidnapped me and drug me to the Methodist Church. I goes in, pious as Widow Bogart, and sits still and never cracks a smile while the preacher is favoring us with his misinformation on evolution. But afterwards, when the old stalwarts were pumphandling everybody at the door and calling 'em 'Brother' and 'Sister,' they let me sail right by with nary a clinch." 26-II, 307

"Maybe if they didn't know it beforehand, they wouldn't find out I'd ever been guilty of trying to think for myself." 26-II, 308

"The doctor asserted, 'Sure religion is a fine influence got to have it to keep the lower classes in order fact, it's the only thing that appeals to a lot of these fellows and makes 'em respect the rights of property. And I guess this theology is O.K.; lot of wise old coots figured it out, and they knew more about it than we do. He believed in the Christian religion, and never thought about it; he believed in the church, and seldom went near it; he was shocked by Carol's lack of faith, and wasn't quite sure what was the nature of the faith that she lacked. Carol herself was an uneasy and dodging agnostic. When she ventured to Sunday School and heard the teachers droning that the genealogy of Shamsherai was a valuable ethical problem for children to think about; when she experimented with the Wednesday prayer-meeting and listened to store-keeping elders giving unvarying weekly testimony in primitive erotic symbols and such gory Chaldean phrases as 'washed in the blood of the lamb' and 'a vengeful God...' then Carol was dismayed to find the Christian religion, in America, in the twentieth century, as abnormal as Zoroastrianism without the splendor. But when she went to church suppers a felt the friendliness, saw the gaiety with which the sisters served cold ham and scalloped potatoes; when Mrs. Champ Perry cried to her, on an afternoon call, 'My dear, if you just knew how happy it makes you to come into abiding grace,' then Carol found the humanness behind the sanguinary and alien theology." 28-II, 316-317

"'Think how much better it is to criticize conventional customs if you yourself live up to them, scrupulously. Then people can't say you're attacking them to excuse your own infractions. Yes, I've heard that plea... To word it differently, 'You must live up to the popular code if you believe in it; but if you don't believe in it, then you must live up to it!''" 31-II, 359-360