"a rebellious girl is the spirit of that bewildered empire called the American Middlewest"
"Even when she was tired her dark eyes were observant. She did not yet know the immense ability of the world to be casually cruel and proudly dull, but if she should ever learn those dismaying powers, her eyes would never become sullen or heavy or rheumily amorous."
"She took walks, and was sensible about shoes and diet. And never did she feel that she was living."
"She slowly confessed that she was not visibly affecting lives."
"Whatever she might become she would never be static."
"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."
There is a passage in Main Street, that describes in a few words the sameness of America's small towns: the doctor could "wake up anywhere" stumble out of bed walk down Main Street towards his office and not realize he was in another city until he reached the door with another name above it. It's true that if you drive for long periods of time along an interstate today that you may find yourself turned around, discouraged by the sameness & the sprawl, or perhaps you are one of those comforted by the familiarity and you might see the brand logos as helpful angels along your way. Not only are our streets names the same in many cities, even the names of our cities are duplicated: Portland, Oregon, Portland, Maine, Portland, Indiana. Main Street, America.
But while, Lewis wrote of human nature, exposing the worst of us, that lurks even in small towns, I also see Carol on Main Street, the heroine doing her best and never admitting defeat,
"I do not admit that Main Street is as beautiful as it should be! I do not admit that Gopher Prairie is greater or more generous than Europe! I do not admit that dish-washing is enough to satisfy all women! I may not have fought the good fight, but I have kept the faith."...
I see the name above the door and the implications of our individuality, our involvement and the fact that it is who we are and what we do in the towns where we live that potentially makes the difference, the impact. And if we never succeed in altering human nature or the dynamics of our Main Street, our existence and attitude runs through the fabric like a bright and lively thread, adding beauty to it.
"But I have won in this: I've never excused my failures by sneering at my aspirations, by pretending to have gone beyond them."
It is your "name above the door" that signals the possibility of change. This was not Lewis's intent or point, but it's what I come away with from Main Street believing.
It's autumn in Richmond, Indiana, and the colors of the foliage outside blaze against the gray sky. The ground this morning was covered in icy frosts. It's a perfect Sunday for reading cozily inside. What are you reading?
Here are a few titles popular in Richmond, Indiana now:
I hope your Sunday is peaceful.
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