Wall Street and Main Street as Synecdoche


Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this excellent Chronicle of Higher Educaton piece by Carlin Romano, one of the best essayists at work today:

Everyone uses synecdoche, even if no student can tell you what it is.

Wall Street…stands for such an astounding range of financial activities and behaviors, from the deceptions of a Charles Ponzi to the admired stewardship of "heroic savior" J.P. Morgan, that it's virtually meaningless as a description. Are we equally angry, after all, at hedge-fund traders, "credit swap" inventors, and the friendly guy at the downtown Charles Schwab?…

take a look at Main Street (1920) by Sinclair Lewis, the novel by America's first Nobel laureate in literature that made the other pole of our synecdoche circus a household phrase…. Far from endorsing the current sense of the metaphor as a home for good, decent, hardworking Americans abused by Wall Street, Lewis saw his book as denouncing, in Matthew Bruccoli's words, "the myth of wholesome small-town America." Indeed, in his 1930 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Lewis declared that he'd meant to oppose the fictional tradition that "all of us in mid-Western villages were altogether noble and happy." Rather, Lewis said he had learned from Hamlin Garland that "mid-Western peasants sometimes were bewildered and hungry and vile."…

An indisputable conclusion, nonetheless, is that Gordon Gekko doesn't live on "Wall Street" any more than the rest of us live on "Main Street"—or receive our mail at General Post Office. If Americans are to work through this mess and demand the naming of names, we need precise addresses too.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: That'll Teach Her for Thinking We're Thugs

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  1. “I fought the law but the law won.”

    That, boys and girls, is the Man using synecdoche to keep you down.

  2. Main Street and Wall Street in the same post?

    Nick, it is too early for me to drink right now, so someone have a shot or two for me.

  3. Don’t tell John about those vile small town folk in flyover country.

  4. I swear, I first read that as “SynecDOUCHE.” (But what about the turd sandwiches??)

  5. You know, Goldman is located on Broad Street, not Wall Street.

  6. While they’ve been living the high life on Wall Street, all the lowlifes are living on Main Street. Things have been positively 4th Street, but a nightmare on Elm Street. We’ve seen 221 Baker Street turn into 21 Jump Street.

  7. We’ve seen 221 Baker Street turn into 21 Jump Street.

    Just go to the last house on the left. Everything will be fine, then.

  8. “I fought the law but the law won.”

    I fight authority and authority always wins.

    Synecdoche confuses us in the heartland, so I used synonym instead.

  9. Speaking of Teddy Roosevelt, I know John McCain refers to him as his model president. I really didn’t see it until I started considering that McCain probably has a lot of people burried in his basement and walks around the house calling random people “general.”

  10. Maybe the GOP’s problem right now is that they are too steeped in synecdoche. Does hockey mom stand for all that is right and good in America, or just some lady in a piece of shit minivan?

  11. Reinmoose: With Sarah Palin as Aunt Abby? Makes sense.

  12. Lamar–

    The latter. It’s ironic she played up the hockey mom thing but they’re getting their asses kicked in the states that actually play hockey.

  13. boxing up the world

    sift it categorize it

    I will sort you out

  14. That’s right folks, we have trouble right here in River City.

  15. And how did soccer mom change to hockey mom? Are they different? Or is soccer too gay for the GOP? Seems like somebody was spending too much time honing the synecdoche and not enough time finding out if people make the connection you want them to.

  16. How is this article in any way shape of form releveant to the current finalnciall crisis apart from serving to confuse people?

  17. Lamar,

    Hockey is just soccer on ice. Think it’s just an Alaska nod. Dontchaknow.

  18. Lamar,

    The Govs kids play hockey. Phrase modified for individual accuracy. Think baseball mom, etc.

  19. Don’t worry about the crisis, concerned observer, wiser heads will prevail.

  20. You know, Goldman is located on Broad Street, not Wall Street.

    What The People need right now is not your big city elitism, or your hoity-toity “accuracy.” Greek words that reek of book learnin’? No, no, no, my friends. They need a MAVRICK, goddammit! Straight Talk, bitches!

  21. When does the FY08 Depression begin again?

  22. Dagny,

    There you are. Anyway, a quick and cheap solution to your Halloween needs. Tell, don’t show.

  23. well, hockey takes a whole lot more money than soccer to play…

  24. I’m depressed, Guy. But I’m looking to score some free Zoloft under the next administration. Does that count?

  25. “The Govs kids play hockey. Phrase modified for individual accuracy.”

    Got it. Still, somehow the campaigns went from studying the voting trends of the minivan moms to actually nominating them for the offices sought.

  26. What The People need right now is not your big city elitism, or your hoity-toity “accuracy.”

    Main Street needs Wall Street right now. If Main Street can’t look to Wall Street and see that the zillionaires are still doing fine, how can they stop worrying about themselves?

    Selfish peasants.

  27. Sug,

    Been a little busy lately. But never too busy for a naughty librarian! That could work…my Sarah Palin costume machinations were tending in the librarian/schoolgirl direction anyways, what with the glasses and all.

    I guess since you wear that to work, you’ll need to find an alternative, though. 😉

  28. Of course “main street” is just as bad or worse than Wall Street. That of course is why all the leftist knashing of teeth over the death of main street because of WallMart is a bunch horse dung. The people who say those kinds of things have never shopped on a real main street or worse yet worked on main street. Few people are more greedy, price gouging and cheaper with their employeees than a small town business that has a captive audience.

    People are the same everywhere. That means that yes, main street is no better than wall street. But it also means that we should be very skeptical the next time some wall street or academic certified genius tries to sell us sollutions to our problems. It goes both ways.

  29. I had to give up on miniskirts. Thigh chafing and all. We do have a librarian that regularly wears a kilt to work. He’s a libertarian too, if a bit GOP-favored for my taste.

  30. Any mom who forces her kids to play soccer is obviously a socialist Euro-weenie. Any mom who has her kids play hockey is clearly a Communist. Are you aware that Canada, a Communist country, is *right next door* to Alaska, and guess what sport is popular in Canada? Do I have to draw a picture for you? Wake up, people!

  31. “Are you aware that Canada, a Communist country, is *right next door* to Alaska, and guess what sport is popular in Canada? Do I have to draw a picture for you? Wake up, people!”

    Add Russia, Sweden and Finland to the list of Commies that love hockey.

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