The Prodigal Parents, by Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 15

While Fred, with Hazel on the arm of his chair, was reading the first copy of Protest & Progress, Sara pretended to be lost in the Daily Worker, and over it she watched them with what she hoped was cynical amusement.

On the ‘P. & P.’ cover, in a technique familiar to Fred from the high-school papers his children had once brought home, was a caricature labelled ‘A Dictator of the Auto Industry’, depicting a grossly fat man drinking champagne from a magnum. That was fairly easy for Hazel to understand, but she balked at two other caricatures, ‘Workers Unite!’ and ‘The Newest Deal’. In the first, ‘Labour’ was revealed as an agonized dwarf lashed by a diabolic monster named ‘Capital’, but in the second Labour was a young and singing giant who laughed at a wizened Capital held in the palm of his brawny hand: a hand worthy of a structural steel worker or even of Litvinoff.

Hazel worried, ‘Look, Fred, I don’t get that. If Labour is such a shrimp in one place and gets all beat up by Capital, how come he can squeeze Capital so, two pages farther on?’

‘Hush, Hazel. That shows how fast the Coheeze is working. Don’t be bourjoyce.’

Sara sniffed.

The bourjoyces studied, then, the ‘P. & P.‘s’ news from Russia.

With only nineteen years since the revolution, it appeared, the Soviets had built factories, railroads, playgrounds and a twelve-story hotel.

‘Hm. Pretty good. Still, that’s the same period as from 1865 to 1884, when America built up the entire West, after having had the stuffin’s knocked out of her in the Civil War,’ said Fred.

To his delight, that did draw Sara. ‘Entirely different,’ she proclaimed. ‘How?’ said Fred. ‘Any number of ways,’ said Sara.

He was not so well pleased when he read Eugene Silga’s interview with the executive vice-president of the Colonial Motor Car Company, which presented the executive as a languider, pouchier and more mulish version of George III, ignorant alike of motor engineering and of the living conditions of the workers. This demon Fred had met in Detroit; he knew that he was the son of a blacksmith, an engineer who was equally interested in rear-end motors, in mountain climbing and in hospitals. ‘We are not amused,’ felt Fred.

‘Huh. Oh, Hazel — jus’ second — almost forgot — phone the Kamerkinks about Sunday — c’mon, jus’ second,’ he blurted. As Hazel opened her mouth, he pinched her arm in caution, and she followed him into the hall. He led her not to the telephone but to the coat closet.

‘Eh?’ she wondered.

‘Hush. Take a swig of this. Maybe it’ll get us through the intelligence test without our kicking Sara.’

He had taken from the inside pocket of an aged raincoat a bottle of gin; he gargled at it and handed it over.

‘Oh, so that’s where you keep it! No. I can’t drink the beastly stuff . . . Straight? I never heard — I never heard of . . . My, that has got a kick . . . I do feel better!’

They read through the editorials, two of which began:

So-called modern ingenuity is producing a wealth of mechanical gadgets which, if they were conceived of as serving the Proletariat and as vehicles for sound Propaganda, would be triumphs of popular achievement. Such innovations as trailers, easily transported and opening out into four — or five-room houses, television, and the probable future of propulsion of airships by rockets, so that one could go from New York State to Moscow in six or eight hours, should institute a new civilization, but to the dull, greedy, cruel and unimaginative mind of the American ‘business man’ they are nothing but future sources of profit wherewith he can the better contribute to the funds of the Fascist armies threatening Russia.


A sardonically amusing revelation of the mind of the American ‘business man’ is found in the fact that as soon as he can pile up the swag, he betrays his real lack of interest in his calling by hoping to retire. Naturally! He has none of the deep inner satisfaction felt by Soviet experts in building permanently and for the people.

‘Now who do you suppose could have written those two gems?’ said Fred. ‘Sara!’

Coolly: ‘Yes?’

‘I’ve been looking at your new Coheeze paper.’


‘I’ve got a new title for it; same alliteration: “Prig and Prattle”.’

‘Are you being humorous, Father?’

‘Not very. When you get a real communist fanatic that’s as het up as a prohibition reformer or a censorship maniac, and let him also use machine-guns and firing squads the way he wants to, maybe it sounds humorous, but I don’t suppose it is.’

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57