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Bentonville, Arkansas and Lexington, Massachusetts have certain similarities,

especially in their respective school districts and levels of wealth. But though they are
both thriving, upper middle-class American towns, they are situated in vastly different
regions of the country, and each region has its own distinct history; so there are profound
differences in the towns’ prevailing cultural and political attitudes. Additionally, the two
towns achieved prosperity at different times, and this fact has led to differences in layout
and architecture.
Lexington and Bentonville are both prosperous towns. Lexington’s economy is
driven by its proximity to several excellent universities and some of the biggest financial
and technological companies in the world. Bentonville is the home of Walmart, the
largest company in the world. Both towns are thus able to pour a lot of resources into
their school districts, and as a result children who grow up Lexington and Bentonville
have the chance to receive an excellent education through high school.
In spite of these similarities, though, Lexington and Bentonville are quite distinct
towns. Lexington, settled in 1640 and incorporated in 1713, has had a long history, and
this history manifests itself in the town’s appearance. Firstly, Lexington’s architecture is
primarily colonial. Also, the town is mostly residential, with a small commercial center,
and Lexington’s narrow and multitudinous streets indicate that it took shape before the
advent of the automobile. Bentonville’s appearance, on the other hand, reflects its recent
rapid growth. There is a small town square that suggests the town’s former quaintness,
but a lot of commercial activity takes place in huge strip malls. Bentonville is filled with
broad streets that are conducive only to cars. The architecture of Bentonville, meanwhile,
is varied; but there are several subdivisions that contain dozens of houses with exactly the
same generic modern architecture.
The differences in the general attitudes of Lexington’s and Bentonville’s residents
are as marked as the differences in the towns’ appearance. Lexington is home to a rather
liberal, diverse, competitive group of people. While Lexington’s citizens certainly
tolerate all different worldviews and lifestyles, people in Lexington can be cold to one
another, and status is an obsession for many. Bentonville, while not as diverse and
certainly not as liberal as Lexington, can feel like a much kinder, more welcoming place.
People there smile at each other and inquire about each other. Bentonville is a
predominantly Christian town, so it is possible that a person who does not conform to
Christian “social values” would have a harder time living in Bentonville than in
Lexington. But if she just wanted to visit one of the towns, she would probably feel more
welcome in Arkansas.

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