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Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Main Street (edition 1989)

by Sinclair Lewis

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2,738442,147 (3.76)271
Member:jillmwo
Title:Main Street
Authors:Sinclair Lewis
Info:San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, [1989], c1948. v, 486 p. ; 22 cm.
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Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

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I am so glad I listened to the audiobook as read by Lloyd James and didn't attempt to read a print copy. I think reading it would have been the perfect cure if I was suffering from insomnia. The story isn't bad but it tends to float from the mundane to the mundane. The lead character, Carol ("Carrie") is a rather insufferable woman and I refuse to accept that her husband Will would put up with as much as he does, but that is just my personal opinion. Even with those negative comments, this story is an excellent portrayal of small town America - or small town anywhere - during the 1910's. Lewis perfectly captures that small town culture, the resistance of the town folks to change or to any nonconformity to their ways. That is the hardest nut to crack: a population where everyone knows everyone and has a set of beliefs, values and prejudices that should not be tampered with. Well-meaning and patriotic but narrow-minded. The fact that the town folks have as much to teach Carol as Carol has to teach them seems to be the big divide that never gets crossed. Each party stays more or less entrenched in its own 'camp', trying to get the other side to change/conform.

Overall, the story speaks to human nature and presents some interesting perspectives on topics of marriage, politics, socialism, capitalism and social/cultural dynamics but for me, I probably would have abandoned the book if I was reading it. I found it worked better as an audiobook playing in the background while I was out walking or working in the house, thanks in large part to James' ability to act out the story as he read it. ( )
  lkernagh | Jul 27, 2015 |
Carol grows up in a rather intellectual home, but without a mother. She attends college and takes a job as a librarian in St. Paul. After a time, she meets Dr. Will Kennicott. They marry and go to Gopher Prairie to live. Carol is young and naive, and more than a little self-important. She goes about trying to reform the town and meets with limited success. Carol is smart, but not socially savvy. She has ideas, but is totally unfocused and easily distracted. She thinks she wants to be a reformer but has no idea how to go about it, and really she just wants recognition. She is dissatisfied with her life, imagines something more, and latches onto whatever shiny new thing or person she thinks will give her what she wants. She looks down on people who don't want what she wants. I found her to be an annoying and unsympathetic character.

The only really sympathetic character in the story is Dr. Kennicott. He is a flawed, but sincere. He works hard, he tries to please Carol and he really does care for her. He cares enough to talk to her honestly about her attraction to Erik and to explain what her life will most likely be like, honestly assessing his ability to take care of her as higher than Erik's. He also allows her the freedom to try and work out what it is she really wants. In the end, the solution seems to be for her to grow up, learn to be grateful and carry on. Not a terribly satisfying end.

I have very mixed feelings about this novel. It wasn't hard to read, most of the time. Occasionally, Lewis steps away from his story and lectures the reader for a bit. I found it hard to give those pages my full attention. Aside from that, the story is engaging and the characters are very believable. Main Street is meant to be a satire of small town America. In this it succeeds very well and doesn't feel dated. At the same time, the satirical sketch of women who get an education and are only made dissatisfied with their lot in life as a result, that did not resonate with me at all.
  nittnut | Jun 5, 2015 |
Carol Milford, college graduate and librarian, thinks very highly of herself and her abilities. When she receives a proposal from Dr. Will Kennicott of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, she accepts since it will allow her to fulfill her aspiration of being a big fish in a small pond. She plans to single-handedly “improve” the small Midwestern town to fit her image of beauty and refinement. To her surprise and dismay, the town resists all of her efforts.

I had little sympathy for Carol. She thinks so highly of herself, yet she behaves as a dilettante. She tries to force her will on her husband and neighbors without making an effort to get to know them as individuals. Her only admirable quality is her acceptance of other outsiders in the community. If only she could have extended the same generosity to her husband and his friends. In the end, it isn't the town that changes. It's Carol. I wouldn't call this conformity or resignation. I'd call it maturity.

Lewis's characterizations seem exaggerated and heavy handed, and the tone is too “preachy” for my taste. Lewis seems to treat his readers the way Carol treats the citizens of Gopher Prairie, trying to force them to accept his view of the world without respecting any opinion but his own. ( )
4 vote cbl_tn | May 24, 2015 |
Carol, from St. Paul, meets Dr. Will Kennicott who is a physician in Gopher Prairie. She goes to the town expecting to "reform it" and change it. She struggles with adapting to the life there. While aspects of the novel have applicability today, others do not. I seriously doubt that if Lewis had lived a century later that the outcome would have been the same. The book was a bit longish and tended to bog down in places. Carol and I would not have been kindred souls. Her story never resonated with me. ( )
  thornton37814 | May 7, 2015 |
This was a very interesting reading. I love Lewis' strong spelling style, his fierceness and his foresight because a lot of things he had written came true. He wrote about philistinism and hypocrisy of a small town life. But to be frank, was this only 100 years ago the case or isn't it still so?

It's the story of a Carol Kennicott who grew up in a 'city' and after her marriage with the local doctor is ambitious to turn upside down the life of a provincial town. She has a lot of plans how this little town could improve but is always turned down by the local prominence. She turns her back to Gropher Prairie to go back to a city. After two years she comes back and sees the little town much calmer because she learned that there are Gropher Prairie everywhere.

There was only a minor point I struggled with. Sometimes I had the feeling Something similar I've already read. and that made the story too long, but luckily every time I had that feeling a new subject turned up. ( )
  Ameise1 | May 4, 2015 |
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Ninety years after publication, Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street still resonates with readers ... The book became an immediate sensation. Biographer Mark Schorer called its publication “the most sensational event in twentieth-century American publishing history.” ... Lewis found a way to appeal to both those who were nostalgic for small town America and those who were dissatisfied with it.
 
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Epigraph
Dedication
ToJames Branch CabellandJoseph Hergesheimer
First words
Chapter 1: On a hill by the Mississippi where Chippewas camped two generations ago, a girl stood in relief against the cornflower blue of Northern sky.
Quotations
She had her freedom, and it was empty.
Not a matter of heroism. Matter of endurance...There's one attack you can make on it, perhaps the only kind that accomplishes anything anywhere; you can keep on looking at one thing after another in your home and church and bank, and ask why it is, and who first laid down the law that it had to be that way. If enough of us do this impolitely enough, then we'll become civilized in merely twenty thousand years or so, instead of having to wait the two hundred thousand years that my cynical anthropologist friends allow...easy, pleasant, lucrative home-work for wives: asking people to define their jobs. That's the most dangerous doctrine I know!
The tragedy of old age, which is not that it is less vigorous than youth, but that it is not needed by youth; that its love and prosy sageness, so important a few years ago, so gladly offered now, are rejected with laughter.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Main Street was written by Sinclair Lewis, not Upton Sinclair, so you might want to correct the author on your book page.  Thank you.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451526821, Mass Market Paperback)

"Main Street" tells the tale of a big-city girl who marries a physician and settles in a small town in the Midwest, only to fall victim to the narrow-mindedness and unimaginative natures of the town's residents. Introduction by Thomas Mallon.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:45 -0400)

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A young woman has difficulty adjusting to life in a small town in Minnesota.

(summary from another edition)

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