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Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

Main Street (edition 1989)

by Sinclair Lewis

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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 read Babbitt in college and reread it recently which enticed me to look at more of Sinclair Lewis' novels. Main Street is a terrific read but felt a little puerile to me. Carol was the protagonist, a young girl from the Cities, meaning Minneapolis-St Paul, who met a doctor, married him and went to Gopher Prairie, a town of 3,000 people. When Carol saw how provincial the town was she set out to change it, but that was not well received by the locals. We follow her trials and tribulations in Gopher Prairie until she seeks independence and moves with her young child to Washington and takes a job. She needed a job. She had wanted to work but that was unacceptable for the wife of a doctor in this small town. Like most novels of the period, all ends well. The doc comes to visit her in DC, they make up and she moves back to Gopher Prairie to live happily ever after. A rather conventional story but I rather enjoyed its simplicity. ( )
  SigmundFraud | Apr 5, 2015 |
Kindle Book
  hawki | Mar 5, 2015 |
This being a classic, & also being a satire, I expected it to be funny. It wasn't. It was painfully slow in places, & I could have done without it deviating from the story every so often. Other than that, it wasn't a bad story. I didn't know whether to like Carol, feel sorry for her, or to be annoyed by her overall, but I was all of these in turn. The way I see it, she probably never should have married Will at all, & he was the character I felt the most sympathy for. He was an honest country doc, hard working, with simple pleasures, his car, hunting, fishing, & his family.

The rest of the cast of characters are a bunch of small town stereotypes brought to life, & anyone who reads this & lives in or grew up in a small town will probably recognize the characters in their own towns. ( )
1 vote Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
Satirical novel depicting life in a small rural town during the 1910s. The female protagonist, Carol Milford is a liberal woman from St. Paul, Minnesota. She marries Will Kennicott, who takes her to his home in Gopher Prairie. The story is about Carol's perception of the town's lack of culture and her attempts at reform. My favorite line comes from early in the novel when Carol is still single and working as a Librarian in St. Paul: "She [Carol:] almost gave up library work to become one of the young women who dance in cheese-cloth in the moonlight."
( )
  bibliostuff | Mar 20, 2014 |

Carol is a university student in St. Paul, Minnesota in the early 1900s. She doesn't want to just settle for getting married to some boring guy who won't understand her desire to do something, to make a mark. (She reminded me a bit of George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life here in the beginning.) She meets Dr. Will Kennicott, and they seem to have a meeting of the minds. He lives in Gopher Prairie, a small town, but surely being a doctor's wife will be fulfilling? All that prestige and excitement, and then their good conversations at home?

Gopher Prairie could have been any town in the US at the time the book was written - towns with a railroad station and sturdy unimaginative buildings, filled with sturdy and unimaginative people. It could still be many towns across the country today, and a lot larger ones these days, as they have become interchangeable plots of mini-malls that blend into each other along the highway. Is this the chain coffee shop/grocery store/sandwich shop complex in my city, or yours? Some aspects of the issues that Carol faces are dated, but I thought that far too many of them were just as relevant now, unfortunately. If you live in a small enough town, people still notice where you go, who you talk to, and they gossip about it when you fail to meet some standard of town behavior - those aspects of human nature will probably never change. Carol's attempts to convince the townspeople, to rebel against them, to ignore them, to make nice, all have a sort of futility that anyone can understand who's ever been in a difficult situation where every effort to create a sustainable change in either your environment or your own attitude about it seems to fail.

In many ways, I felt like what made this a difficult read was the feeling that all of this was new when Lewis was writing about it, and now we are just that much further down the path. Not only has not much changed, most of it has only intensified.

Recommended for: people from small towns, square pegs.

Quote: "The universal similarity - that is the physical expression of the philosophy of dull safety. Nine-tenths of the American towns are so alike that it is the completest boredom to wander from one to another. Always, west of Pittsburgh, and often, east of it, there is the same lumber yard, the same railroad station, the same Ford garage, the same creamery, the same box-like houses and two-story shops. The new, more conscious houses are alike in their very attempts at diversity: the same bungalows, the same square houses of stucco or tapestry brick. The shops show the same standardized, nationally advertised wares; the newspapers of sections three thousand miles apart have the same "syndicated features"; the boy in Arkansas displays just such a flamboyant ready-made suit as is found on just such a boy in Delaware, both of them iterate the same slang phrases from the same sporting-pages, and if one of them is in college and the other is a barber, no one may surmise which is which." ( )
2 vote ursula | Feb 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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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ToJames Branch CabellandJoseph Hergesheimer
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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.
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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:25 -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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