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Main Street

by Sinclair Lewis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,452572,609 (3.75)341
Carol Milford, educated, sophisticated, and energetic, has ambitious plans for her life. Her studies have prepared her to join an enlightened, progressive society. But after she becomes Carol Kennicott, the wife of a small town physician, she quickly learns that she is to be nothing more than a gracious wife. Frustrated and torn between the challenge of social change and the comfort of personal security, she begins to understand the cost of conformity--and rebellion.… (more)

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» See also 341 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Carol is a college-educated woman who works in a library in the big city. She meets and marries Will Kennicott, a doctor who practises in the town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. Main Street follows Carol as she attempts to get by socially in the town while attempting to raise its aspirations; the townsfolk seem unambitious, willing to settle for mediocrity, and prone to gossiping about anyone who is even remotely different.

This book was interesting at first but eventually became frustrating as Carol became more mired in the life of Gopher Prairie, shrinking into something small and provincial but still fighting to bring theatre to the town. I wanted to slap Will for being so obtuse and shake the petty little housewives. Ultimately a book that I respect for being one of the first American novels of this kind, but not one I will like. ( )
  rabbitprincess | May 23, 2020 |
I set a goal to read at least one classic book each month. This was my choice for July, as it overlapped with research interests in the period.

Carol is a liberal, proudly-literate young woman of Minneapolis who marries a doctor and ends up in the small town of Gopher Prairie. She thinks she's going to reform and enlighten the entire town--indeed, even raze Main Street to the ground and rebuild it Georgian-style. Young and naive as she is, she is genuinely shocked and hurt by her reception by the town's well-established cliques who have zero desire to change. Again and again, she tries to make friends and to fight through the enraging mindless boredom of what it means to be a doctor's wife in a small town, where she's supposed to be satisfied with her life of comfort and strain neither her body or mind. Again and again, she fails, becoming increasingly dissatisfied in her marriage and everything that is embodied by Main Street.

My gosh, but Lewis can write. His Babbit impressed me, but Main Street delves deep into the very psychology of a small town. He shows the full ranges of personalities, the social stratification, and the petty, horrible gossip that is the primary hobby for many. Even more, he goes deep into Carol's psychology. He totally gets how it feels to be a woman stuck at home, bored mindless, and afraid of staying in that dread loneliness forevermore; many modern male writers can't do justice to that despair, but Lewis did, and in the 1920s. I also appreciate how his nuanced portrayal doesn't make Carol into a martyr (though she does feel like that at times). Quite often, Carols brings trouble upon herself, but by keeping the point of view with her the majority of the time, we can still sympathize (even if we kinda wanna slap her).

The book also acts like a camera to depict life in a small town on the Minnesota prairie through the 1920s. That means camaraderie, at times, but it also means outright sexism and racism. While minstrel shows and playing at being Chinese get brief mentions, the most blatant racism throughout is the social and racial line between the Anglo-Saxon town elite and the Nordic and Germanic people who make up the common laborers and farmers. Carol is the only one willing to cross those lines--becoming friends with 'the help'--because of her deep loneliness, and it sadly perpetuates the cycle for her. Her efforts to stand up for the newly-arrived artistic sissy--so derided by the manly-men of town, they call him by a woman's name--don't end well, either.

This is truly a masterful read, a rare classic that holds up due to the skill of its writing. I don't often like literary fiction, and many of the subjects here would immediately make me stop reading other books. But Lewis handled everything with such a deft hand, I felt as anxious at times as I might if I read a modern thriller. Mind you, other readers might not feel that way, but I strongly related to Carol in her isolation, and that made this a surprisingly quick read for me. ( )
  ladycato | Jul 20, 2019 |
# 8 of 100 Classics Challenge
Main Street🍒🍒🍒🍒
By Sinclair Lewis
Signet Classic

Carol Milford(Kennicotts') role as a "progressive" is hard not to appreciate, in this 1920 story of Americana. This is a novel of social reform versus personal freedom and still relatable themes today.
Carol begins as a librarian in big city St Paul, Minnesota, when she meets Dr. Will Kennicott, and together they move to Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. Carol is stifled by the small town and dreams of building. Will is more traditional and insular and enjoys being the only physician in town. Carols struggles with her aspirations for change and growth.
Erik Valborg, Vida Sherwin and Carol were my favorite characters.
I loved this book....love Sinclair Lewis....
Recommended! ( )
  over.the.edge | Sep 16, 2018 |
In a word tedious. Sinclair Lewis wrote a satire about small time life. His writing is tedious as he shows what life is like in a small town when you surround yourself with like-minded people. No one wants to change. Everyone knows everything about everybody. No one wants to go out of his/her comfort zone. And his uses his writing to show that.

Carol marries Will, Gopher Prairie's doctor. She's used to a big city and tries to change things and is discounted and laughed at and gossiped about. She is a whiner and nothing and nobody does anything she likes. She has an active inner life but drove me crazy.

Will does not see Gopher Prairie as Carol does. He sees nothing wrong with the town or the people. He does take Carol to task at times. He is also willing to let her do what she wants even if it is leave but she still is not happy. They have a few blow-ups over her discontent.

My favorite character was Miles, the town handy man. He was real but also an outcast. I felt bad for him.

The place and time are written well. I am glad I did not live then or there. ( )
  Sheila1957 | Aug 22, 2018 |
illustrated by grant wood ( )
  Drfreddy94 | Jul 17, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (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.

» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lewis, Sinclairprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schorer, MarkAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To James Branch Cabell and Joseph 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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(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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