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Main Street (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1998

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Novel by Sinclair Lewis, published in 1920. The story of Main Street is seen through the eyes of Carol Kennicott, a young woman married to a Midwestern doctor who settles in the Minnesota town of Gopher Prairie (modeled on Lewis' hometown of Sauk Center). The power of the book derives from Lewis' careful rendering of local speech, customs, and social amenities. The satire is double-edged--directed against both the townspeople and the superficial intellectualism of those who despise them. --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Publisher

This classic by Sinclair Lewis shattered the sentimental American myth of happy small-town life with its satire. Main Street attacks the conformity and dullness of early 20th Century midwestern village life in the story of Carol Milford, the city girl who marries the town doctor. Her efforts to bring culture to the prairie village are met by a wall of gossip, greed, and petty small-minded bigotry. Lewis's complex and compelling work established him as an important character in American literature. --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics; Revised edition (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451526821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451526823
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,518,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sinclair Lewis was born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and graduated from Yale University in 1908. His college career was interrupted by various part-time occupations, including a period working at the Helicon Home Colony, Upton Sinclair's socialist experiment in New Jersey. He worked for some years as a free lance editor and journalist, during which time he published several minor novels. But with the publication of Main Street (1920), which sold half a million copies, he achieved wide recognition. This was followed by the two novels considered by many to be his finest, Babbitt (1922) and Arrowsmith (1925), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, but declined by Lewis. In 1930, following Elmer Gantry (1927) and Dodsworth (1929), Sinclair Lewis became the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for distinction in world literature. This was the apogee of his literary career, and in the period from Ann Vickers (1933) to the posthumously published World So Wide (1951) Lewis wrote ten novels that reveal the progressive decline of his creative powers. From Main Street to Stockholm, a collection of his letters, was published in 1952, and The Man from Main Street, a collection of essays, in 1953. During his last years Sinclair Lewis wandered extensively in Europe, and after his death in Rome in 1951 his ashes were returned to his birthplace.

Customer Reviews

The novel is unbelievably timeless.
One of the best and first works to deal with this battle is Sinclair Lewis's famous novel "Main Street".
A. T. A. Oliveira
He criticizes where appropriate and is often merciless even when most amusing.
Bill R. Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 68 people found the following review helpful By "calico30" on July 31, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Advice for first time readers of Sinclair Lewis: Start with Main Street. I started with Babbitt, a worthy novel, but inferior to Main Street. They share a nimble, though often heavy handed touch of irony, and good characterization; and Mr. Lewis' trenchant social commantary is present in both.
We all know the story: Carol Kennicott (nee Milford), educated at tiny Blodgett College, wants action: She wants to travel and live in a big city where she can see plays and hobnob with intellectuals. She meets future husband Dr. Will Kennicott at a St. Paul dinner party; (Throughout the novel, her feelings toward Will oscillate between admiration for his efficient practice and good nature, and discomfort with his depthless character). Will coaxes Carol onto a train bound for the hamlet of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. The bulk of the novel, which, considering the context, could be considered picaresque, consists of Carol's haphazard attempts to reform the obdurate, immobile mindsets of the citizens of her new home. Among the improvements Carol suggests are a library board composed of the well read men of the town, and a campaign to renew interest in reading (In a town where the great books are bypassed for the contemporary moralistic, optimistic, and religious authors), and a theater company containing one fine actor and a supporting cast of hams, who bungle through one play (the frivolous "Girl from Kankakee"; poor carol had Shaw or Sophocles in mind.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By selffate on September 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Sinclair Lewis decided to paint a picture of the difference between small town life, and urban sophistication by telling the story of a young educated city woman who marries a doctor and moves to a small town. Lewis was really just going to make a simple story about class differences and the isolation between folks, and throwing in some of his own experiences from growing up in small town Minnesota. What he ended up with was a brilliant book that when first published in the early 20's struck a huge chord with the American public and became a huge seller and cultural phenomenon.

Carol Kennicott moves to fictional 'Gopher Prairie' in hopes of changing the town to a place of great city-sophistication that she can revel in. Her mind is set on changing the townsfolk and its inhabitants ways which she finds aloof and backward. Without giving away too much of the plot (which others I am sure here have already discussed), she runs into townsfolk who share her idea, and many who are suspicious of her motives.

What Lewis shows in great passage and scenery (you can literally touch and feel every blade of prairie grass he describes) is that even though Carol's ambitions seem great, (particularly when confronting all the clique like prejudices that pervade the small town), her methods come off as pretty high-falouting and preposterous based on a great deal of misunderstanding. Nobody in the novel has the right method on how people should live, but somehow everyone manages to live within their own personal bubble. You want to cheer Carol on (or wait hoping she will fall on her face if you feel that way), but you at least understand and realize the mindset that plagues people who want to come in to your life-home-family-town can be an almost impossible barrier.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
My first Sinclair Lewis book: I'm impressed. The character of Carol is just outstanding. She's a heroine with whom you're irritated just as often as you're admiring of her. A 3-D woman, what a treat! I like how her "idealism" and "culture" are at times embraced and just as often rejected, because I think she functions as a mirror for the reader. How often do you and I try to "change" those around us? How often do they truly need it? How often are we blind to what needs to be changed about us, even as we set out to "improve" everyone? It's partly a satire of the two characteristics of our pioneering American life: we have to conquer and remake everything over in our own image, and yet we resist those efforts coming from anyone or anywhere else. What group of people doesn't? It's less the small-town mentality as the mentality of people who have banded together and enjoy their life because of its homogeneity and safety. It's not only socioeconomic issues that keep minorities, the middle class, and the well-to-do in their own neighborhoods, it's the common bond between you and your neighbors: in you, I see myself. This book is just a great effort to make us see ourselves; whether or not we change seems to concern Lewis less than whether or not we're aware of our idiosyncrasies.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Blinka on October 27, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Lewis was an enormously successful writer in the 1920s (really on the same level as Hemmingway and Fitzgerald), but he has faded and is hardly read today. This, however, has no bearing on the importance of his writing. His writings reveal the social realities and concerns of his time. He focuses on individuals not communities (not bound together in any organic way). He is also skeptical about success and the American dream. There is a real sense of contempt toward the middle-class in Lewis. He really fills in a gap in The Great Gatsby, which included old money, new money, and the working class, but where is the middle class. As a result, Lewis' is famous for satirizing the middle class.
Lewis wrote Main Street in 1920. In short it examines the big cities reaction against the small town. He idealizes rural America as the strength of America in the 19th century. And, in the 1920s more Americans are living in metropolitan areas than in small towns for the first time in this country's history. Lewis reverses the romantic view of the rural, bucolic America and portrays it as ignorant. He caught a key strand in American life. Many thousands of Americans were once rural dwellers who moved to the big cities, and they or their neighbors were reading Main Street.
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