Main Street is all problem, no solution

Main Street, Sinclair Lewis’ 1921 bestseller, is a scathing indictment of small town life circa 1920 as revealed through a fictitious Minnesota town.

After college, Carol Milford becomes a librarian. Library work suits her and Minneapolis offers culture and intellectual stimulation.

At a party she meets Dr. Will Kennicott. She likes him, though she finds his preoccupation with making money distasteful. She decides she loves him when he shows her photos of Gopher Prairie: it needs someone with her taste and refinement.

Gopher Prairie, however, does not feel the need to be improved by Doc Kennicott’s bride. Carol finds, “the people are savorless and proud of it.”

Carol is devoid of emotional intelligence and not nearly as intelligent in other ways as she believes herself to be. With little to occupy her time, Carol is frustrated and unhappy. She would have an affair but the available men are unsatisfactory.

Lewis is superb at excoriating dull people. The book’s fatal flaw is that he can provide no reason for the pervasive intellectual dulness. Without an identified cause, there’s no hope for a solution.

After a 425-page collection of nasty barbs, Lewis shuts down the novel with an unpredictable and implausible ending.

Main Street
By Sinclair Lewis
Harcourt, Brace & World, 1920
1921 #1
451 pages
My grade B-
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Published by

Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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