In 1935, Europe was preparing for war against the Jews and Socialists and anybody else who didn’t care to knuckle under to the likes of Hitler and Mussolini.
Watching Europe fall into the clutches of dictators, Sinclair Lewis pondered how a dictator could come to power in America.
It Can’t Happen Here: A Novel by Sinclair Lewis
Sun Dial Press, 1935. 458 p. 1936 bestseller #6 My Grade: B+.
It Can’t Happen Here opens as the Rotary Club in Fort Beulah, Vermont, makes patriotic speeches.
In the audience, newspaper editor Doremus Jessup views both the flag-waving and the potential for dictatorship with skepticism.
Before long, however, America elects Berzilius Windrip president and what couldn’t happen begins to happen.
First the “Minute Men” become Windrip’s private army.
Then civil rights are suspended to fight unspecified threats to national security.
Dissidents lose their jobs, go into concentration camps, are killed.
Jessup is drawn into the opposition.
The personalities are credible, the places recognizable, the situations horrifying.
The nightmarishness of the story is oddly intensified by the flatness of Lewis’s presentation: It’s as if none of the characters dares feel deeply.
Doremus doesn’t turn into a hero.
No one does.
That’s what’s terrifying about this once more timely novel.
© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni