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It Can't Happen Here

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  3,806 Ratings  ·  642 Reviews
The only one of Sinclair Lewis's later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith, It Can't Happen Here is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression when America was largely oblivious to Hitler's aggression, it juxtaposes sharp p ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by NAL Trade (first published January 1st 1935)
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Cheryl Chiarello I also got this book based on its "topicality" during the fall 2016 election season, and found the first 10-15% pretty mundane and like I was reading…moreI also got this book based on its "topicality" during the fall 2016 election season, and found the first 10-15% pretty mundane and like I was reading "Life With Father" but I persevered and was so glad I did! It turned into much more and at the ending sentence I bawled my eyes out not bec. of any particular event in the book but bec. of the spirit of the protagonist and those like him, which I think we Americans will need to closely keep in mind these next 4 years, and be EVER vigilant.
Hope you kept reading, Kevin.
Charlene Mathe There are several Michael Meyer authors that come up on my browser. None linked to the publisher. I think it could be this literature professor:
There are several Michael Meyer authors that come up on my browser. None linked to the publisher. I think it could be this literature professor:
"Michael Meyer (Ph.D., University of Connecticut) has taught writing and literature courses for more than 30 years — since 1981 at the University of Connecticut and before that at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the College of William and Mary. His scholarly articles have appeared in distinguished journals such as American Literature, Studies in the American Renaissance, and Virginia Quarterly Review. An internationally recognized authority on Henry David Thoreau, Meyer is a former president of the Thoreau Society and coauthor (with Walter Harding) of The New Thoreau Handbook, a standard reference source. His other books for Bedford/St. Martin's include Poetry: An Introduction (2010), The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature (2009); and Thinking and Writing about Literature (2001)."
One reason I think so is that the 2014 Penguin edition adds an Afterward by Gary Scharnhorst, another literature professor.(less)

Community Reviews

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Nov 10, 2016 Lilo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who cares about what happens to our country and our planet
Recommended to Lilo by: my dear GR friend Ted

October 8, 2015:

I am just on page 84 of this book but I cannot wait to write a review. So I will write a preliminary review.

Sinclair Lewis wrote this meanwhile classic satire in 1936. And I am afraid that fictious history might become true, 80 years after this book has been written.

The satiric novel tells about an American presidential candidate who is very belligerent and bombastic. Irony of all irony: Even though he is clearly a fascist, he hitches a ride from the Democratic Party to come to p
Mar 05, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It Can’t Happen Here is Sinclair Lewis’ political satire and propagandized account of the rise of an American fascist.

Perhaps most compelling is the fact that Lewis wrote the book only a couple of years after Hitler’s rise to power (and 13 years before Orwell’s 1984). Lewis was an astute and keen observer of political power and was a canary in the coal mine for a world that would soon know much grief.

Considering that Lewis published this in 1935, it is eerily uncanny the way his fictitious pre
Sep 19, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Amy Beth, Mark, Katie, Tristan
Shelves: fiction
I have always thought that if fascism ever came to America it would come clothed in red, white, and blue, with patriotic songs, and quotations from founding fathers. It would be nationalistic. It would extol military endeavors and elevate soldiers to the level of heroes. It would handle the race question in subtle yet effective ways. It would join forces with conservative Christian churches and begin to make life hard for anyone else. It would give free reign to the rich, the powerful, and the p ...more
Mar 14, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
This extraordinary novel from 1935 predicts with uncanny accuracy the American political situation of 2016, and has authentic and frightening warnings. Sinclair Lewis satirizes with biting humor the potential for America to fall to populist demagogues with nothing to say but what people want to hear, and of the terrible consequences of the people's naïvete. A must read.
Maru Kun
Mar 20, 2016 Maru Kun rated it really liked it
There is no better time to read this book than right now, except maybe for this time next year.

The story in Sinclair Lewis’ “It Couldn’t Happen Here” is a familiar one: fascism comes to America through the ballot box and the path first trod by the Nazis is faithfully followed.

These days we have learnt the lessons of history and look with suspicion at grandstanding debates and at political rallies filled with bright lights, loud music and low-level violence. But in this age these are no more than
David Sarkies
Sep 20, 2015 David Sarkies rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Political Theorists and Historians
Recommended to David by: Howard Zinn
Shelves: politics
The Rise of an American Dictatorship
7 April 2012

I discovered this book after reading a collection of interviews by Howard Zinn where he described it as a warning about how the United States could become a fascist dictatorship. Zinn's argument was that the US is already heading down that road, though it has not quite reached that point at the time of the interviews. When comparing the United States as outlined in this book and what we perceive today I would also suggest that we have not yet arri
Nancy Oakes
Dec 01, 2016 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it

Given what's going on in American politics right now, this book wins my prize for most frightening read of 2016. Sorry if you don't like my use of the "p" word, but it is what it is.

To put the novel in its historical perspective, I turn to an article in the New Yorker written by Alexander Nazaryan (October 19th of this year) that says

"Sinclair Lewis published the novel as Adolf Hitler was making Germany great again, violating the Treaty of Versailles by establishing the Wehrmacht. Benito Mussoli
Kenneth Grossman
Oct 25, 2015 Kenneth Grossman rated it it was amazing

It Can't Happen Here (1935) is a prescient commentary on American society in the mid-1930s by Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), a Noble Prize for Literature laureate (1930). It Can't Happen Here is the story of a fictional fascist government's rise in mid-1930s USA, an insecure society deep in socio-economic turmoil. This thoughtful novel is very rich and requires the reader to be attentive. I highly recommend it, especially for somewhat politically-minded readers. If you are just looking for a good r
Mar 30, 2009 C.P. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A charismatic Democratic candidate whose speeches are more memorable than the content... hmmm.... Hints of populism to get the support of the most naive voters -- who think the candidate will give them all they need -- with no intention of following through... hmmmm... Bailing out the big companies in order to control them and the economy... hmmm... Personality cults.... hmmm...

The idea is eerily prescient, though it took two parties and two Presidents in real life. I know that I will be labeled
Holly Wood
Mar 31, 2009 Holly Wood rated it really liked it
I had a professor tell me once that this is the distilled version of a middle-class academic's fears of what would happen during an American holocaust. More so than anything else, they fear the "ignorance" of the working class, bitter from being stepped on for so long they would quickly embrace anyone promising them any sort of redistribution. The lesson is never to fear the poverty that is the source of social problems, but to fear the symptoms.

And you know what? I agree with him. No matter how
Apr 12, 2008 Jace rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who are frightened of where the U.S. is heading and/or are hungry for a revolution
First Opinion: Eh, the story of a fascist takeover of an idyllic rural Vermont town. Boring. But I'm glad I gave it a chance...

This book starts off slowly with loads of exposition into the daily lives and histories of a myriad of residents of Fort Beulah, VT. It chugged along at such a pace that I feared it was shaping up to be another The Plot Against America and almost put it down. But because it was written by Sinclair Lewis and had received some degree of acclaim, I kept plodding through. In
Jason Pettus
Jun 04, 2010 Jason Pettus rated it really liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

"Whenever you hear a prominent American called a 'Fascist,' you can usually make up your mind that the man is simply a LOYAL CITIZEN WHO STANDS FOR AMERICANISM." --William Randolph Hearst, October 1935, one month after the release of It Can't Happen Here

Although it's easily my favorite of all the things I
I do need to read more books by Sinclair Lewis. I read Main Street years ago and enjoyed it but for some reason failed to read anything else by Sinclair Lewis. I got this audio as one of Audibles daily deals. It was an excellent choice!

This book was published in 1935, yes, 1935. It predicts much of what then happens under Hitler, although it doesn't happen in Germany (although Hitler is often mentioned). The story takes place in the United States. The main charater and narrator is Doremus Jessup
J.G. Keely
Lewis' greatest strength as a writer is his sense of social satire, bolstered by his humanist treatment of characters. He sees people as ultimately flawed, always in danger of succumbing to their fears, insecurities, and egos. However, this is no reason to condemn man or his works. Humanists do not expect people to overcome their flaws, like idealists, nor to descend into apologetic guilt in hopes of redemption.

The hope for humanists is that we may come to recognize our flaws, and then to limit
Sep 14, 2015 Murray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the past few weeks, I've been hauling around my crumbling, 80 year old hardback version of this book. With pages falling out and the binding coming undone, I could only laugh and think about the parallels between the America that Lewis paints and the condition of my edition.

"It Can't Happen Here" tells the story of a populist Senator who defeats FDR in the 1936 presidential election by promising $5,000 ($90,000 in today's dollars) to every US citizen. Depression-era voters fall for his ploy,
Mar 18, 2011 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: KC Pub Library Altered States Winter 2011 Reading Program
Written in the 30s, during the depths of the Depression, before World War II, this dystopian classic paints a grim picture of America's fall into it's own flavor of fascism. Some of his assertions stretched my belief nearly to the breaking point, most notable being the seemingly easy evaporation of two of our three branches of government after the League of Forgotten Men rise in power and seize the executive branch.

The novel follows the life of Jessup Doremus, an elderly (nearly retirement age)
Mar 09, 2013 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
In 1936, populist Buzz Winthrip becomes president on a platform of taking over the banks and giving money to the working man, and soon has set himself up as fascist dictator, with political prisoners, death squads, anti-Semitism, bread lines, and all. The hero, Doremus Jessup, is an old progressive Vermont newspaper editor who comes to realize, too late, that no one is safe any more.

It’s equal parts chilling prescience and satire of the contemporary political scene (most of which, I fear, went o
May 03, 2008 Ne'Leigh rated it really liked it
If you believe a fascist dictatorship can't happen in America, this book will open your eyes! It doesn't take as much as one might thing for the country to change drastically and fall into the wrong hands. The most disturbing part is the American people's inability to recover from this unfortunate mess. If you're looking for a feel good book, this isn't for you, but if you're one that agrees with Alex Jones' ravings about a New World Order, read this book! Published in the 1930's, it is scary ho ...more
Preston Fleming
Nov 20, 2011 Preston Fleming rated it it was amazing
IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE was published in 1935, during the Great Depression, when totalitarianism was rampant in Germany, Italy and Russia. At the same time, homelessness, labor unrest, and demagoguery were spreading across much of America.

Many thoughtful citizens worried then about tyranny coming to America, though they differed on whether it would come from the right or the left. Today, the book's powerful title remains a household word, even as the book's plot and characters have seemed more and
May 13, 2010 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read. Considering it was written in 1935, the story has quite a bit of relevance in today's world. Here we have a presidential candidate, Buzz Windrip, promising to take on the evil bankers and redistribute wealth so everyone can prosper. He is seen by a character in the book as "the Heaven-blest fall of revivifying rain upon a parched and thirsty land." Wow, that all sounds eerily familiar.

The people flock in droves to the promise of rescue giving up liberties as they go. The candid
John Harder
Jan 28, 2014 John Harder rated it really liked it
In 1935 Sinclair Lewis wrote “It Can’t Happen Here,” a novel of the rise of a fascist America. Therefore it is no surprise that there are obvious parallels to Hitler’s Germany. But what is surprising is that Lewis seems to have recognized the dangers of the Nazis long before his fellow countrymen. This ominous novel, as the title infers, shows how such a similar dictatorship could happen in American.

Lewis was a socialist (for full disclosure, I am a libertarian). Therefore it may not be a surpri
Feb 16, 2009 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, teotwawki
While dated to the growing fascist movements in 1930s Europe this work is an interesting read. There are some large tracts that perhaps should have been edited down, however, the overall story is worth reading and highlights the democratic citizens’ ever-present duty to vigilance and activism. This would probably be a fun book for use in a high school civics or US History class. What becomes really interesting for me is where the tendrils of this work have spread. First, the work was adapted for ...more
Jan 26, 2012 Bruce rated it it was amazing
Prescient work on the political situation. The main character, Doremus Jessup, is newspaper editor in a Vermont town. He is involved in politics from a media perspective, i.e. trying to be somewhat neutral in coverage, though wary of Buzz Windrip the presidential candidate and his minions who wrested control of the Democratic Party from FDR before WW II. Windrip promised lower taxes and a sizable income for every family, and less regulation. What happened was a totalitarian dictatorship as Windr ...more
Susan Emmet
Jul 27, 2012 Susan Emmet rated it it was amazing
One of the most important books I've ever read. Can't believe it took me 63 years to do that. 1918, 1929, 1933, 1940, 1950, 1964, 1974, 1980, 1990s and now.
Lewis' indictment of facism, totalitarianism, capitalism, pre-Nazism,
"liberal" equivocation/the desire to stand up and yet protect family and real values - and the reality of how hard that is to do in horrific times - is, as many reviewers have said, prescient. Always prescient.
Doremus Jessup and his band of merry family and frien
Jul 28, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing
Still timely, the author is mentioned in this recent article:

"It Could Happen Here"
by Gregory Meyerson and Michael Joseph Roberto
Monthly Review, Oct 2006

"Consider Sinclair Lewis’s novel, written in 1935, with its fictional timeline beginning in 1936 and ending in 1939. Lewis portrays America in 1936 as in a depression considerably worse than it was in fact, with the number of unemployed in the novel about double. [Had] unemployment rates jumped from 14 to
Dec 08, 2007 Kelsey rated it really liked it
This book made me laugh out loud and read aloud a paragraph every page or two to my boyfriend. I giggled about it at work when others reminded me of the hilarity of people's stupidity. I tried to not let it get me down, it's a bit too close for comfort to the current political scene. It demonstrates what can happen when people cease being critical consumers of truth. Pretty much, it is the Bush regime. Fascinatingly written in the 30's.
It carried on a bit long for my comfort, but I have little p
the gift
good premise, plot, ordinary prose. perhaps the mundane, folksy, mainstream american prose, lulls the reader into false comfort, familiarity- such that once the politics take over it is sharp, scary, too very 'common american', magnified several magnitudes. easy to read. not my favourite political writing though i might think very much like the 'liberal' journalist. i hope i would be alert and act, sooner than he, but this is not a situation ever faced. fortunately...
Laurel Hicks
The English do it better, I think, but Sinclair Lewis tells a good story of how, even in America, those hungry for power can persuade the people that it is compassion for their welfare that motivates them to ask for the votes that will eventually give them the mandate to set up a dictatorship. In Lewis's book it is fascism, but any ideology will do:

"Doremus, reading the authors he had concealed in the horsehair sofa—the gallant Communist, Karl Billinger, the gallant anti-Communist, Tchernavin,
Kane Faucher
Aug 07, 2011 Kane Faucher rated it really liked it
Ignorant populism, meet totalitarian power.
This is by far one of the most vibrant and politically poignant of Lewis' oeuvre. Whereas his previous forays focused on provincialist matters (dramatizing many of the finer points of Veblen), here we find Lewis taking aim at the fundamental identity equivalence between the zealousness of the far left and far right. Here we have a thoroughly Americanized Hitler-figure taking presidential power on a huge (and orchestrated) wave of popularity who blitzes
Brian Eshleman
Jul 05, 2013 Brian Eshleman rated it really liked it
Shelves: dccc-audio
This was definitely a memorable, thought-provoking book. The author takes considerable time in setting the scene of what a fascist takeover of the United States looks and feels like and to show the vacuum of will that allows this to take place. But then he does improve his characters into action to respond to this turn of events and to reveal their true character. The author's commentary on character and the resulting politics is worth this insightful, fictional read. It still COULD happen here.
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Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930 "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American capitalism and materialism between the wars. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. H.L. Mencken wrote of him, "[If] the ...more
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“Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on.” 53 likes
“He loved the people just as much as he feared and detested persons.” 40 likes
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