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It Can't Happen Here

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  2,281 ratings  ·  296 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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Seventy-five years after it was written, Sinclair Lewis' piercing satire shows how populism on the heels of economic distress can be transformed into fascism. Even more interesting is that Lewis wrote this before the Nazi and Stalinist nightmares were played out, but somehow the book foresees their methods. The characters, including the aging small town newspaper editor, are never allowed to become cliches or caricatures. Instead, Lewis is able to balance witty satire with a compelling and haunt ...more
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
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
Sep 19, 2012 Rick rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Apr 12, 2008 Jace rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
(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
Holly Wood
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
Mar 18, 2011 Jon rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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)
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
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
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
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
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
Preston Fleming
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
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
Susan Emmet
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
David Sarkies
Apr 07, 2012 David Sarkies rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Political Theorists and Historians
Recommended to David by: Howard Zinn
Shelves: politics
I learnt about this book after reading a short collection of interviews by Howard Zinn where this book was mentioned as a warning to how the United States could head down the road to a facist dictatorship. Zinn's argument was that the US is already heading down that road, though has not quite reached there at the time of his writing. When comparing the United States as outlined in this book and what we perceive today, I would also suggest that we have not arrived at that point yet, and would al ...more
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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
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
Mar 22, 2010 Kent added it
Recommends it for: Just about anyone who has an open mind
Though this book was based on Long, there are many aspects of this book that hold true today. As a species, we tend to ignore history and repeat it, far too often. We are sometimes complacent and believe that we are protected. We tend to look for blame and not take responsibility.
Windrip, a Populist Party Democrat, blames everyone from the rich to the Jews and Communists for the troubles in our country, now deep in the depression. A vote for Windrip will mean a distribution of $5,000 in every p
Brian Eshleman
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.
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
John Harder
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
I tried to read this book when I was in middle school, but (especially in the first several chapters) the words are too dense to wade through. However, (now that I'm older) the ideas presented and the story are sophisticated and worth thinking about. It covers every kind of discrimination, political corruption, and theoretical social ideals. It mixed crazy political platforms with logical and ordinary ideas in a way that points out how the situation experienced in this book is plausible. Definit ...more
I think Holly 's review articulated my thoughts on this book the best. Scary in a number of ways, Definitely classist but worth reading. An alternative history very well written and visionary for his time.

I had to look up a lot of words, and contemplate numerous cliches that were lost on me.

Sinclair does a fine job of innuendo. For instance instead of talking about this particular women having sex graphically like a modern novel, he uses a reference to coughing "for one hour and seventeen minu
Anna Hall
This is mainly a political novel. The setting takes place in 1935. This was a time that The United States of America and Western Europe had been in a depression going on 6 years. Doremus Jessup is a hero in this novel. Doremus Jessup ends up in a concentration camp but within a year he runs away to Canada. From Canada, he goes back to the United States where he is determined to find the Underground Resistance Movement which would end the dictatorship happening at the time. Doremus Jessup goes by ...more
Kane Faucher
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
Michael Austin
Generally considered the best of Sinclair Lewis’s post-Nobel Prize novels, It Can’t Happen Here still lacks the canonical heft of works such as Main Street, Babbitt, and Elmer Gantry. And even these novels don’t exactly reside in the literary canon’s better neighborhoods. But It Can’t Happen Here deserves a place as one of the great political novels of the 20th century.
In the novel, a nationalist demagogue named Buzz Windrip becomes President by appealing to nationalist sentiment and amasses di
Despite being written in 1936, many of the themes resonate for modern times. In the novel, the dictatorship plans formulating a war with Mexico:

[The Vice-President] demanded that, in order to bring and hold all elements in the country together by that useful Patriotism which always appears upon threat of an outside attack, the government immediately arrange to be insulted and menaced in a well-planned series of deplorable “incidents” on the Mexican border, and declare war on Mexico as soon as A
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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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Main Street Babbitt Arrowsmith Elmer Gantry Dodsworth

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“Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on.” 33 likes
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