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Main Street

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  18,971 Ratings  ·  732 Reviews
Hailed by scholars as "the most American of American novelists", Sinclair Lewis has been noted for his double gifts of satire and realism, as demonstrated in these two repackaged classics. "Main Street" tells the tale of a big-city girl who marries a physician and settles in a small town in the Midwest, only to fall victim to the narrow-mindedness and unimaginative natures ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Signet Classics (first published 1920)
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Paul Bryant
Sep 10, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
On page 25 I thought – this guy is brilliant.

On page 50 I thought – this guy is exhaustively brilliant.

On page 100 I thought – I’m exhausted.

On page 150 I thought – I’ll never get out of this novel alive.

On page 200 I thought – so who knew there could be so much DETAIL about every last possible aspect of one teensy Minnesotan town lodged inside the Tardis-like head of Sinclair Lewis?

On page 213 my eye fell upon this :

It’s the worst defeat of all. I’m beaten. By Main Street. I must go on. But I c
Jul 08, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, rth-lifetime
"A bomb to blow up smugness" is what one woman hopefully calls her child in Sinclair Lewis's broadside attack on mainstream America, and that's surely what this book is.

I'm not quite sure how a book can be quiet and bombastic at the same time, but Lewis has written it. It covers just over a decade in Carol Milford's life, as her dreams are repeatedly drowned. She comes to Main Street, America, with grand plans to mean something in a dimly socialist way. Main Street is having none of it.

Lewis has
This was Lewis first novel, published in 1920, and it was a huge success, both critically and commercially. It made him a rich man and launched a career that would include the Nobel Prize for literature in 1930. Lewis felt that Main Street should have won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 but was edged out by Edith Wharton's, The Age of Innocence. It so incensed Lewis that when he did win it in 1925 for Arrowsmith, he refused to accept the award.

Main Street was the first major novel that featured small
Jan 11, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle

I was dimly aware of Sinclair Lewis but completely unfamiliar with his work when I read John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America a couple of years ago. Steinbeck, who admired Lewis, wanted to find his way from St Paul to Sauk Centre, Lewis' Minnesota hometown and the town on which the fictional location of this novel, Gopher Prairie, is based. He recounts his conversation with a waitress in a diner who gave him directions to the town: "They got a sign up. I guess quite a few f
I definitely liked this book and recommend it to others. There is so much to think about; it can be discussed from many different angles. So what are its topics? First of all, life in small towns versus life in cities. This is what the book is said to be about. Love is another theme. It is not a soppy love story though! Maturing, becoming an adult, figuring out how to live in a real world, not a world of only idealistic dreams. It is about growing up, not the teen years, but the years after that ...more
Small-town America. Ah, the scent of pine. The musty ramshackle old hardware store.

But what is this? Something amiss in one of these romanticized burgs? Something dark and sinister?

"I never imagined something like this would happen in our town," says the half-toothless talking head on the six o'clock news about the murder, even though you've seen this very thing happen in small towns 10,000 times in your life on the six o'clock news.

Small-town America is supposed to be different somehow; supp
Jeannine Mason
I can't properly rate this book, because I did not enjoy it (or finish it yet), but I appreciate the satire and how its "commentary" on small minded people still holds true today.

To me, Lewis didn't try to build deep, interesting characters, he built representations about everything that reeks in society. This is a book that says, "You think you can change the way people think? Well, follow me to Main Street, and we will see about that." He treated the protagonists and antagonists with the same
Mar 04, 2008 Cindy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those stuggling with life in a small town
Recommended to Cindy by: Sister
I had just moved to a small town in Minnesota - with the same aspirations as this classic charater of many years before me, yet my thoughts and run ins were very much the same 50 years later. It was a reminder that one fits or one doesn't fit but to spend your life trying to change the engrained to your likely only means you will spend your life in turmoil, in hopes others after you, long after you will find the place more to your liking. Shortly afterwards - I moved.
Feb 06, 2008 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Kept feeling like a disappoving old lady reading this book: "This young man writes very well, but I don't like his tone." Smug. Unutterably smug, and he doesn't seem to like or care about any of his characters, which makes the whole exercise rather cold. I suppose, ninety years later, the "small towns are narrow-minded and hypocritical" theme has been done to death, and Lewis deserves credit for pioneering the genre, but on the whole I didn't like it.
Ben Loory
actually kinda won me over at the end, once the main character actually, y'know, DID SOMETHING. but the first 200 or so pages of "small-town satire," which is just a buncha dad-bern idjits talkin' like this is some of the most annoying shit i've ever read in my life.

beyond comprehension that this guy won a nobel prize. though i guess english wasn't the jury's first language.
Sinclair Lewis was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. The citation reads for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters. His most well-known novels are Main Street (1920) and Babbit (1922).

Main Street ruffled more than a few feathers in small town America when it was first published in 1920, and I expect it has the same effect on some readers today, nearly a century later. Sinclair Lew
The main character is me. Wow, she is blowing me away by her similarities, and I am both impressed with the ability to capture me in text, and embarrassed that the one literary character that represents me the most is so flawed.

I want to be Anne Elliot (or Elizabeth or Emma for that matter), or Menolly, or Hermione or Katniss (Erm, maybe not), heroines that are strong and without major flaws. Instead I am Carol Kennicott the most maddening main character I have ever met... and she is me to a tee
Simon Mcleish
Oct 03, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in November 2000.

Main Street has been described as "one of the most merciless novels ever written". It is an apt description of this depiction of small town midwestern America in the early years of this century, but there is an important element in Lewis' writing which it does not convey.Lewis understands his subject through and through, and that makes what he has to say not just merciless but believable. He also doesn't just restrict his attack to provincial
Aug 09, 2009 Brett rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classy-fiction
As someone with a deep familiarity with small town rural life in the upper plains, this book should certainly have been appealing to me. The points that Lewis returns to over and over again--that these towns are full of narrow-minded, self-important fools--are undeniably true. Maybe it's because I grew up in such a town though, instead of being a transplant like the book's protagonist Carol, that I also feel a certain grudging respect and even love for these places.

Lewis' knives are also out fo
Mar 19, 2012 seak rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read this in high school, well it was a summer reading book and I remember hating it. I actually enjoyed a lot of my summer reading list including Watership Down, The Once and Future King, The Jungle, and others, but this one killed it for me.

Looking back, however, I'm pretty sure I missed something when I first read it, some joke that everyone got but me. I think I may have to revisit this one day and see how my more literate and well-read (and snobbish) self rates it.
Jan 15, 2009 Marian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A satire isn't necessarily funny or lighthearted. Critical--yes. Pessimistic--yes. Main Street is just that book. The characters are ridiculed by the author and don't seem to improve their vices, or change their points of view from beginning to end. But sometimes who doesn't enjoy some sarcasm? I did.

Brit Cheung
I was plagued by Insomnia recently.Oh,this has nothing to do with thebook. what need to do isto write something down randomly To mitigate the guilty of wasting time.

The book is a would-be hardcover for me,I mean, still on the way transported here when I bought it online last month and to my dismay,I haven't got the slight idea where it was stranded for now. Ironicly, I felt relieved of its delayed delivery cause I am not quite poised to challenge the great odds that reading the book would exhaus
Jan 13, 2016 Stefanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really interested in the themes of this book. The novel is strikingly relevant even 90-something years after its publication. The protagonist, Carrie, struggles against falling into the rut of quiet, midwestern life while progressivism rages on in the bustling cities she once called home. I could sympathise with a lot of her feelings- the stagnancy and the dullness of the country compared to urban life. They didn't really have suburbs as we know them back in the 1910s, but I could relate t ...more
Apr 21, 2010 Karla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-lit
Sometimes I don't want to be a character's best friend, and actually enjoy disliking them intensely. Carol comes to a bucolic little town and wants to turn it into a cultured little haven for those wanting to escape city life. In other words, they want to leave the city, but bring it along with them. As a native of a small town where a bunch of transplants have attempted (and succeeded) to turn it into a twee little "getaway", I admit to having more than a tad of satisfaction at Carol's collapse ...more
K.M. Weiland
Feb 25, 2016 K.M. Weiland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings here. On the one hand, it’s a nicely biting critique of a certain “small town” mindsets of closed-mindedness, stagnation, and self-righteousness. Lewis is vividly evocative in both setting and character, and he does a creditable job of presenting both sides of the question, through his heroine’s decided flaws.

In the end, however, this is still, foremost, a critique of the small town, not the heroine who would reform it. As such, I can’t help but disagree with almost all of
Caustic satire of small-town life. Although some of the concepts in the book are invariably dated, the concept and the characters are still only too familiar, and the follies of small-town living are laid bare.
Dec 09, 2010 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I used to travel occasionally across the state and visited some small towns where I thought, “This looks pretty nice… maybe not much going on…but, if you had not been previously spoiled by the trappings of “city” life (i.e. did not know better) it might be an enjoyable place to live.” Well…this book annihilated that little theory. I suppose I had it partially right in that you can’t move down to the farm after you’ve seen gay Paris (that’s a joke if you know where I live). But, more disconcertin ...more
Feb 06, 2009 Briynne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was intensely personal to me – so much so that I found myself closing the book so I could just stare at the wall and think at points. The plot concerns the struggles of a woman, Carol, against the strange omniscience and rigidity of a small Midwestern town. She is a city-girl who marries a country doctor and optimistically sets out for a new life on the prairie, circa World War I. Upon settling in, she realizes that her ideas for “improving” the town through the introduction of high cu ...more
Dec 18, 2008 Gigi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book left me with mixed feelings. I did not enjoy the main character very much and so it took time to read the book and I was never excited to pick it up again. However, the insights given in the book I enjoyed. When one moves to a new place where is the balance between accepting those around you and keeping your individuality. In this case it is about a college educated woman moving to a small rural community in the early 1900's.

At the same time there are many issues that women deal with
Paula Gonzalez
Sep 15, 2015 Paula Gonzalez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An educated, cultured, big city girl moves to a small town as a result of her marriage to the town doctor and finds herself struggling with the overwhelming simplicity of life and mentality she finds there. Her struggles are at the center of the book.

This book was simply amazing: completely eye-opening for me. As an individual living in a rural area, I could identify perfectly well with the main character. When you are in a place where being cultured is looked down upon, you feel like you eithe
May 05, 2015 Dave rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I loathed Main Street. Its spot-on depiction of the crushing banality of everyday reality and the claustrophobic existence of small-town life, summarized my lifelong struggle with disenchantment and anhedonia.

Gopher Prairie bore a fair resemblance to McDonald County, Missouri, where I spent my Junior High years. When I was ten, my father escaped the California suburbs by dragging his family into the Ozark woods (our own Mosquito Coast). We built a cabin from a picture in a catalog and attempted
Eman Alshareef

عندما قطعت ما يقارب الخمسين صفحة من الرواية بدأت أشعر أنني على وشك قراءة مشابهة لرواية مدام بوفاري التي تتحدث عن الزوجة الحالمة لطبيب القرية، والذي كان نفس وضع كارول في رواية الشارع الرئيسي، وبرغم موقفي المعتدل من رواية مدام بوفاري إلا أنني لم أمقت في حياتي شخصية روائية بمقدار كرهي لشخصية إيما بوفاري، كنت على وشك ترك رواية الشارع الرئيسي ، لكنني مضيت في قراءتها لسبب واحد وهو لأعرف هل أنا مصيبة في تخميني أم لا، والحمدلله أنني كنت مخطئة لأنني ساكون قد أضعت أياماً في قراءة كتاب مكرر الفكرة، بالإضاف
Apr 09, 2008 Kirsti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I know many people complain that not much happens in this book, and I am not the most patient reader, but I zipped right through it. I loved the commentary on tiny, unimportant events and the way the novel shifted from the main character's point of view.

I felt sympathetic to Carol, even though she is a cold person. Not a bad person, not a mean person, but not someone who can truly connect to others. Even her son falls short because she believes he thinks like his father.

From what I have read ab
Sep 11, 2013 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
I still can't decide if I liked this book or not. I was fascinated that although this book was written nearly 100 years ago, the description of human nature as expressed thru a small community echoes many powerful parallels with today. I didn't resonate with some of Carol's progressive ideals, but I did find myself alternating between rooting for her to find happiness and wanting to shake her for overlooking the good in her life and never being happy. I'm glad I'm much more content in life than ...more
Feb 18, 2011 Jacqueline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book on a few different levels. The theme of a young bright girl marrying a country doctor and then being dissatisfied with her marriage is an obvious homage to 'Madame Bovary' but the story remains unique not only to the time and culture of its setting but to the characters themselves.

The main character Carol is not really missing so much the glitz and glamour of a big city, but of intellectual discourse and discussions of the arts, etc. that she can find in a more urban e
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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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“I think perhaps we want a more conscious life. We're tired of drudging and sleeping and dying. We're tired of seeing just a few people able to be individualists. We're tired of always deferring hope till the next generation. We're tired of hearing politicians and priests and cautious reformers... coax us, 'Be calm! Be patient! Wait! We have the plans for a Utopia already made; just wiser than you.' For ten thousand years they've said that. We want our Utopia now — and we're going to try our hands at it.” 40 likes
“They were staggered to learn that a real tangible person, living in Minnesota, and married to their own flesh-and-blood relation, could apparently believe that divorce may not always be immoral; that illegitimate children do not bear any special and guaranteed form of curse; that there are ethical authorities outside of the Hebrew Bible; that men have drunk wine yet not died in the gutter; that the capitalistic system of distribution and the Baptist wedding-ceremony were not known in the Garden of Eden; that mushrooms are as edible as corn-beef hash; that the word "dude" is no longer frequently used; that there are Ministers of the Gospel who accept evolution; that some persons of apparent intelligence and business ability do not always vote the Republican ticket straight; that it is not a universal custom to wear scratchy flannels next the skin in winter; that a violin is not inherently more immoral than a chapel organ; that some poets do not have long hair; and that Jews are not always peddlers or pants-makers.

"Where does she get all them theories?" marveled Uncle Whittier Smail; while Aunt Bessie inquired, "Do you suppose there's many folks got notions like hers? My! If there are," and her tone settled the fact that there were not, "I just don't know what the world's coming to!”
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