Jacqueline's Reviews > Main Street

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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Feb 18, 11

Read from February 10 to 17, 2011

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 environment. While she does have her crushes and near affairs, she kind of knows herself that it's not another man that she wants, but a different life.

I also like that a few chapters are dedicated to the narrative of other characters. A clever piece is seeing Carol's first impression of the town of Gopher Prairie after moving from Minneapolis compared to Bea, the Swedish immigrant who comes from a much smaller town with less facilities.

In another chapter, Sinclair Lewis gives Carol's husband, Will Kennicott, a voice and that really puts some another level of depth to this story. While he is a man of simple needs, he's also a sympathetic character, a good and brave person who is actually very dedicated to his calling as a doctor. By letting us like and understand Will to some degree, we can also understand Carol's mixed feelings with regards to him as her husband.

I also like this book on two historical fronts. The first obvious one is just the description of small town America in the first half of the last century. On a personal note this really appealed to me because of my recent discovery of my own American roots, ironically enough in a place called Buffalo Prairie. I've known nothing of the American side of my family story, so I really liked being able to imagine them in a setting like this. (Although, I guess my family would be those German farmers that prevail so heavily as props in this novel.)

The other thing I love was the occasional antiquated use of language. How can you not love a novel that was written at time when hotdogs were such a new craze that they were written in quotations and when at the train station Will says he'll call for a 'machine' you realize he's talking about a taxi.

All in all a beautifully written story and containing one of the saddest paragraphs I've ever read in my life. ***The smallest of spoilers***

When elderly Champ Perry's wife passes away, he is as the book says, a broken man. Carol really seems to be the only one who notices how devastated he is from the loss of his life partner. She spies him one day at the cemetery:

"Once Carol followed him and found the coarse, tobacco-stained, unimaginative old man lying on the snow of the grave, his thick arms spread out across the raw mound as if to protect her from the cold, her whom he had carefully covered up every night for sixty years, who was alone there now, uncared for."

So defiantly thumbs up and the kick in the pants I needed to read more of Lewis's works, especially that electronic version of 'Babbit' that's be gathering dust bytes.
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