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Main Street

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  24,266 ratings  ·  1,169 reviews
With Commentary by E. M. Forster, Dorothy Parker, H. L. Mencken, Lewis Mumford, Rebecca West, Sherwood Anderson, Malcolm Cowley, Alfred Kazin, Constance Rourke, and Mark Schorer.

Main Street, the story of an idealistic young woman's attempts to reform her small town, brought Lewis immediate acclaim when it was published in 1920. It remains one of the essential texts of the
Paperback, 454 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Modern Library (first published October 1920)
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Colette I imagine he just goofed. Lewis mentions novels, plays, movies, philosophers, and artists in the book left and right (it is clear he was a very well r…moreI imagine he just goofed. Lewis mentions novels, plays, movies, philosophers, and artists in the book left and right (it is clear he was a very well read and highly cultured) however, I am sure it was not easy for him to keep track of all the dates those works were published.(less)

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Paul Bryant
Jun 16, 2013 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
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sinclair Lewis explores his love and hate of small midwestern American towns as women's fiction. ...more
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
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 didn't know 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 a messag
Ahmad Sharabiani
Main Street, Sinclair Lewis
Main Street is a satirical novel written by Sinclair Lewis, and published in 1920. Satirizing small town life, Main Street is perhaps Sinclair Lewis's most famous book, and led in part to his eventual 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature. It relates the life and struggles of Carol Milford Kennicott in the small town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, as she comes into conflict with the small-town mentality of its residents.
Main Street ‬‏‫‭: the story of Carol Kennicott, Sinclai
BAM Endlessly Booked
Classics Cleanup Challenge #11
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I didn’t like all of the arguing. For some reason it really upset me.
Dec 31, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Aug 13, 2012 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
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
Nov 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
I finally finished, took over 6 months. I understand the bliss of mundane, sometimes I have been known to seek it, but this one gave me a headache. Don't get me wrong, it has it's brilliance.

"I think perhaps we want a more conscientious life. We're tired of drudging and sleeping and dying. We're tired of always deferring hope to the next generation. We're tired of hearing the politicians and priests and cautious reformers (and the husbands!) coax us, 'Be calm! Be patient! Wait! We have plans for
The action of this more than 400-page pavement takes place before and shortly after the First World War, in a small town in Minnesota called Gopher Prairie and where one might think that Sinclair Lewis has put a lot of his native background.
For his people and Dr William Kennicott when he describes it to Carol Milford, whom he met in St. Paul, Illinois, and whom he dreams of marrying, Gopher Prairie is the most beautiful city in the world. Deep America. A full, deep city, cheerfully coloured, ca
Jan 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jay Schutt
Oct 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics
I read this many, many years ago and remember that I didn't like it at all. Boring. ...more
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
So Dorothy is a kind of both romantic (as in someone who loves beautiful things) and idealist - the two things that disconnect you from the world. Her attempts to change her small town are thus often Quioxitic - seeing the futility of her efofrts to change her town exhausts her and she gives up. Very quickly. Again and again. But that is the case with most (but not all) such dreamers.
I just wish it was a bit shorter work.
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
This book went on too long for me -- I ended up losing interest in and patience with Carol. I felt like I should sympathize with her but didn't in fact do so.

Lloyd James was very good with the narration which did help me persevere through.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Set in the second decade of the 20th century, this is a reflection on small town life and an exploration of the restrictions women face. A young, college educated woman who has lived and worked in St. Paul, marries a small town doctor and moves to a provincial town of 3,000 people. Her first impression is that the town is ugly, the people dull and the atmosphere clostrophobic. But with her experience of city life, a college education and a libral upbringing, she sets out to reform and modernize ...more
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Ben Loory
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
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.
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Had this book on my shelf forever and I still do not know what kept me from reading it... Did I need an introduction to Sinclair Lewis? More likely just too many other books clamored for attention and won out...but I am so very glad for this visit to Main Street, Gopher Prairie.

Carol Milford, the daughter of a judge, grew up in Mankato, Minnesota, was orphaned in her teens, graduated college, attended a library school in Chicago where she was exposed to many radical ideas and lifestyles. After
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
Beth Cato
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, 2019, literary
I set a goal to read at least one classic book each month. This was my choice for July, as it overlapped with research interests in the period.

Carol is a liberal, proudly-literate young woman of Minneapolis who marries a doctor and ends up in the small town of Gopher Prairie. She thinks she's going to reform and enlighten the entire town--indeed, even raze Main Street to the ground and rebuild it Georgian-style. Young and naive as she is, she is genuinely shocked and hurt by her reception by the
Deacon Tom F
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 Stars

Kind of a confusing book. Although it was a novel, Lewis presents a sociological treatise on small town rural life in Minnesota at the turn of the 19th century.

It was a very interesting reflection on where society has moved. From sexism beyond what I could not relate with to painfully hardcore Christian bias, Lewis explains it very well. All of these socially awkward situations are seen through the eyes of Carol who is a dreamer and a progressive who is always looking beyond what is
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
The story of Main Street in Gopher Prairie, MN, USA is not, of course, only the story of one street in one town in one state in one nation. It is the tale of every small town in the country, every village in the world. The story is of Carol, but there are millions of Carols, millions of Sam Clarks. Main St comes to mean, especially later in the novel, not only a place but an attitude, a narrow mindset: selfish, solipsistic, crass, callous, low, base, simplistic, intolerant, ignorant, and inhuman ...more
Paul Spence
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Main Street": The title alone invokes placid images of the most tranquil pockets of middle America. And Sinclair Lewis could hardly have picked a name more suggestive of rustic simplicity and provinciality than Gopher Prairie for the Minnesota town that is the setting of his novel. Gopher Prairie is supposed to be a prototype of thousands of American small towns in the early decades of the twentieth century, paradise for those who like to cling comfortably to convention, unbearable for those wh ...more
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A breeze which had crossed a thousand miles of wheat-lands bellied her taffeta skirt in a line so graceful, so full of animation and moving beauty, that the heart of a chance watcher on the lower road tightened to wistfulness over her quality of suspended freedom. She lifted her arms, she leaned back against the wind, her skirt dipped and flared, a lock blew wild. A girl on a hilltop; credulous, plastic, young; drinking the air as she longed to drink life. The eternal aching comedy of expectant ...more
Simon Mcleish
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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James Mustich's 1...: Main Street (general discussion) — February 2021 11 17 Mar 01, 2021 11:21AM  
James Mustich's 1...: Main Street (Carol) — February 2021 5 13 Feb 21, 2021 09:56AM  
Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - Main Street by Sinclair Lewis 1 4 May 16, 2020 02:23PM  
Reading 1001: Main Street by Sinclair Lewis 1 4 Mar 02, 2020 04:23AM  
Bright Young Things: November 2015- Main Street by Sinclair Lewis 23 26 Nov 29, 2015 12:08PM  
Ending 5 38 Feb 01, 2014 12:39AM  

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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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