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Main Street Paperback – 31 Jan 2008
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From the Inside Flap
This classic by Sinclair Lewis shattered the sentimental American myth of happy small-town life with its satire. "Main Street attacks the conformity and dullness of early 20th Century midwestern village life in the story of Carol Milford, the city girl who marries the town doctor. Her efforts to bring culture to the prairie village are met by a wall of gossip, greed, and petty small-minded bigotry. Lewis's complex and compelling work established him as an important character in American literature. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
This famous novel of life on Main Street, Gopher Prairie, mirrors with devastating honesty life on Main Streets from Albany to San Diego. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
Lewis more or less states his purpose in a brief introduction where he sets out that he is going to examine the proposition that the Main Street of small mid-western towns represent "the climax of civilisation". That's certainly not the view of liberal and cultured Carol Milford of Minneapolis, who is proud of her heritage and sees America as "a glorious country; a land to be big in", but fears that the blissful stagnation and "dullness made God" in the peasant population of smalltown America rather lets the side down. And really, do the Main Streets of such towns have to be quite so ugly?
Her dream of planting "a seed of liberalism in the blank wall of mediocrity" is put to the test when she marries Dr. Kennicott, 13 years her elder, and moves to Gopher Prairie, believing she can made a model town out of it, seeing it as an empire to conquer. Gopher Prairie however is a hopeless backwater, whose peasant population is made up principally of German, Dutch and Scandinavian immigrants, with a social hierarchy of professionals and traders that is unwarrantedly proud and self-satisfied of their mediocre little town and their modest achievements. Feeling somewhat out of place, Carol has difficulty adjusting - or rather lowering - herself to what passes for culture and society among the women folk, organising dinner parties and starting up a dramatic society, but she is continually disillusioned with the lowbrow entertainment, the dreary conversations, gossip and obsession with mundane trivialities.
Inevitably, since there is a necessity to fit-in and adjust, Carol comes to appreciate the qualities she sees around her in the simplicity of the good, honest, hardworking folk, as well as their fortitude in dealing with deprivations and hardship. Dealt with in such length however, the novel has a tendency to also dwell on the minutiae of dreary domesticity, and there is the danger that the novel will also succumb to the Village Virus, but Carol is determined to resist, and the novel does well to do likewise, being psychologically accurate and fascinating in how it observes and identifies the underlying characteristics in the division of the classes and the sexes.
Swaying between eulogising and satirising the qualities of the small town and the people within it, the novel captures the true dynamic in America society at a crucial period in its development. More than being a historical record then, one that is recounted in fabulous and no doubt realistic detail, it's clear that the same social attitudes and values persist to a large degree in modern-day America and the world, becoming a "force seeking to dominate the earth" and bully other civilisations into its standardised, mediocre view of the world. Main Street consequently still has a great deal of interest and relevance today.
The reader increasingly feels Carol 'champing at the bit' in her provincial home:
'Gopher Prairie with its celebrated eleven miles of cement walk...I wonder how much of the cement is made out of the tombstones of John Keatses?'
Whether Carol can accept smalltown life for what it is or continues to fight against it made for a highly readable novel.
The answer to these questions lies in the fate of the main character of this book, Carol Milford, a seed of liberty, `a rebellious girl eager to conquer the world - almost entirely for the world's own good.'
But her dreams are blocked by a wall of Puritanism, conservatism, conformism, hypocrisy and egoism, by the Tribal God of Mediocrity, by the arrogance of the power of `Main Street'.
Who occupies `Main Street'? The Churches, `the real heart of the community, the proper center for all educational and pleasurable activities'; also the bankers and the Grand Old Republican Party (`Everybody who doesn't love (it) is an anarchist').
Main Streeters are all those wanting to appear respectable, showing `poverty and chastity in the matter of knowledge.'
Carol Milford `felt that she was being dragged naked down Main Street'. She was `surrounded by wolves, fangs and sneering eyes.' `They beat me with rods of dullness.'
Is her fight for `liberty' successful or will she be beaten ... keeping only the faith?
Read this exemplary US novel about the power of the Moral Majority and its `public opinions'.