Main Street (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Main Street (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

“This is America—a town of a few thousand, in a region of wheat and corn and dairies and little groves.” So Sinclair Lewis—recipient of the Nobel Prize and rejecter of the Pulitzer—prefaces his novel Main Street. Lewis is brutal in his depictions of the self-satisfied inhabitants of small-town America, a place which proves to be merely an assemblage of pretty surfaces, strung together and ultimately empty.

Brooke Allen holds a Ph.D. in English literature from Columbia University. She is a book critic whose work has appeared in numerous publications including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Criterion, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Hudson Review, and The New Leader. A collection of her essays, Twentieth Century Attitudes, will be published in 2003.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593083861
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2008
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 49,871
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Born in 1885 in Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis worked as a newspaper journalist before becoming an acclaimed novelist. Known for their satirical take on modern affairs, his best-known books include Main Street, Arrowsmith, Babbitt, and Dodsworth. In 1930, he became the first U.S. writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Lewis died in1951 in Italy.

Read an Excerpt

From Brooke Allen’s Introduction to Main Street

Main Street is very, very American, but it is not purely American. Shaw, in his characteristically flippant manner, spoke the truth when he said that Lewis’s criticisms applied to other nations as well, but that Americans clung to the idea that they were unique in their faults (Literary Digest, December 6, 1930); the British novelist John Galsworthy remarked, truly, that “Every country, of course, has its Main Streets” (Lewis, From Main Street to Stockholm: Letters of Sinclair Lewis, 1919–1930). Still, a disdain for intellect (or for what we nowadays prefer to denigrate as elitism) has been particularly marked in America, perhaps because of our commitment, stated if not practiced, to egalitarian democracy: On Main Street, Lewis writes, “to be ‘intellectual’ or ‘artistic’ or, in their own word, to be ‘highbrow,’ is to be priggish and of dubious virtue.”

More than eighty years after Lewis’s novel this is true, and it is true not only on Main Street but on Wall Street as well, and on Park Avenue, and on Pennsylvania Avenue. This is what makes Main Street such a stunning achievement: While it succeeds in being “contemporary history,” capturing a particular place at a particular moment in time, it also speaks for our own time; it is remarkable how much of Main Street is still pertinent. Gopher Prairie at war is not so very unlike our own flag-waving “war on terrorism.” Will Kennicott’s breezy dismissal of legal procedure—“Whenever it comes right down to a question of defending Americanism and our constitutional rights, it’s justifiable to set aside ordinary procedure”—can be read on almost any editorial page today. Gopher Prairie’s commercial ethos of material “progress” at the expense of every other variety, an idea Lewis would expand and crystallize in Babbitt, has been refined rather than improved in our own era of no-collar workers who meditate or practice yoga before closing the Big Deal rather than smoking cigars and guzzling alcohol.

Lewis, unlike so many of his contemporaries, was never tempted to look for an answer in political dogma: He hated dictatorships and had no particular faith in the virtue or good judgment of “the people.” All he really believed in was the wavering, imperfect liberal spirit: “Even if Com[munism] & Fax[cism] or both cover the world, Liberal[ism] must go on, seeming futile, preserving civilization,” he wrote in his notes for It Can’t Happen Here (quoted in Lingeman).

An atheist with no political illusions, two failed marriages, an unconquerable addiction to alcohol, and a moribund talent might be thought to have had every reason to give up in despair. Lewis, to his undying credit, did not. “It is a completely revelatory American tragedy,” he said in his Nobel Prize speech, “that in our land of freedom, men like [Hamlin] Garland, who first blast the roads to freedom, become themselves the most bound.” This has been true of many; it was never true of Lewis. Like Carol Kennicott, he was still reaching—though generally failing to grasp—right up to the end. His particular type of sociological fiction had gone out of fashion at the time of his death, and he continued to be undervalued for decades afterward. But in recent years we have returned to an appreciation for what he accomplished artistically. For what he was able to tell us about American life, in his day and in ours, we can only be grateful.

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Main Street 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 200 reviews.
Kristin_MN More than 1 year ago
Full of typos, errors, starting on the copyright page. A complete disaster of an edition.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fasinating read. The frustrations of those ordinary people of 4 generations ago rings true today.Carol Kennicott is an educated young lady who faces the tedious agony of everyday life in Gopher Prairie Minn.She struggles with the driving desire to impact the world in a significant way or accepting her current safe but impossibly unrewarding life as wife and mother.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Main Street is a historical book from the early part of 1900 that definitely still applies to today. Reading about the significance it had on main stream society is amazing. There is a massive amount of detail and specificity in this book, almost to a fault. Lewis' descriptions of stores and locations as well as some meaningless conversations that take place seem a bit unnecessary at times. As far as character development and interaction, this book is top notch. I felt really connected to Carol, the main character, throughout her struggles toward improving the small town in which she resides. It was a bit disheartening to realize the parallels the author makes toward having aspirations to achieve great things, only to have to succumb to society norms and paths already in place. The many other personalities in the town are stereotypical people of all types that are still encountered today. I feel that many of the characters are in my sub-conscience as well when I am making decisions. Overall, the reason I gave this book three stars is because, even though I felt very connected with the main character and enjoyed the read, it was a very slow paced book that did not really have much of a plot besides the failed aspirations of the main character. It was a lot of "I want the world to be like this", "You can't tell me I can't have it this way", "You're right, it won't be this way". I recommend this book to someone who wants to read about historically significant fiction, but be forewarned that the story line will be a slow one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Greetings! Sinclair Lewis is one of the most under-rated American authors of the 20th century.He was a keen observer of middle America,life in the heartland.He was of Norwegin birth,and understood neighboring Sweden's military role in history.He is one of two dozen writers ,who knew the real story of the Lindbergh kidnapping.Harold Olson was the real Charles Lindbergh Jr.--I would highly recommend any of Lewis' great works, such as Babbit and Arrowsmith.Enjoy!from Mike McKenna.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great novel. One of my favorites. Sinclair Lewis is a fantastic writer. My version is typo free. I got the version published by Philtre Libre.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1905, 37 year old lawyer Paul Percy Harris created the Rotary Club of Chicago and launched the Service Club movement. His explicit goal was to transplant to huge, cut-throat, impersonal, low- standard Chicago the best features of friendly, uplifting, prospering, moral Wallingford, Vermont (population 1,000) where Harris had grown up. In 1920 appeared MAIN STREET, a novel by 35 year old Harry Sinclair Lewis. The novel's most obvious goal was to alert America to the negative, under-achieving, soul-shrinking aspects of small towns, particularly of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota (population 7,000). *** Trailing glorious memories of Judge Milford, her wise father and of her childhood home in Mankato, Minnesota, Carol Milford married a man a dozen years her senior, Will Kennicott, M.D., and moved with him to Gopher Prairie. Her father, who died when Carol was a teen, was a Massachusetts man, 'smiling and shabby, ... learned and teasingly kind.' And Mankato 'is not a prairie town, but in its garden-sheltered streets and aisles of elms is white and green New England reborn' (MAIN STREET, Ch. I) In college the orphaned Carol had discovered a dreamy bent for sociology and town-planning. These experiences she brought to her wedding and to her move from St. Paul where she worked as a librarian to Gopher Prairie, population 7,000. The mixture of past, present and future proved unstable in Carol Kennicott. *** Will Kennicott was not the intellectual that Carol Milford Kennicott's father had been. Will was a plodding, ordinary, hard-working country doctor. The most intellectually daring thing he ever did was to admire volatile, questing Carol and persuade her to marry him. Gopher Prairie was no transplanted Athens (as Carol remembered Mankato). And Gopher Prairie and its Main Street, representing thousands of similar American small towns, were unplanned, ugly, dirty, uncultured and a parasite on surrounding rural areas and farmers. Carol Kennicott set out to reform husband, town and 'denizens.' She played an idealistic, reforming Mary to her friend Vida Sherwin's more practical Martha. Carol sought to transform the village's architecture, school, and culture and create a sense of civic solidarity among its wealthier leaders. Her blitzkriegs all failed in the short run. But behind the scenes, with an eye to the long haul, over the years Vida Sherwin patiently won a new school. *** Meanwhile, the Kennicott marriage was neither a partnership in which husband and wife pooled resources behind the same profession nor a happy home built around a burgeoning nursery. Doctor Will retained an all male coterie of duck- hunting, tobacco-spitting friends, notably the merchant Sam Clark, 'dealer in hardware, sporting goods, cream separators and almost every kind of heavy junk you can think of' (Ch. III). The closest Carol was permitted to that circle was when Will bade her serve them food and drink on poker nights. *** Towards novel's end, yearning for freedom, a job, intellectual stimulus and romance, Carol took her three year old son off to Washington, DC in October 1918, a month before the end of World War One. There she experienced both the excitement of socializing with richly experienced, creative adults as well as the dullness of a Government office job. After a taste of strikers and the women's suffrage leaders, a more realistic Carol returned to husband, Gopher Prairie and Main Street. *** Sinclair Lewis went on to write BABBITT and other books mocking the transplanted devotion to small towns created by Rotary, Boosters, Kiwanis and other men's organizations. The duel goes on to this day, with idealized Mankato, Minnesota and Wallingord, Vermont rebuking a spirit-crushing Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, and between Paul Percy Harris and Harry SInclair Lewis. *** -OOO-
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AHHHH! FROOOOOST! WHO JUST MESSAGED YOU THAT ADORABLE POEM? *tackles* I'm so happy for you, love! I wish you two the best! ;D You best not forget about me, though, Frosty! IMMA WATCHIN' YEW! xD -Midnight
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sinclair Lewis' first novel is an eyeopener to life in a small mid-Western town during the first two decades of the 20th century. Reading this book 82 years after it was first published made me realize how lucky I am to have been born during the last half of the 20th century and have grown up in and continue to live in urban areas (and enjoy the anonymity they offer). I sympathized with Carol Kennicott's dismay at being stuck in Gopher Prairie and at her unending efforts to sophisticate the town. Unfortunately, she was up against the narrow-mindedness and gossipy nature of its citizenry, the lack of support from her contemporaries, and the general cultural emptiness of Gopher Prairie. Lewis weaves a tale of frustration and disappointment for Carol and the handful of characters, who like her, really don't belong. The 'good citizens' of Gopher Prairie are smug and insensitive as they look down on the immigrant farmers and laborers who do the real work in the community. The 'I got mine and to hell with you' attitude is amazing from those who believe they are charitable because they roll bandages during WWI while ignoring what's going on around them in their own town. But then as long as their pockets are being stuffed through the efforts of others, who cares? Main Street is a good read but full of some of the most irritating characters you'll ever come across in a novel. This novel is a good choice for book groups because it provokes a lot of conversation. I suggested it to mine and it did just that.
bookweaver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most developed stories I've ever read about marriage...I'm glad I finally discovered it.
chrystal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
in this classic satire of small-town America, beautiful young Carol Kennicott comes to Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, with dreams of transforming the provincial old town into a place of beauty and culture. But she runs into a wall of bigotry, hypocrisy and complacency. The first popular bestseller to attack conventional ideas about marriage, gender roles, and small town life, Main Street established Lewis as a major American novelist.
athaena on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Found this book to be heavy going at first, but it was well worth sticking with!
Kryseis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Main Street is about an educated, intelligent woman, Carol, who married the town doctor of a little village called Gopher Prairie, whose intelligence and opinions constantly breaks against the general feeling of the sleepy town like waves against resolute rocks. The town is politically conservative - to the point where the sheriff led the townspeople to beat up and drive out a suspected socialist speaker who wanted to speak to an assembly of speakers. Carol is liberal. The main entertainment to be had at dinners or social gatherings is petty gossip and that neighbours should spy upon each other for gossip fodder is the natural order. Carol likes to read books - Shaw, Romain Rolland, etc. company. Carol wants to enact many reforms on the town such as a new town hall, but they are all rejected and laughed off by the town.In contrast to Carol, Carol's husband has no appreciation for any of the things that Carol holds so dear, like art music or literary books or poetry - he has vague memories of having studied them in university but had no real appreciation for them, calling them "high-brow stuff". He had hoped that Carol would "settle down" and forget all that high-brow stuff and be a wife in the style of the stolid, gossiping way of Gopher Prairie women. Carol stews in this oppressive environment for most of the book.Overall, even though I didn't enjoy reading it, I think it was a very good book and very influential; the dialogue and representation of village life are all very realistic. It eloquently points out all the oppression of village life and village thought and ridicules country folk as well as de Maupassant or Flaubert. However, it can't be forgotten that this is a satirical work. Sinclair Lewis shows the foibles of every character, especially Carol and it is difficult to connect with the story. It's entirely unsentimental and a bit pessimistic. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic. Carol is the main character and is a great reader so the reader might relate to her. However, as Carol stays longer in Gopher Prairie, she unwittingly becomes like them. She acquire their way of thinking. When she goes to Minneapolis for a visit, she think and behaves just the people of Gopher Prairie would - she thinks of what the other housewives would say if they say her eating at a fancy restaurant, in a fancy hotel and other typical big city experiences. Her individuality, for lack of a better word, is being worn down by the oppression of Gopher Prairie and this process is highlighted by Lewis's narration and is quite depressing.
aketzle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You'd think a 400+ page book about the tedium of small town life would itself be tedious, but it actually wasn't. I was engrossed! And so happy my small(ish) town is nothing like the one described in this book!
CatieN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The main street of the title is in Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The main character, Carol Milford, moves there from the big city (St. Paul) with her new husband, Dr. Kennicott. Carold finds the town ugly and boring and proceeds to try to change things with mixed results. The story is good, but it is a slow read because of the dense but realistic dialogue. Definitely a classic and an excellent representation of the times.
jenknox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. It takes a damn good writer to create characters you hate so much you love them!Main Street is a portrait of small town Midwestern farm life at the beginning of the 20th century, and the discontent of the main character who tries to change it into her own world. First line (courtesy Amazon...I'm too lazy to pull the book out and type it) "On a hill by the Mississippi where Chippewas camped two generations ago, a girl stood in relief against the cornflower blue of Northern sky." I suggest reading this one laying in the grass in summer... red wine optional :-)
silva_44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sinclair Lewis was seemingly unafraid to simultaneously bash small towns in the midwest, as well as religious ideals and republican tenants. I found Carol to be a character with whom I wanted to sympathize, but couldn't fully. She seemed affected and artificial, as did many of the other characters in the book. They seemed to be nothing more than the mouthpieces whereby the author voiced his opinions about the downfalls of religious, rural life, while building up the supposed beauty and nobility of the city. The story itself was fairly interesting, but I think that Lewis went too far in depicting a town of exceedingly ugly architecture as well as exceedingly ugly personalities. His liberalism, despite its being the liberalism of the 1920's, was over the top, even for this modern-day reader. And the ending, if it can be called that, was a complete cop-out - Carol should have been forced to make an irrevocable decision. Overall, I was not overly impressed.
BryeWho on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A bit heavy-handed, true, but still a beautiful dissection of small town American faults and foibles. To appreciate it today requires only the least bit of imagination to transfer the setting from town and rural to towncenter and suburban sprawl. In the end it was delightful.
jmoncton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Carol Kenicott makes the move from the big city of St. Paul to the small farm community of Gopher Prairie when she marries Will, one of the town's doctors. At the beginning of her marriage, Carol has grandiose ideas of transforming this small simple town into a beautiful artistic community. She tries to redecorate, create a community theater and bring her big city life style to this town, but faces resentment and opposition. Although the immediate target of this satire is the narrow minded attitudes of small midwest towns, but much of the personalities quirks and conflicts of Main Street are found in every community, from the big city to the rural country. I thought I would find Carol's life suffocating and depressing, but I didn't find this to be a downer at all. Surprisingly good and insightful!
miketroll on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In centuries to come, people will read Lewis and find out what 20th Century America was like. His writing is substantial, nourishing and Main Street is one of his best.
azfad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
sharp as a button and as true as ever - main street still has the power to connect.
smg5775 More than 1 year ago
In a word tedious. Sinclair Lewis wrote a satire about small time life. His writing is tedious as he shows what life is like in a small town when you surround yourself with like-minded people. No one wants to change. Everyone knows everything about everybody. No one wants to go out of his/her comfort zone. And his uses his writing to show that. Carol marries Will, Gopher Prairie's doctor. She's used to a big city and tries to change things and is discounted and laughed at and gossiped about. She is a whiner and nothing and nobody does anything she likes. She has an active inner life but drove me crazy. Will does not see Gopher Prairie as Carol does. He sees nothing wrong with the town or the people. He does take Carol to task at times. He is also willing to let her do what she wants even if it is leave but she still is not happy. They have a few blow-ups over her discontent. My favorite character was Miles, the town handy man. He was real but also an outcast. I felt bad for him. The place and time are written well. I am glad I did not live then or there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Icetears tell them im sorry
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the story SD!))) I will go and read next chapter ASAP
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your story at Ica all res isn't up.