Main Street (Paperback)
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Main Street is an satirical novel by Nobel Prize winning author Sinclair Lewis.
Carol Milford is a liberal, free-spirited young woman, reared in the metropolis of Saint Paul, Minnesota. She marries Will Kennicott, a doctor, who is a small-town boy at heart.
When they marry, Will convinces her to live in his home-town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. Carol is appalled at the backwardness of Gopher Prairie. But her disdain for the town's physical ugliness and smug conservatism compels her to reform it.
She speaks with its members about progressive changes, joins women's clubs, distributes literature, and holds parties to liven up Gopher Prairie's inhabitants. Despite her friendly but ineffective efforts, she is constantly derided by the leading cliques.
She finds comfort and companionship outside her social class. These companions are taken from her one by one.
In her unhappiness, Carol leaves her husband and moves for a time to Washington, D.C., but she eventually returns. Nevertheless, Carol does not feel defeated:
I do not admit that Main Street is as beautiful as it should be I do not admit that Gopher Prairie is greater or more generous than Europe I do not admit that dish-washing is enough to satisfy all women I may not have fought the good fight, but I have kept the faith. (Chapter 39)
Main Street was initially awarded the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, but was rejected by the Board of Trustees, who overturned the jury's decision. The prize went, instead, to Edith Wharton for The Age of Innocence. In 1926 Lewis refused the Pulitzer when he was awarded it for Arrowsmith.
In 1930, Lewis was the first American ever awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. While a Nobel Prize is awarded to the author not the work, and itself does not cite a particular work for which he was chosen, Main Street was Lewis' best-known work and enormously popular at the time. In the Nobel committee's presentation speech, both Main Street and Arrowsmith were cited. The prize was awarded "...for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters."
About the Author
Harry Sinclair Lewis (February 7, 1885 - January 10, 1951) was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, which was awarded "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] there was ever a novelist among us with an authentic call to the trade ... it is this red-haired tornado from the Minnesota wilds."