Main Street (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Main Street (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Main Street (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Sinclair Lewis

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: 9781593080365
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 08/01/2003
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 560
Product dimensions: 4.13(w) x 6.75(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. 188 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.
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I fall asleep on a cloud
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sorry for not being on, I jst dont have very much intrest in rp anymore, and school is crappacked with to mch homework to keep up with, so sorry. I might it roleplay sonetime unless i see the reason not to :(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*narrows her eyes in anger* HOW. DARE. HE?! THE STUPID BI.TCH! Are you kidding me??!! *she trots around, seething* Uggggh, when he gets here! Hey, Frost, I can't stay long. I STILL don't have my nook. I'm using my computer. And everytime I wanna talk to you guys, I have to make another email. I have, like, 10 emails now. I gotta do it at least once a week, kay?? n.n -Midnight ((Nitro, if your reading this, just know that I hate you. And hate is a pretty strong word, coming for me. The Queen of no Hating.))
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stupid computer. *mumbles quietly to herself* Heey, everypony!! *looks down at Frost* Whaaaaat? Waa happened??  o0o -Midnight
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Liked iit
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*she gets up and tries to walk away but hit a barrier get shocked and gets flung back*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He flys in yawning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stalks in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Turns on a light. Everything becomes colorful "Ahhh no!" "Why wont u eat me?!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey, guys! Don't tell me you forgot about me already! :D HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY FROST! GUYS! MESSAGE ME! I CAN STILL SEE YOUR COMMENTS! WRITE TO ME, LOVES! I MISS Y'ALL. PLEASE WRITE BACK. -Midnight ((I'm begging you guys! Write to me! I LOVE YOU!))
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hellur, everypony! Did you guys forget about me? :( Anywaaaay, I wanted to check up on everythang! How's life? Any new ponies? Anything new at all? I promise that I'll be on soon, so don't worrah! Oh, yeah! And don't forget about meh B-day! I wanna have it on Frost's Birthday, okay? HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY, FROST! &lt;3 -Midnight