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Main Street

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott

author Sinclair Lewis

type of work Novel

genre Satire

language English

time and place written 1919–1920, United States

date of first publication 1920

publisher Harcourt Brace

narrator The narrator is subjective, presenting the thoughts and motives of his characters (particularly Carol)

point of view The story is told almost entirely through Carol Kennicott's point of view. However, Lewis narrates Chapter 21 through Vida Sherwin's point of view and Chapter 25 through Dr. Will Kennicott's point of view. Furthermore, Lewis also effectively narrates Chapter 4 through the contrasting points of view of Carol Kennicott and Bea Sorenson.

tone Lewis uses a sarcastic tone throughout the novel to criticize small town characters and small town conformity. He uses satire to poke fun at his characters, employing biting humor and exaggeration. Furthermore, he depicts the events in a realistic manner and often uses minute observations of detail in order to capture everyday life.

tense Past

setting (time) 1905–1920

setting (place) Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, provides the main setting of the novel. Secondary settings include the St. Paul, Minneapolis, Chicago, California, and Washington, D.C.

protagonists Carol and Will Kennicott

major conflict Carol's desire for individuality and social reform in Gopher Prairie conflict with the town's resistance to individuality and change; Carol and Will's marriage deteriorates

rising action Carol's constantly failing reform efforts; Carol's affair with Erik; the townspeople's forcing of Fern Mullins out of Gopher Prairie

climax Carol's decision to leave Gopher Prairie and move to Washington, D.C.

falling action Carol's experience in Washington and her decision to return to Gopher Prairie

themes The reality of small-town America; the individual vs. the community; disillusionment; the reality of marriage

motifs The pioneer past; Carol's memory of her father

symbols Gopher Prairie; the photographs of Gopher Prairie; trains, books, and nature

foreshadowing Lewis often casually mentions characters, such as Will Kennicott, or events, such as Vida's marriage, throughout the novel before he properly introduces the characters and events