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Main Street

Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

A small wooden motion-picture theater called "The Rosebud Movie Palace." Lithographs announcing a film called "Fatty in Love." Howland & Gould's Grocery. In the display window, black, overripe bananas and lettuce on which a cat was sleeping. Shelves lined with red crepe paper, which was now faded and torn and concentrically spotted… Dahl & Oleson's Meat Market—a reek of blood. A jewelry shop with tinny-looking wristwatches for women.

Appearing at the beginning of Chapter 4, Carol's first impression of Gopher Prairie is one of the novel's best-known passages. Lewis uses a keen power of observation and biting satire to describe the ugly, almost uncivilized small town. He endlessly lists items to emphasize the town's lack of beauty and sophistication: a crude slapstick motion picture playing in the theater, a cat asleep on some lettuce in a grocery store, the smell of blood coming from the butcher's shop, and cheap-looking watches in the jeweler's window. The fact that Carol first impression of Gopher Prairie is unfavorable reflects the way that she will perceive the community throughout the rest of the novel. Her dissatisfaction with the town's ugliness and her wish to reform and rebuild the town provides the novel with one of its major conflicts.

Lewis's attack on the crudeness of small town life created a controversy in his own time because few authors had depicted small towns in an unfavorable light. Most depicted American small-town life—especially in the Midwest—romantically, mythologizing the friendship, warmth, intimacy, and picturesque beauty of small towns. In this passage, Lewis portrays the small town realistically, in order to demythologize the romantic image painted by authors before him. In this passage and throughout the novel, he uses lists and descriptive sensory images—the sight of store window displays, the smell of blood—to realistically evoke the setting, transporting us to Gopher Prairie.