Study Guide

Dodsworth

by Sinclair Lewis

Dodsworth Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In 1903, Sam Dodsworth marries Fran Voelker, whom he met at the Canoe Club while he was assistant superintendent at the Zenith Locomotive works. Five years later, Sam became vice president and general manager of production for the Revelation Automobile Company. By 1925, the Dodsworths have two children, Emily, who is about to be married, and Brent, who is studying at Yale. When Sam sells his factory to the Unit Automotive Company, he and Fran decide to go to Europe for a leisurely vacation, a second honeymoon.

The first night out on the S.S. Ultima, Sam meets Major Clyde Lockert in the smoking room. Lockert, who says he grows cocoa in British Guiana, quickly becomes friends with Fran and, while Sam looks on like an indulgent parent, squires her about. He continues to see the Dodsworths after they arrive in London. Fran is snobbishly pleased when he takes them to visit his cousins, Lord and Lady Herndon. Between them, Fran and Lockert make Sam feel almost like an outsider. He is a failure at the dinner party the Herndons give, for he is unable to discuss cricket or polo, and he has no opinions about the Russian situation.

One evening, Hurd, manager of the London branch of the Revelation Motor Company, invites Sam to a gathering, along with about thirty representatives of American firms. Sam is surprised to learn that few of them want to go back to the United States except, perhaps, for a visit. They all prefer the leisure and freedom from moral restraint that their adopted land affords. These arguments make Sam see Europe in a different light.

When he returns to the hotel, he finds Fran in tears. Lockert took her out that evening and, on their return, tried to make love to her. Fran, ashamed of the situation and sure that Lockert will laugh at her, asks that they leave for France as soon as possible. They start four days later.

France is a new experience for Sam. When Fran is willing to go sightseeing, he is able to see Paris and observe its people. He is less satisfied when she chooses to be fashionable and take tea at the Crillon with other American tourists. The more he sees of the country, however, the more convinced Sam becomes that he cannot understand the French. In the back of his mind, he is afraid that his inability to accept foreign ways, and Fran’s willingness to adopt them, will drive them apart. He feels lonely for his old friend Tubby Pearson, president of the Zenith Bank.

Before long, Fran has many friends among expatriate Americans of the international set. Given her constant visits to dressmakers and a portrait painter, as well as outings with the leisured young men who escort her and her friends, she and Sam see less and less of each other. When he goes home for his college class reunion that summer, he leaves Fran to take a villa with one of her new friends. He is to join her...

(The entire section is 1172 words.)