Elmer Gantry Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Paris

Paris. Kansas village in which Gantry grows up. With some nine hundred residents, it is smaller than the real town of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in which Lewis grew up, and the fictional Gopher Prairie, which Lewis satirizes in Main Street (1920). Pretentiously named Paris, Gantry’s hometown is even more culturally impoverished than either Sauk Centre or Gopher Prairie, and appears to have not even a pubic library or a social club. A small Baptist church and its Sunday school are the leading institutions of the village. Except for Fourth of July parades and circus bands, the only music Gantry hears is played during church services. Other than occasional political campaign speeches, weekly sermons provide his only exposure to oratory. Sunday school offers examples of painting and sculpture; Bible stories and the words of hymns provide Gantry’s main experience of literature. Lewis concludes his description of Paris by asserting that the church and Sunday School taught Gantry everything he needed, “except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason.” (There is a real town named Paris in north-central Kansas, but Lewis’s Paris probably has no connection with it.)

Winnemac

Winnemac. Fictional midwestern state in which Gantry preaches before being advanced to a large city. Its villages include Schoenheim, Banjo Crossing, and others, all of which Lewis disparages as he does Paris. The narrow cultural climate of midwestern rural villages produces narrow, bigoted people, easily impressed by Gantry and readily...

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Elmer Gantry Historical Context

Fundamentalism

Protestant fundamentalism was in part a reaction in the early twentieth century to the development...

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Elmer Gantry Literary Style

Picaresque

Elmer Gantry is a picaresque novel. A typical picaresque narrative chronicles the exploits of a...

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Elmer Gantry Compare and Contrast

1920s: From 1920 to 1933, the sale of alcohol is prohibited in the United States. The aim is to reduce crime and other social problems...

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Elmer Gantry Topics for Further Study

Discuss the issue of creationism and evolution. Should creationism be taught in public schools? Is there really a conflict between science...

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Elmer Gantry Media Adaptations

Elmer Gantry was made into a movie and released by United Artists in 1960, starring Burt Lancaster as Elmer and Jean Simmons as Sharon...

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Elmer Gantry What Do I Read Next?

Lewis’s Arrowsmith (1925) is one of his most admired novels. It portrays the career of Martin Arrowsmith, a dedicated, idealistic...

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Elmer Gantry Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources

Ferguson, Charles W., Review of Elmer Gantry, in Critical Essays on Sinclair Lewis, edited by Martin...

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Elmer Gantry Bibliography (Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Dooley, D. J. “Aspiration and Enslavement.” In The Art of Sinclair Lewis. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967. Examines Elmer’s picaresque journey through American religion in the early twentieth century. Charges that the novel fails as satire because it is neither realistic nor witty.

Geismar, Maxwell. “Sinclair Lewis: The Cosmic Bourjoyce.” In The Last of the Provincials: The American Novel, 1915-1925. New York: Hill and Wang, 1949. Suggests that Lewis has little insight into religious motivation or the commercial exploitation of religion. Criticizes the character of Sharon Falconer as neoprimitive and that of Elmer as archetypal opportunist and false prophet.

Grebstein,...

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