Main Street Character and Theme Quotes

Sinclair Lewis

Essential Quotes by Character: Carol Kennicott

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 2

“Come on. Come to Gopher Prairie. Show us. Make the town—well—make it artistic. It’s mighty pretty, but I’ll admit we aren’t any too darn artistic. Probably the lumberyard isn’t as scrumptious as all these Greek temples. But go to it! Make us change!
“I would like to. Some day!”
“Now! You’d love Gopher Prairie. We’ve been doing a lot with lawns and gardening the past few years, and it’s so homey—the big trees and—And the best people on earth. And keen. I bet Luke Dawson—.”
Carol but half listened to the names. She could not fancy their ever becoming important to her.
“I bet Luke Dawson has got more money than most of the swells on Summit Avenue; and Miss Sherwin the high school is a regular wonder—reads Latin like I do English; and Sam Clark, the hardware man, he’s a corker—not a better man in the state to go hunting with; and if you want culture, besides Vida Sherwin there’s Reverend Warren, the Congregational preacher, and Professor Mott, the superintendent of schools, and Guy Pollock, the lawyer—they say he writes regular poetry and—and Raymie Wutherspoon, he’s not such an awful book when you get to know him, and he sings swell. And—And there’s plenty of others. Lym Cass. Only of course none of them have your finesse, you might call it. But they don’t make ‘em any more appreciative and so on. Come on! We’re ready for you to boss us!”


Carol Milford has progressed through Blodgett College in Minnesota, deciding after various false starts to study library science. Beginning her career in the main library in St. Paul, Carol revels in her social life with friends, discussing ideas,...

(The entire section is 1809 words.)

Essential Quotes by Theme: Small-Town Society

Essential Passage 1: Introduction

This is America—a town of a few thousand, in a region of wheat and corn and dairies and little groves.
The town is, in our tale, called “Gopher Prairie, Minnesota.” But its Main Street is the continuation of Main Streets everywhere. The story would be the same in Ohio or Montana, in Kansas or Kentucky or Illinois, and not very differently would it be told Up York State or in the Carolina Hills.
Main Street is the climax of civilization. That this Ford car might stand in front of the Bon Ton Store, Hannibal invaded Rome and Erasmus wrote in Oxford cloisters. What Ole Jenson the grocer says to Ezra Stowbody the banker is the new law for London, Prague, and the unprofitable isles of the sea; whatsoever Ezra does not know and sanction, that thin is heresy, worthless for knowing and wicked to consider.
Our railway station is the final aspiration of architecture. Sam Clark’s annual hardware turnover is the envy of the four counties which constitute God’s Country. In the sensitive art of the Rosebud Movie Palace there is a Message, and humor strictly moral.
Such is our comfortable tradition and sure faith. Would he not betray himself an alien cynic who should otherwise portray Main Street, or distress the citizens by speculating whether there may not be other faiths?


In this introduction to Main Street, Sinclair Lewis sets forth his thesis statement for the novel. He states that Gopher Prairie is a symbol for every small town in American during the first half of the twentieth century. The events, emotions, and exchanges that occur in Gopher Prairie could easily happen in any other place. Lewis also presents Gopher Prairie’s society (with the symbolic title of “Main Street”) as the climax of all of Western Civilization. It is for...

(The entire section is 2093 words.)