Main Street Topics for Further Study
by Sinclair Lewis

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Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

In the last chapters of the novel, Carol lives in Washington among suffragists. Research the women’s suffrage movement between 1915 and 1920 and relate the movement’s political goals to the lives that Lewis describes.

Just how isolated was Gopher Prairie? Find out the distance from Minneapolis to Sauk Centre, the town that Gopher Prairie is based on, and then research how long it would take a train to travel that distance in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Research women’s fashions from the time when this novel takes place, finding examples of clothes that would have been common and ones that would have been considered artistic and ornate, such as Erik Valborg might have designed.

What was the gas that was used against American troops in World War I? What effect would it have had on someone like Raymie Wutherspoon, who still suffered from it when he came home from the war?

For travelling around the countryside, Dr. Will Kennicott alternates between using his Ford motor car and a horse-drawn carriage. Examine the mileage per hour and limitations of both.

Do you think that the story would have ended this way today, with divorce as common as it is? Why or why not?

Speak to a member of a local literary club, and find out what he or she thinks of the Thanatopsis Society’s attempt to cover English literature in one afternoon. What would be a more realistic time frame?

The “Watch Gopher Prairie Grow” campaign that is initiated late in the novel seems to bring little result. Find out what slogan your town or city is using to boost civic pride, and report on its success.