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Main Street | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Main Street | Quotes


Main Street is the climax of civilization.

Narrator, Preface

This interesting statement in the preface of the novel sets the tone for the entire book. The narrator (and the author) intend to use Main Street to satirize the provincialism and narrow-mindedness of small-town America.


She was a woman with a working brain and no work.

Narrator, Chapter 7

With this observation, the narrator explains the dispiriting situation endured by many intelligent women of the early 20th century. With no work or activities to challenge their minds, these women felt trapped.


The dollar-sign has chased the crucifix clean off the map.

Miles Bjornstam, Chapter 10

Miles Bjornstam, the cynical critic of Gopher Prairie, is commenting on the materialism of the town, where financial gain has become more important than religion or morality.


Had she actually believed that she could plant a seed of liberalism in the blank wall of mediocrity?

Narrator, Chapter 11

After trying to steer the Thanatopsis Club toward more meaningful topics and intelligent discussion, Carol realizes the members are not open to change. She gives up, and votes for the bland and meaningless topics they have chosen.


We want a more conscious life. We're tired of drudging and sleeping and dying.

Carol Kennicott, Chapter 16

Carol is voicing the frustrations of women, minority groups, immigrants, and others who are told to wait patiently for reform, even if it means putting off progress until the next generation.


In Gopher Prairie, it is not good form to be holy except at a church, between ten-thirty and twelve on Sunday.

Narrator, Chapter 18

When Carol tries to help people see aspects of the divine in art and nature, she realizes the townspeople's narrow minds cannot understand anything but the most literal meaning of the word holy.


In the plodding course of her life there was nothing changed, and nothing new.

Narrator, Chapter 19

After several attempts to introduce reform, Carol dully realizes nothing in the town or in her life will ever change.


It ... is the contentment of the quiet dead ... It is slavery self-sought and self-defended. It is dullness made God.

Carol Kennicott, Chapter 22

These images are used by Carol to describe the attitudes found in small towns, and the reasons intelligent young people are fleeing to the cities.


Go and play till the Good People capture you!

Carol Kennicott, Chapter 29

When Erik Valborg hints that he might be willing to settle for a more traditional life, Carol fears the town is trampling his dreams and ambitions just as it destroyed hers. She is urging Erik to resist the efforts of the townspeople to make him conform to their standards.


Think how much better you can criticize conventional customs if you yourself live up to them, scrupulously.

Vida Sherwin, Chapter 31

Vida is advising Carol she must live up to certain standards and rules before she can change them. Carol understands what Vida is saying: they must abide by the very rules they disagree with.


How well they would make up for what they had been afraid to do by imagining it in another!

Carol Kennicott, Chapter 32

Carol bitterly observes that people tend to satisfy their own unfulfilled desires by believing others are guilty of them.


There's nothing in this town that you don't do in company with a whole lot of uninvited but awful interested guests.

Will Kennicott, Chapter 33

After finding Carol with Erik, Will warns Carol that there are no secrets in Gopher Prairie and that she is naive if she believes otherwise.


Oh, we're hopeless, we dissatisfied women!

Carol Kennicott, Chapter 36

After arguing with Will about the rights of women, Carol expresses her dissatisfaction in this sarcastic comment.


I've never excused my failures by sneering at my aspirations.

Carol Kennicott, Chapter 39

Carol is saying that even when she fails, she does not regret the dreams that made her try to achieve something.


I may not have fought the good fight, but I have kept the faith.

Carol Kennicott, Chapter 39

With this statement, Carol is telling her husband and herself that even though she may be more accepting of Gopher Prairie, she has never given up her own ideals.

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