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Main Street

a novel by Sinclair Lewis, published in 1920, dramatized in 1921. Carol Milford, an unremarkable though quick-witted girl, upon graduation from college marries Will Kennicott, a kindly and hardworking doctor from Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. Carol yearns for a free and gracious life, but when she attempts to put her vague aspirations into action by improving village life, finds herself thwarted by the intolerant, smug, and complacent attitudes of the villagers. The novel dramatizes a clash between Carol's naïve idealism and the reality of habitual and standardized dullness. Certain characters like the repressed yet energetic schoolteacher Vida Sherwin, the local lawyer Guy Pollock, and the Swedish vagabond Miles Bjornstam, appear to escape the trammels of this stultifying existence, although they are equally inadequate rebels. Carol becomes attracted to Erik Valborg and moves to Washington to forge her own life. However, when Kennicott comes for her two years later, she returns with him to Gopher Prairie. In the end, Kennicott's middle-class values of steady complacency triumph, as does the Middle West and the middle brow. The impulse to escape class conventions, to flee the humdrum, turns into a partial success and then compromise with convention.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Madras House to Harriet Martineau Biography