Main Street Background

Main Street Background

Main Street is a novel by Sinclair Lewis, published in 1920. 

The satirical novel criticizes the small-town lifestyle, classing it amongst Lewis' contemporaries as somewhat bleak in nature. The reception amongst real-life small-town residents was similarly unfavorable; the novel was banned by a public library in Alexandria, Minnesota in 1921 for its portrayal of the mundane emptiness of life in a small town. 

The novel's setting in Gopher Prarie, Minnesota is modeled after Sinclair's own upbringing in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. Some believe the novel foreshadows popular ideals and attitudes of the roaring 20's, though the novel's release preceded its arrival in America. The story takes place during the 1910's and includes various cultural references including World War I and the start of Prohibition. 

Main Street was originally awarded the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but the award was later rejected by the Board of Trustees.  Lewis was later awarded the Pulitzer prize for his 1925 novel Arrowsmith, but rejected the award in 1926. He now holds the unique distinction of being the first American awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. 

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