Study Guide

Main Street Writing Style

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

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Writing Style

Inappropriately Poetic

It's fair to say that Sinclair Lewis's writing style reflects the world as Carol Kennicott would like it to beā€”filled with pretty, descriptive language. At the beginning of the book, this language is appropriate, because it reflects Carol's dreams in life. In just the second paragraph in the book, for example, we get the following passage:

A breeze which had crossed a thousand miles of wheat-lands bellied her taffeta skirt in a line so graceful, so full of animation and moving beauty, that the heart of a chance watcher on the lower road tightened to wistfulness over her quality of suspended freedom. (1.1.2)

As the novel goes on, the flowery language that follows Carol around seems less and less appropriate to her boring new life in Gopher Prairie. When Carol looks at the dull Main Street, for example, she sees this:

Main Street was a black swamp from curb to curb; on residence streets the grass parking beside the walks oozed gray water. It was prickly hot, yet the town was barren under the bleak sky. Softened neither by snow nor by waving boughs the houses squatted and scowled, revealed in their unkempt harshness. (11.6.1)

Other folks in Gopher Prairie might see the same scene and think, "Golly, what a fine street." It's almost as if Lewis's writing style is as out of place in a town like Gopher Prairie as Carol Kennicott herself is.

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