Study Guide

Main Street Alcohol and Drugs

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

Alcohol and Drugs

In Main Street, you have to be careful about what you do even when you think nobody's watching. That's because everybody is watching.

Folks around Gopher Prairie don't think very highly of people who drink, for example, especially if those people are women. A man can drink too much, and people will say, "What a shame." But if a woman drinks too much, folks assume that she has loose morals—and that she should be run out of town as soon as possible.

That's exactly what happens to the young Fern Mullins, who ends up getting fired from her job for getting a high school student drunk… except that the whole story is a lie, and everyone knows it. Nevertheless, the town is so obsessed with appearances that the mere suggestion of drinking is enough to ruin Fern's career.

Questions About Alcohol and Drugs

  1. Why do you think there's a double standard when it comes to men and women drinking in Gopher Prairie? What evidence do we find for the double standard?
  2. Why is the town so quick to get rid of Fern Mullins even when they know the story about her getting Cy drunk is made up?
  3. How often does Will Kennicott drink? What does it tell us about his character?

Chew on This

In Main Street, we see that alcohol is usually a way for people in small towns to cope with the dullness of their daily lives.

Main Street shows us that the people who drink a lot tend to be people with bad morals.

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