Main Street

Distribute a guide about Lewis's Main Street that provides an overview as well as questions, vocabulary, quotations for discussion, and activities for each chapter.
Teaching Strategies:
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Updated on: November 14, 2000
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Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street

Written Activities

1. How would Sinclair Lewis feel about the town in which you live? Write a feature story for the travel section of a newspaper as if you were Sinclair Lewis visiting your area. What would he find of interest? What would he like? What would he dislike?

2. Read the Boston Globe article found on the website. What do you think about the author's take on Lewis's opinion of his hometown?

3. In an essay, Sinclair Lewis writes, "Sauk Centre was a good time, a good place, a good preparation for life." Find examples in the novel that defend or refute this quote.

4. Select a character from the novel who reminds you of someone you know. Develop a character sketch of your acquaintance using Lewis's style.

5. Defend or refute the following quote from critic Mark Schorer: "He was one of the worst writers in modern American literature but without his writing one cannot imagine modern American literature. That is because, without his writing, we can hardly imagine ourselves....He gave us a vigorous, perhaps a unique thrust into the imagination of ourselves."

6. Although Sinclair Lewis wrote twenty-two novels and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930, his epitaph in Sauk Centre reads, "Sinclair Lewis, 1885-1951, author of Main Street." How does his epitaph reflect the way the people of Sauk Centre think about Sinclair Lewis?

7. Main Street has been discussed as "the courtship of Carol and Gopher Prairie." Explain, using examples from the text as support.

8. Examine your journal of reactions to Carol after each chapter. What incidents/events affected your opinion of her? What made her sympathetic? What made her unlikable?

9. What is Carol's attitude toward organized religion? Give examples from the novel to support your ideas.

10. How is Miles a foil for Carol? Give examples from the novel to support your answer.

Artistic Activities

1. Draw, paint, or otherwise illustrate a character from the novel using Lewis's description.

2. Create a scale model of Main Street relying on passages from the novel as your guide.

3. Create a shadowbox diorama of Carol's private room, using your artistic talents to show what solace she gets from the room.


Related Works


Cather, Willa. "The Sculptor's Funeral." Collected Stories. Vintage Classics, 1992.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Bernice Bobs Her Hair. Signet Classics, 1997.
Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. Warner Books, 1988.


Bloom, Harold, editor. Sinclair Lewis: Modern Critical Views, Chelsea House, 1987.
Bucco, Martin. Main Street: The Revolt of Carol Kennicott. Twayne's Masterwork Studies, No 124, 1993. (Out-of-print book)
Dooley, D.J. The Art of Sinclair Lewis, 1967. ASIN: 0803250517 (Out-of-print book)
Hutchisson, James. The Rise of Sinclair Lewis: 1920-1930, Penn State Press, 1996.
Light, Martin. The Quixotic Vision of Sinclair Lewis, 1975. ASIN: 0911198407 (Out-of-print book)
Schorer, Mark. Sinclair Lewis: An American Life, 1961. ASIN: 0816602905 (Out-of-print book)
Pastore, Stephen. Sinclair Lewis: A Descriptive Bibliography, Yale Books.


Bernice Bobs Her Hair. Short Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald (American Short Story Series of videos)


Wendy Patrick Cope received her A.B. and M.Ed. in English Education at the University of Georgia. An experienced high school English teacher, she currently serves as Adjunct Professor of English at Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia. Her latest production is a daughter, Haley Scout, born in March 1998. This is her fourth teaching guide for Signet Classics.

James (Jim) R. Cope, Associate Professor of English at Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia, and President of the Virginia Association of Teachers of English, received his B.S.Ed., M.Ed., and Ed.D. in English Education at the University of Georgia. He has taught English at the high school and college levels across the past two decades. In addition to teaching, he is involved with research focusing on the development of readers, their interests and attitudes, and the forces that have shaped them.


W. Geiger Ellis, Professor Emeritus, University of Georgia, Department of Language Education, received his A.B. and M.Ed. degrees from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and his Ed.D. from the University of Virginia. He has been active in teaching adolescent literature, having introduced the first courses on the subject at both the University of Virginia and the University of Georgia. He developed and edited The ALAN Review from 1978 to 1984. His research has had heavy emphasis on the content of literature instruction.

Arthea (Charlie) J. S. Reed, Ph.D. is currently president of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN). She is the author of three books in the fields of literature and teaching: Reaching Adolescents: The Young Adult Book and the School, Comics to Classics: A Guide to Books for Teens and Preteens, and Presenting Harry Mazer. In addition, she is the author or co-author of numerous books in the fields of foundations of education and teaching methods. She was editor of The ALAN Review for six years and has co-edited the Penguin/Signet Classic teacher's guide series since 1988.

In May 1996, Dr. Reed retired after 17 years as a professor of education and six years as chairperson of education at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. After nearly 30 years in teaching at the elementary, secondary, and college/university level, she is now pursuing a new career in education as Executive Director of Development and Education for Northwestern Mutual Life in Asheville, N.C. Dr. Reed and her husband Don live with their two dogs and a cat on a mountain top in Fairview, N.C.

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