Dodsworth: Two Themes in One Cover

Dodsworth is the story an American businessman’s midlife crisis.

Sam Dodsworth built a successful automobile manufacturing business while his wife ran the house and their social life. When the company is bought out in the late ’20s, Fran suggests they go off to Europe to have some fun.

They are hardly on the boat before Sam realizes Fran is a social-climbing snob. Fun to her is infidelty to Sam.

Gradually Sam realizes Fran’s not as intelligent, sophisticated, or cultured as he thought either. It comes as a shock to him when he realizes, “She’s my child.”

Sinclair Lewis devotes half his attention to the Dodsworths’ marriage and the other half to exploring the differences between American and European cultures. He makes both threads interesting, but he doesn’t make them mesh.

The failure of the Dodworth marriage has nothing to do with Sam’s patriotism or Fran’s Europhilia. Besides that, Lewis makes Sam out to be ignorant — a pose that’s at odds with his Yale University education and business success.

Sam’s problem isn’t ignorance but infatuation.

Lewis develops both his themes well enough to hold your attention, but not well enough to make you really care about either the culture wars or Sam’s broken heart.

By Sinclair Lewis
Harcourt, Brace, 1929
1929 #2 bestseller
377 pages
My grade: B+
© 2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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