Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review of Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here

I read Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here and so should you. Published in 1935, it portrays an America that elects the populist Buzz Windrip, who sweeps in with promises he can't possibly keep ($5,000 for everyone!) but which people get themselves to believe; on making the country as good as it used to be, rejecting intellectuals, distrusting universities, attacking the press, railing against Jewish bankers, and even racist antagonism toward Mexico. People felt that he wouldn't be so bad once he was in office. After all, it can't happen here.

I noted so many similarities of Lewis' descriptions to now that I quickly lost count. And in his homespun, funny, snarky manner he lays out the easy disintegration of U.S. democracy and the cowing of the American people. The story revolves largely around Doremus Jessup, a small town newspaper editor who covers the coming of Buzz Windrip and then feels the brunt of censorship and violence.

On the people who believed in the president:

"they were the men and women who, in 1935 and 1936, had turned to Windrip & Co., not as perfect, but as the most probable saviors of the country from, on one hand, domination by Moscow and, on the other hand, the slack indolence, the lack of decent pride of half the American youth, whose world (these idealists asserted) was composed of shiftless distaste for work and refusal to learn anything thoroughly, of blatting dance music on the radio, maniac automobiles, slobbering sexuality, the humor and art of comic strips--of a slave psychology which was making Americaa land for sterner men to loot" (p. 350).

The book is even more effective than 1984 or other famous dystopias because it is so very American. Even though it was written in the 1930s, you can recognize the context, the development, and the hatred that so quickly can bubble up and then is harnessed. Liberty is snuffed in the name of liberty.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP