Elmer Gantry: One of the most Controversial Books in America

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In 1927, Sinclair Lewis published one of the most, if not the most, controversial book in American Literature titled Elmer Gantry. The novel is a picaresque novel in which the main character is immoral and lives by his wits (Elmer). Lewis was no stranger to controversy and Elmer Gantry was no exception to the rule. Lewis harshly scrutinizes industrialized religion in America, and reveals so called revivalists as hypocrites and morons.

The book begins by describing the protagonist, Elmer Gantry, and his friend and roommate; Jim Lefferts, as they are visiting Cato, Missouri to visit their love interests. Elmer soon sees a fellow college student, Eddie Fislinger, being harassed by the locals. Because he is drunk, Elmer picks a fight with the man harassing Eddie. After all is said and done, word is spread around that Elmer has become a zealous man for God after previously never being particularly interested in religion. Soon after, Elmer attends the Annual Prayer Week at Terwillinger College despite Lefferts urging him not to. While at the Annual Prayer Week, Elmer decides to speak the next night at the local YMCA. Originally, he just reads some text from a religious book, but as the sermon goes on it becomes apparent that he is a natural preacher, even the college president says so. After his sermon, Elmer decides that he has been called to ministry primarily because he enjoys having power over an audience. After deciding to follow his call into ministry, Elmer attends a Baptist seminary, Mizpah Theological Seminary in Babylon. Elmer is Ordained after two years of study and in his Senior year he is given a contract with a local church in Schoenheim. Whilst at the church Elmer becomes sexually attracted to one of the deacon’s daught...

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