Elmer Gantry

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What to expect

Elmer Gantry is the portrait of a silver-tongued evangelist who rises to power within his church, yet lives a life of hypocrisy, sensuality, and ruthless self-indulgence.

The title character starts out as a greedy, shallow, philandering Baptist minister, turns to evangelism, and eventually becomes the leader of a large Methodist congregation. Throughout the novel, Gantry encounters fellow religious hypocrites. Although often exposed as a fraud, Gantry is never fully discredited.

When Elmer Gantry was first published in 1927, it created a public furor. Now it is considered a landmark in American literature and one of the most penetrating studies of hypocrisy in modern literature. The novel also represents the evangelistic activity of America in the 1920s and people’s attitudes toward it.

Critics Review

  • “Elmer Gantry is charismatic without being likable, which makes voicing him a tricky business for Anthony Heald…Heald’s pacing, his accents, [and] his narrative drive are all excellent.”

  • “What always made Lewis’s novels richer than mere satire was the affection he so clearly felt even for the people and institutions he was most eager to expose. As awful as Gantry is, we can’t suppress a sneaking liking for him, and neither can his author…So much a product of its own historic moment, it turns out to be a book for our time as well, and probably for all times.”

    Brooke Allen, author of Twentieth-Century Attitudes
  • “The background of Elmer Gantry is the religious activity of America in evangelistic cirles and the attitudes of the nineteen twenties toward it. The religious life in the United States had fallen into a condition of listless and at the same time enthusiastic decay…What the Lewis novel pictures, in part, is the confusion of…the material and the spiritual and the consequent corruption of both.”

    Mark Schorer, author of Sinclair Lewis: An American Life

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