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The Prodigal Parents by Sinclair Lewis

Updated on February 9, 2014

Sinclair Lewis's The Prodigal Parents

Fred Cornplow is the unlikely hero of The Prodigal Parents, a later book by author Sinclair Lewis, and follows the theme of a good man trying to be something great, but who has everyone around him trying to cut him down to fit into a comfortable ordinary box. In this sense fans of Ayn Rand will find a lot of common ground with appreciating the messages that Lewis is trying to weave throughout this late career novel of his. If you haven't read much of Lewis's works this isn't the best introduction, but it's a worthy work that is well remembered among the many ground breaking Sinclair Lewis works.

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The Prodigal Parents Book Review and Summary

Prodigal Parents | Sinclair Lewis | Escapist Travel Literature

Every so often between works of strong political messages, and novels of staggering cultural importance, every so often Sinclair Lewis likes to write a book that is best described as romanticizing travel escapism. The Prodigal Parents fits right in with this description.

The protagonist is Frederick ("Fred") William Cornplow. He is a very successful businessman who supports his family, even his 28 year old daughter who is a college graduate and feels she is "owed a living."

Fred decides after 56 years of being responsible and watching over his parents, his wife, and his children, that he wants to retire and travel.

Fred shakes up everyone's plans when he announces out of nowhere that we will retire in exactly one year and then travel. His children immediately protest, saying that Fred must stay and take care of them (even though they're both in their 20's).

The rest of the novel is literally Fred havign to actually plot to go on vacation with his wife while the kids go out of their way to spoil his plans and make his life miserable so they can suck more money and security from him.

Eventually Fred manages to sneak off with his wife and spends five of the best months of his life around England, Turkey, France, and other parts of Europe. This trip changes his life and his perspective. He wonders what the point of his life is.

In this novel travel is an almost metaphysical thing that is the solution to all problems of misery at home.

Strangely, Lewis decides to have more after Fred returns home. He rushes home to find his daughter married and bossing her husband around, but his son a drunken mess, and his wife left him. He gets nursed back to health by Fred, and later Howard (Fred's son) finds out his wife and child are doing great in Paris, and he decides he needs to earn the right to have them back.

So the family begins knitting back together, and Fred remembers his travels fondly.

Is Sinclair Lewis Right About Travel?

Is Lewis right about travel - is it the best medicine?

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Prodigal Parents on eBay

Sometimes you can still find a first edition of The Prodigal Parents on eBay.

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