Sinclair Lewis American Literature Analysis
The principal themes of Lewis’s major novels are concern with the effects of small-town life and narrow-minded people on those who do not conform to established patterns, and a castigation of American middle-class materialism. His first two successful novels, Main Street and Babbitt, clearly illustrate these ideas even by their titles. In the first, his main character, Carol Kennicott, tries to raise the level of life in Gopher Prairie, the small town to which she has come after her marriage. She finally “settles” for the dullness of Main Street, which typifies such places.
In Babbitt, Lewis creates a protagonist so symbolic of the emptiness inherent in the middle-class pursuit of material things that his name can now be found in the dictionary, defined as “a self-satisfied person who conforms readily to middle-class attitudes and ideals.” In Arrowsmith, Lewis continues his castigation of small-minded individuals, this time showing how their lack of vision and their emphasis on “the practicality of profit” hamper the work of scientific research and negatively affect those in the medical profession. Finally, in Elmer Gantry, Lewis draws his most loathsome character, a man who manipulates unthinking people in order to advance his career in the ministry. By the novel’s end, Elmer Gantry has achieved his materialistic goals, but he is shown to be an empty shell of a man, so evil that he is almost...
(The entire section is 4313 words.)
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