Sinclair Lewis Long Fiction Analysis
Early reviews praised or condemned Sinclair Lewis for a blend of realism and optimism; indeed, a curious mixture of almost naturalistic realism and a kind of romance characterized Lewis’s fiction throughout his career. He failed to solve the dichotomy in his novels, nor did he ever solve it for himself. If his characters sometimes behave as romantic rebels, so did Lewis, rebelling against a philistine lifestyle in which he was deeply rooted and to which he remained attached all his life. The five novels that made him famous, Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, and Dodsworth, can be read as a series of variations on the same theme. Lewis exposed a United States dominated by business and petty bourgeois mentality. His characters, still full of nostalgia for the excitement of the frontier, persuade themselves that what they have at the present represents the zenith, the summit of human potential. Descendants of pious pioneer Puritans, Lewis’s wealthy Americans of the 1920’s are in desperate need of a civilization they can call their own. This transitory stage of the American experience becomes the theme of Lewis’s writings.
As Van Wyck Brooks described it, America’s coming-of-age in the decade before World War I paved the way for a cultural and moral revolution, heralded by works such as Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology (1915), Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg,...
(The entire section is 5178 words.)
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