Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

Critics have never shown much agreement about the depth of Upton Sinclair's talent as a writer. Some feel that he was, at best, a weak storyteller, who hid his inability to create believable characters behind his sincere effort for political reform, while others have suggested that it was his political agenda that made it hard to see just how talented he really was. Most critics admit that he was fairly talented, though not exceptionally so, and almost all grant that he was scrupulously faithful to the details he wrote about. Sinclair's friend George Bernard Shaw, the Nobel Prize-winning playwright, suggested to people who asked what had happened in his lifetime that they should not look to newspapers but rather should read Upton Sinclair's novels. Bernard Dekle, who repeated the Shaw story in a 1969 article called "Upton Sinclair: The Power of a Courageous Pen," considered the author a "superb journalist": though that opinion says nothing of his ability as a novelist, Dekle goes on to quote Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), calling Sinclair, "one of the greatest novelists in the world." Important literary critic Walter B. Rideout described the books of Upton Sinclair as comprising "one of the great information centers in American literature." Another much-admired critic, Granville Hicks, centered in on the quality that gave Sinclair the ability to be such a detailed and credible recorder of the world around him: "Sinclair," Hicks wrote, "has always had the ability to withdraw himself from the struggle and to write with an astonishing degree of objectivity."

But even those critics who praised his ability to capture events in words still acknowledge what Rideout referred to as his...

(The entire section is 699 words.)