Although since Lewis’s works were first published there have been some marked changes in the style of popular novels, his books retain their place in American literature. Not only do they present a picture of an era, the 1920’s, but they also make it uncomfortably obvious that, in some unpleasant ways, American society has not changed very much. Materialism and hucksterism still reign supreme. Prejudice has not been eliminated. Outward show is accepted in place of inward substance. Lewis’s satirical style points up some serious faults, and the passage of time has done little to correct them.
Harry Sinclair Lewis was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, on February 7, 1885. His father, Edwin J. Lewis, and his mother, Emma F. Kermorr, were schoolteachers, but Edwin Lewis took a two-year medical course in Chicago and practiced as a country doctor, first in Wisconsin and later in Sauk Centre, a small town with a population of twenty-five hundred. The young Sinclair, nicknamed Red because of the color of his hair, was the third of three sons. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was three years old. Edwin Lewis remarried shortly after her death. The future novelist was an awkward, rather ugly, lonely child with little aptitude for sports or any type of physical exercise. He soon became an ardent reader, and at an early age,...
(The entire section is 735 words.)
A prolific and provocative writer of newspaper editorials, magazine articles, and novels, Sinclair Lewis joined such literary contemporaries as H. L. Mencken and Sherwood Anderson in condemning the “village virus” affecting small towns throughout America. Lewis’ novel Main Street (1920) established his reputation as a social satirist with its meticulous depiction of a stifling and reactionary small town in Minnesota. His cynical dissatisfaction with post-World War I American life seemed even stronger in Babbitt (1922), a portrait of a corrupt real estate agent which exposes the pomposity, materialism, and vulgarity beneath the pretenses of American business.
(The entire section is 941 words.)
The literary decade of the 1920’s was dominated by two figures: H. L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis, who, more than any other writers, gave to that era of “debunking” its special tone. Harry Sinclair Lewis was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota (fictionalized by Lewis as “Gopher Prairie”), on February 7, 1885, the third son of Dr. Emmet J. Lewis, who furnished him with part of the character of Arrowsmith. Lewis attended Sauk Centre public schools from 1890 to 1902. (In 1898, he left home to enlist as a drummer boy in the Spanish-American War, but his father apprehended him.) From 1901 to 1903, he held odd jobs as typesetter and minor newswriter for two Sauk Centre newspapers, the Herald and Avalanche. He spent...
(The entire section is 1126 words.)
Harry Sinclair Lewis was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, on February 7, 1885, the youngest of three sons of a country doctor, Edwin J. Lewis. One year after the death of Harry’s tubercular mother, Emma, in 1891, his father married Isabel Warner, whom Lewis felt was psychically his own mother. Unlike his older brother, Claude, Harry cared nothing for sports, was not popular in school, and received little praise from his father. So, like so many lonely children, he found solace in books, read voraciously, and began writing regularly in diaries which he kept throughout his life.
Fred, the eldest son, dropped out of school and worked as a miller all of his life. Claude, however, was a constant success and an example...
(The entire section is 1112 words.)