Lewis, Sinclair

Lewis, Sinclair

Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951, American novelist, b. Sauk Centre, Minn., grad. Yale Univ., 1908. Probably the greatest satirist of his era, Lewis wrote novels that present a devastating picture of middle-class American life in the 1920s. Although he ridiculed the values, the lifestyles, and even the speech of his characters, there is affection behind the irony. Lewis began his career as a journalist, editor, and hack writer. With the publication of Main Street (1920), a merciless satire on life in a Midwestern small town, Lewis immediately became an important literary figure. His next novel, Babbitt (1922), considered by many critics to be his greatest work, is a scathing portrait of an average American businessman, a Republican and a Rotarian, whose individuality has been erased by conformist values.

Arrowsmith (1925; Pulitzer Prize, refused by Lewis) satirizes the medical profession, and Elmer Gantry (1927) attacks hypocritical religious revivalism. Dodsworth (1929), a more mellow work, is a sympathetic picture of a wealthy American businessman in Europe; it was successfully dramatized by Lewis and Sidney Howard in 1934. In 1930, Lewis became the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. During his lifetime he published 22 novels, and it is generally agreed that his later novels are far less successful than his early fiction. Among his later works are It Can't Happen Here (1935), Cass Timberlane (1945), Kingsblood Royal (1947), and World So Wide (1951). From 1928 to 1942 Lewis was married to Dorothy Thompson, 1894-1961, a distinguished newspaperwoman and foreign correspondent.

See memoir by his first wife, G. H. Lewis (1955); biographies by C. Van Doren (1933, repr. 1969), M. Shorer (1961), V. Sheean (1963), and R. Lingeman (2001); studies by S. N. Grebstein (1962, repr. 1987), D. J. Dooley (1967, repr. 1987), M. Light (1975), and M. Bucco, ed. (1986).

Sinclair Lewis.

(born Feb. 7, 1885, Sauk Center, Minn., U.S.—died Jan. 10, 1951, near Rome, Italy) U.S. novelist and social critic. He worked as a reporter and magazine writer before making his literary reputation with Main Street (1920), a portrayal of Midwestern provincialism. Among his other popular satirical novels puncturing middle-class complacency are Babbitt (1922), a scathing study of a conformist businessman; Arrowsmith (1925), a look at the medical profession; Elmer Gantry (1927), an indictment of fundamentalist religion; and Dodsworth (1929), the story of a rich American couple in Europe. He won the 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first given to an American. His later novels include Cass Timberlaine (1945). Lewis's reputation declined in later years, and he lived abroad much of the time. He was married to Dorothy Thompson from 1928 to 1942.

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