American Literature and the Dream

By Frederic I. Carpenter | Go to book overview

13. SINCLAIR LEWIS AND THE FORTRESS OF REALITY

DURING THE decade of the 1920's the novels of Sinclair Lewis achieved an acclaim unequaled in the history of American literature. First Main Street, then Babbitt and Arrowsmith appealed to popular imagination and to critical judgment alike, each selling hundreds of thousands of copies. By general agreement Sinclair Lewis became spokesman of a new renaissance in American writing, and finally won world recognition with the first award to an American of the Nobel Prize for literature, in 1930. No such immediate success, combining the popular and the critical, the national and the international, has fallen to the lot of any American before or since. As recently as August 5, 1944, the distinguished contributors to the Saturday Review of Literature for the past twenty years voted Arrowsmith the most important novel of the period.

But following the award of the Nobel Prize in 1930, the reputation of Sinclair Lewis steadily declined. By popular and by critical agreement, his novels written after then became progressively bad. As literary fashions shifted from realism to symbolism, and popular attitudes from individualism to conservatism, critics began to ask: "How Good Is Sinclair Lewis?" In 1948 Warren Beck denounced the 1930 award of the Nobel Prize as "outrageous."1 And Bernard De Voto accused Lewis of defaming the American character, calling the conception of Arrowsmith itself: "romantic, sentimental, and, above all, trivial."2 Increasingly, even Lewis's admirers began to wonder: Why had his later novels become so bad? Had his earlier novels ever really been so good? Once again they saw illustrated in his career the fate of "the artist in America." For, beyond any possible question, Sinclair Lewis had been the representative American artist of his era.

In his Stockholm address on receiving the Nobel Prize, Lewis had described "the American novelist" as working "alone, in confusion, unassisted save by his own integrity."3 And the words accurately described Lewis himself. The confusion of values in which he worked may explain both his successes and his failures. When he was able to describe this confusion objectively, as in Babbitt, or to project his own integrity in a character such as that of Arrowsmith, he approached greatness. But as he grew older he found himself progres

-116-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
American Literature and the Dream
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Part I 3
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - The American Dream 5
  • Part II 11
  • 3 - The Transcendental Dream 11
  • 4 - Emerson 19
  • 5 - Bronson Alcott:Genteel Transcendentalist 30
  • 6 - Walt Whitman''s Eidolon 40
  • Part III 51
  • 7 - The Genteel Tradition:A Re-Interpretation 51
  • 8 - Scarlet a Minus 63
  • 9 - Melville and the Men-Of-War 73
  • Part IV 83
  • 10 - The Pragmatic Realization 83
  • 11 - Charles Sanders Peirce:Pragmatic Transcendentalist 94
  • 12 - William James and Emerson 105
  • 13 - Sinclair Lewis and the Fortress of Reality 116
  • Part V 126
  • 14 - The Romantic Confusion- The Devil in America 126
  • 15 - The Romantic Tragedy of Eugene O''Neill 133
  • 16 - Death Comes for Robinson Jeffers 144
  • Part VI 155
  • 17 - Thomas Wolfe- The Autobiography of an Idea 155
  • 18 - John Steinbeck- The Philosophical Joads 167
  • 19 - The Time of William Saroyan''s Life 176
  • 20 - Hemingway Achieves the Fifth Dimension 185
  • Part VII 194
  • 21 - The Good and the Bad 194
  • 22 - The Logic of American Literature 199
  • Notes 208
  • Index 217
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 222

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.