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MonkeyNotes-Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
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BACKROUND INFORMATION

Author Information

SINCLAIR LEWIS

Harry Sinclair Lewis was born in the village of Sauk Center, Minnesota on February 7, 1885. At the time of his birth, his father was working as a country doctor. When his mother died five years after his birth, his father remarried. Living in the village, he received a typical small town education.

Sinclair Lewis was unattractive, unskilled and reserved by nature. This could account for his loneliness in spite of the fact that he had two brothers. However, Lewis was intelligent and entered Yale when he was seventeen. In the years that followed, he wrote a number of articles, short stories, and poems which were published in a college magazine. He left college for a while to try his luck as a writer, but was unsuccessful. So he returned to college and completed his graduation in 1908.

His thirst for travel took him around his home country. He tried his hand at journalism but failed. Once again, he ventured into the field of creative writing. His first adventure story was named as "Hike and the Airplane" and it was published in 1912. Two years later, Lewis married Grace Livingston Hegger and in that same year he published his first novel Our Mr. Warren. However, the book that brought him acclaim was Main Street, published in 1920. Two years later, he published Babbitt and enhanced his popularity. His admirers praised him as a frank and fearless writer who exposed the hypocritical American society, while his critics condemned him as cynical and unpatriotic. Lewis was offended by the criticism against his writings but it did not stop him from writing satirical works. He published Arrowsmith in 1925, Elmer Ganty in 1927 and Dodsworth in 1929.


Sinclair Lewis married Dorothy Thompson, a famous newspaperwoman in 1928, after he divorced his first wife. His second marriage brought him honors, and he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1930. Earlier, he had been offered the Pulitzer Prize but he had refused to accept it as he had considered it an attempt to legislate literary taste. He continued writing novels despite attacks by the critics. He published Ann Vickers in 1933, It Canít Happen Here in 1935, Cass Timberlane in 1945 and Kingsblood Royal in 1947. These novels were not as well received by the public as his earlier ones.

Lewisí personal life also suffered a setback during this time. He separated and later divorced his second wife. One of his sons died during World War II. His literary career was also dwindling. The subjects that were his trademark were beginning to appear dated and unchallenging, and Lewis resented this view. He was seen as disagreeable and old-fashioned, not to mention behind in the literary currents of the day. His restless soul found peace only in death, which occurred on January 10, 1951. In such a wide world, Lewis could hardly find a secure place. Ironically, his last novel World So Wide was published soon after his death.

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