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Creator / Sinclair Lewis

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"It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write."

Harry Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) was an American author and the first American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. (He also won a Pulitzer Prize, which he rejected). He achieved fame for his satiric portrayals of American life. His novels Main Street, Babbitt, Elmer Gantry and It Can't Happen Here remain well known, though many of his other novels remain in print as well. The film Dodsworth is based on one of his novels. "Little Bear Bongo", which he wrote as short story for Cosmopolitan magazine, was adapted by Walt Disney in 1947 as a segment of the animated feature film Fun and Fancy Free.


Works by Sinclair Lewis contain examples of:

  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Babbitt explains in bitingly satirical terms the importance of the Brotherhood of Funny Hats to the upstanding 1920s businessman. The brotherhoods to which Babbitt himself belongs—the Elks and Rotary—aren't particulalry BOFH-ish, but he does mention that the Masons, Shriners, etc., serve the same purpose, and which club you join is more or less inconsequential.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In Elmer Gantry, one of the characters mentions Lewis, and criticizes his earlier novel, Main Street. In Ann Vickers, a character calls her husband "a regular Babbitt".
  • Fictional Province: Lewis used the fictional state of Winnemac, with its biggest city Zenith and a smaller town named Springfield, as locations for his books.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Sinclair Lewis created the fictional city of Zenith, Winnemac (later identified as being approximately where Toledo, Ohio is) for a number of his books.
  • Protagonist Title: Used repeatedly (Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, Dodsworth, Ann Vickers...)
  • Unbuilt Trope: Many of his books were satires of middle-class American life that call to mind what we would now recognize as Stepford Suburbia... in The Roaring '20s, when the middle class was still fairly small (if rapidly growing) and suburbia as we know it barely existed. Main Street in particular reads like a takedown of a Hallmark Channel original movie ninety years before those took off.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: Babbitt, which satirizes American society and culture has supporting characters with names like Vergil Gunch, Professor Joseph K. Pumphrey, Chester "Chet" Laylock, Mat Penniman, T. Cholmondeley "Chum" Frink, Tanis Judique, and Carrie Nork.