Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The particular concern of this study is with Sinclair Lewis’s satire, and an attempt is made to evaluate its artistic and philosophic integrity. But before analyzing his work it is necessary to apprehend the nature of good, reliable satire. The first chapter of the study, therefore, is devoted to a study of satire--its etymological history, its purpose, and its motives. We find that the best satire maintains a standard or norm from which it issues criticisms. Although Lewis’s satire is perceptive and reveals an awareness of social weaknesses, it lacks this basic element--a norm. As a result his satire has no point or direction. There are a number of factors that contribute to this flaw in his work. In the second chapter biographical accounts of his life are given attention in order to show that his life was confusing; he was a tormented personality and had no stable values which he could bring himself to learn upon. It also demonstrates that this same lack of values is present in his work. It is the hypothesis of this study that although there is an apparent lack of norms in Lewis’s work, he was nevertheless on a quest for something permanent that would provide a norm for his satire. In the quest he turned to a type of cultural psychological primitivism for his norm. By revealing this norm we can understand some of his failures as an artist; and it will enable us to see that the norm gives his work some integrity. The third chapter undertakes to establish the veracity of the hypothesis. Primitivism is seen in Lewis’s own personal life and in his five major novels of the nineteen twenties. There is a progression toward acceptance of this norm evidenced in the novels: In Main Street he reflects inclinations toward the norm; and, eventually, in Dodsworth he comes to a firm acceptance of it undergirded with a philosophical assumption. What happened to the norm following Dodsworth is not considered in any detail. The Conclusion attempts to weigh the value of the norm in its relationship Lewis’s satire.
Copyright 1967 Charles Lynn Devore
Devore, Charles Lynn, "Sinclair Lewis : Satire and the Problems of Norm" (1967). Master's Theses. 1043.