Sinclair Lewis

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Transcript Sinclair Lewis

American Literature
Book III
Table of Contents
 Theodore Dreiser
 Edwin Arlington Robinson
 Carl Sandburg
 Sinclair Lewis
 Henry L. Mencken
 F. Scott Fitzgerald
 John Steinbeck
Theodore Dreiser
 American
representative of
naturalism, whose
novels depict real-life
subjects in a harsh
Theodore Dreiser was born
in Terre Haute, Indiana in
1871. The ninth child of
German immigrants, he
experienced considerable
poverty while a child and at
the age of fifteen was
forced to leave home in
search of work.
After briefly attending Indiana University, he
found work as a reporter on the Chicago Globe.
Later he worked for the St. Louis GlobeDemocrat, the St. Louis Republic and
Pittsburgh Dispatch, before moving to New
York where he attempted to establish himself
as a novelist.
 He was a voracious reader, and the impact of
such writers as Hawthorne, Poe, Balzac,
Herbert Spencer, and Freud influenced his
thought and his reaction against organized
Dreiser worked for the New York
World before Frank Norris, who was
working for Doubleday, helped
Dreiser's first novel, Sister Carrie
(1900), to be published. However,
the owners disapproved of the
novel's subject matter (the moral
corruption of the heroine, Carrie
Meeber) and it was not promoted
and therefore sold badly.
 The
young author felt so
depressed by “a
decade’s delay”—in the
words of Larzer Ziff—in
social recognition that
he was said to have
walked by the East River
at the turn of the century,
seriously committing
Dreiser was left-oriented in his views.
 Dreiser continued to work as a journalist and
as well as writing for mainstream
newspapers such as the Saturday Evening
Post, also had work published in socialist
magazines such as The Call. However, unlike
many of his literary friends such as Sinclair
Lewis, and Jack London, he never joined the
Socialist Party.
In 1898 Dreiser married Sara White, a
Missouri schoolteacher, but the marriage was
unhappy. Dreiser separated permanently from
her in 1909, but never earnestly sought a
 In his own life Dreiser practiced his principle
that man's greatest appetite is sexual - the
desire for women
His strength clearly ebbing,
Dreiser died of heart failure
on December 28, 1945,
before completing the last
chapter of The Stoic.
 Dreiser was buried in
Hollywood's Forest Lawn
Cemetery on January 3,
Trilogy of Desire
1. Works
Sister Carrie
Jennie Gerhardt
An American Tragedy
The Financier
The Titan
The Stoic
The Genius
Dreiser Looks at Russia 1928
The Financier (1912) and The Titan (1914)
about Frank Cowperwood, a powerhungry business tycoon.
 An American Tragedy (1925) was based
on the Chester Gillette and Grace Brown
murder case that had taken place in 1906.
About Sister Carrie
Sister Carrie, published in 1900, stands at the
gateway of the new century. Theodore Dreiser
based his first novel on the life of his sister
Emma. In 1883 she ran away to Toronto, Canada
with a married man who had stolen money from
his employer. The story as told by Dreiser, about
Carrie Meeber who becomes the mistress of a
traveling salesman, is unapologetically told and
created a scandal with its moral transgressions.
The book was initially rejected by many
publishers on the grounds that is was
"immoral". Indeed, Harper Brothers, the first
publisher to see the book, rejected it by saying
it was not, "sufficiently delicate to depict
without offense to the reader the continued
illicit relations of the heroine".
 Finally Doubleday and Company published the
book in order to fulfill their contract, but Frank
Doubleday refused to promote the book. As a
result, it sold less than seven hundred copies
and Dreiser received a reputation as a
Sister Carrie sold poorly but
was redeemed by writers like
Frank Norris and William Dean
Howells who saw the novel as a
breakthrough in American
However, the publication
battles over Sister Carrie
caused Dreiser to become
depressed, so much so that his
brother sent him to a
sanitarium for a short while.
Sister Carrie, published
in 1900, is one of the
best-known story of
American Dream,
tracing the material rise
of Carrie Meeber and
the tragic decline of G.
W. Hurstwood.
Carrie Meeber, penniless
and full of the illusion of
ignorance and youth,
leaves her rural home to
seek work in Chicago. On
the train, she becomes
acquainted with Charles
Drouet, a salesman. In
Chicago, she lives with her
sister, and work for a time
in a shoe factory.
Meager income and terrible working condition
oppress her imaginative spirit. After a period of
unemployment and loneliness, she accepts
Drouet and becomes his mistress.
 During his absence, she falls in love with
Drouet’s friend Hurstwood, a middle aged,
married, comparatively intelligent culture saloon
manager. They finally elope. They live together
for three years more.
New York
Carrie becomes mature in intellect and
emotion, while Hurstwood steadily
declines. At last, she thinks him too great a
burden and leaves him. Hurstwood sinks
lower and lower. After becoming a beggar,
he commits suicide, while Carrie becomes
a star of musical comedy. In spite of her
success, she is lonely and dissatisfied.
The theme in Sister Carrie,
a novel written by
Theodore Dreiser, is
materialism. The theme is
primarily personified
through Carrie with her
desire for a fine home,
clothes and everything
else money can buy.
Materialism, including the desire for money,
is an important theme in Sister Carrie. The
materialism is shown mostly through Carrie's
character but also through Hurstwood, a man
with a respectable life and money, who still
wants more and for that reason commits a
crime. The city in itself is also a place of
materialism, it is a place that offers all kinds
of amusements, pleasures and things to buy,
but to participate in what the city has to offer
one has to have money.
He faced every form of attack that a
serious artist could encounter
misrepresentation, artistic isolation
and commercial seduction. But he
survived to lead the rebellion of the
Dreiser has been a
controversial figure in
American literary history.
His works are powerful in
their portrayal of the
changing American life, but
his style is considered crude.
It is in Dreiser’s works that
American naturalism is said
to have come of age.
Dreiser’s novels are formless at times and
awkwardly written, and his characterization is
found deficient and his prose pedestrian and dull,
yet his very energy proves to be more than a
 Dreiser’s stories are always solid and intensely
interesting with their simple but highly moving
characters. Dreiser is good at employing the
journalistic method of reiteration to burn a central
impression into the reader’s mind.
For a commemorative service in 1947, H. L.
Mencken wrote a eulogy in which he stuck by the
argument that he had been making for over thirtyfive years: despite Dreiser's flaws as a stylist, "the
fact remains that he is a great artist, and that no
other American of his generation left so wide and
handsome a mark upon the national letters.
American writing, before and after his time, differed
almost as much as biology before and after Darwin.
He was a man of large originality, of profound
feeling, and of unshakable courage. All of us who
write are better off because he lived, worked, and
 Here
lies the power
and permanence
that have made
Dreiser one of
America’s foremost
Edwin Arlington Robinson
 Robinson is the first
important poet of
the twentieth
 Poet of transition
 Pulitzer Prize winner
for three times
 Edwin Arlington Robinson
was born on December 22,
1869, in Head Tide, Maine
(the same year as W. B.
Yeats). His family moved
to Gardiner, Maine, in
1870, which renamed
"Tilbury Town," became
the backdrop for many of
Robinson's poems.
 Robinson described his childhood as stark
and unhappy.
 Born and raised in Maine to a wealthy family,
he was the youngest of three sons and not
groomed to take over the family business.
Instead, he pursued poetry since childhood,
joining the local poetry society as its
youngest member.
 He attended Harvard, but
his personal life was soon
beset by a chain of
tragedies that are reflected
in his work. His father died,
the family went bankrupt,
one of his brothers became
a morphine addict, and his
mother contracted and
eventually died from black
 Robinson spent two years studied at
Harvard University as a special student
and his first poems were published in
the Harvard Advocate.
 Robinson privately printed and released
his first volume of poetry, The Torrent
and the Night Before, in 1896 at his own
 Shortly after, he met a woman, Emma
Shepherd, with whom he fell deeply in love,
but he was also convinced that marriage
and familial responsibilities would hinder
his work as a poet, so he introduced her to
his eldest brother, who married her.
 Unable to make a living by writing, he got a job
as an inspector for the New York City subway
system. In 1902 he published Captain Craig
and Other Poems.
 This work received little attention until
President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a
magazine article praising it and Robinson.
 Roosevelt also offered Robinson a sinecure in
a U.S. Customs House, a job he held from 1905
to 1910.
 Robinson dedicated his next work, The Town
Down the River (1910), to Roosevelt.
 Robinson's first major
success was The Man
Against the Sky (1916).
 For the last twenty-five years
of his life, Robinson spent his
summers at the MacDowell
Colony of artists and
musicians in Peterborough,
New Hampshire.
 Robinson never married and
led a notoriously solitary
 In 1922, Robinson received the Pulitzer Prize
for Poetry for his Collected Poems: He won it
again in 1925 for The Man Who Died Twice and
in 1928 for Tristram, the third part of his trilogy.
 With his even starting to drink again, claiming
that he was doing it to protest Prohibition. He
published regularly until the day he died, in
New York City in 1935.
 He died in New York City on April 6, 1935. newfound fame and fortune, he made a radical
change in his lifestyle too, tending to himself
 The Torrent and the Night Before
The Town Down the River 1910
The Man Against the Sky 1916
The Three Taverns
“Richard Cory”
“Miniver Cheevy”
“Mr. Flood’s Party”
Richard Cory
 As "Richard Cory" is only sixteen
lines, we scarce need be reminded
at the beginning that because of its
compactness each word becomes
infinitely important.
 While stanza one introduces the
narrator, more importantly it
emphasizes his limited view of
Richard Cory. Line one introduces
us to Cory while line two
establishes that the narrator has
only an external view of Cory. From
this viewpoint, then, the narrator
proceeds to make an assortment of
limited value judgments.
 Richard Cory resembles a king
("crown," "imperially slim," and
"richer than a king") ; obviously
the speaker imagery (as well as
movement in "sole to crown")
reveal his concerns with Cory
status and wealth (further
emphasized by "glittered").
Charles Morris notes the speaker
use of Anglicism ("pavement,"
"sole to crown," "schooled," and
"in fine") pictures Cory as "an
English king;" thus, the narrator
can be seen expressing
prejudices in terms of
nationalistic pride
 The poet, with a more profound
grasp of life than either, shows
us only what life itself would
show us; we know Richard Cory
only through the effect of his
personality upon those who
were familiar with him, and we
take both the character and the
motive for granted as equally
inevitable. Therein lies the ironic
touch, which is intensified by
the simplicity of the poetic form
in which this tragedy is given
Miniver Cheevy
 Here we have a man's life-story
distilled into sixteen lines. A
dramatist would have been under
the necessity of justifying the
suicide by some train of events in
which Richard Cory's character
would have inevitably betrayed him.
 A novelist would have dissected
the psychological effects of these
events upon Richard Cory.
 Miniver is the archetypal frustrated romantic
idealist, born in the wrong time for idealism. He
is close enough to being Robinson himself so
that Robinson can smile at him and let the
pathos remain unspoken.
Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons.
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.
 "Miniver Cheevy" is generally regarded as a
self-portrait. The tone, characteristics
sketched by Robinson and shared by the poet
and Miniver, and the satiric humor of the poem
all lead to that interpretation.
 Yet, although as a satire of the poet himself it
is a delightful poem, Robinson jousts with a
double-edged satiric lance. More than a clever
spoof of Robinson as Miniver, the poem
satirizes the age and, especially, its literary
 In this poem Robinson does not sympathize
with Miniver, but lampoons his faults and
"laughs at him without reserve in every line.”
 The poem's combination of feminine endings
and short final stanzaic lines contribute to the
satiric effect.
 Furthermore, by making his character
ludicrous, Robinson makes clear within the
context of the poem that Miniver is out of tune
with the age.
Mr. Flood's Party
 "Mr. Flood's Party" is in some ways much like
"Miniver Cheevy" and "Richard Cory." It is a
character sketch, a miniature drama with hints and
suggestions of the past; its tone is a blend of irony,
humor, and pathos. Yet it is, if not more sober, at
least mote serious, and a finer poem. It is more
richly conceived and executed, and it contains two
worlds, a world of illusion and a world of reality.
 The theme is the transience of
life; the central symbol is the jug.
Both the theme and the symbolic
import of the jug are announced
in the line "The bird is on the
wing, the poet says," though
only the theme, implicit in the
image, is immediately apparent.
 The main theme or point of
"Mr. Flood's Party" is a
consideration of the effects
upon human experience of
the passage of time. And to
the elaboration of this theme
virtually all of the major
figures of speech or symbols
in the poem are functionally
and organically related, either
directly or indirectly.
 Robinson is a "people poet," writing
almost exclusively about individuals
or individual relationships rather
than on more common themes of the
nineteenth century.
 He exhibits a curious mixture of irony
and compassion toward his subjects-most of whom are failures--that
allows him to be called a romantic
existentialist. He is a true precursor
to the modernist movement in poetry.
 Robinson is famous for his
use of the sonnet and the
dramatic monologue.
 Many of his poems are on
individuals and individual
relationships; most of these
individuals are failures.
 He is traditional in the use
of meter; many of his longer
works are in blank verse.
 No poet ever understood loneliness or
separateness better than Robinson or
knew the self-consuming furnace that the
brain can become in isolation, the
suicidal hellishness of it, doomed as it is
to feed on itself in answerless frustration,
fated to this condition by the accident of
human birth, which carries with it the
hunger for certainty and the intolerable
load of personal recollections.
 The early twentieth century saw
American poetry experimenting
with new forms and content. He
was noted for mastery of
conventional forms.
 He loved the traditional sonnet
and quatrain and the often used
the old-fashioned language of
romantic poetry. But his poetry
often focused on the modern
 Robinson’s poetry includes such
typical elements as
characterization, indirect and
allusive narration, contemporary
setting, psychological realism
and interest in exploring the
tangles of human feelings and
relationships, and expressing the
modern fears and uncertainty in
his own era.
Carl Sandburg
 American poet,
historian, novelist
and folklorist,folk
Organizer, Reporter
 the singing bard
 a central figure in the
 Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg,
Illinois, as the son of poor Swedish
immigrant parents. His father was August
Sandburg, a blacksmith and railroad
worker, who had changed his name from
Johnson. His mother was the former Clara
 Carl Sandburg worked from
the time he was a young boy.
He quit school following his
graduation from eighth grade
in 1891 and spent a decade
working a variety of jobs.
 He delivered milk, harvested
ice, laid bricks, threshed wheat
in Kansas, and shined shoes
in Galesburg's Union Hotel
before traveling as a hobo in
 His experiences
working and traveling
greatly influenced his
writing and political
 He saw first-hand the
sharp contrast
between rich and poor,
a dichotomy that
instilled in him a
distrust of capitalism.
 When the Spanish-American War broke
out in 1898 Sandburg volunteered for
service, and at the age of twenty was
ordered to Puerto Rico, where he spent
days battling only heat and mosquitoes.
 Upon his return to his hometown later
that year, he entered Lombard College,
supporting himself as a call fireman.
 Sandburg's college years
shaped his literary talents and
political views. While at
Lombard, Sandburg joined the
Poor Writers' Club, an informal
literary organization whose
members met to read and
criticize poetry.
 Poor Writers' founder,
Lombard professor Phillip
Green Wright, a talented
scholar and political liberal,
encouraged the talented
young Sandburg.
 The Sandburgs soon moved to Chicago, where
Carl became an editorial writer for the Chicago
Daily News.
 Sandburg honed his writing skills and adopted
the socialist views of his mentor before leaving
school in his senior year. Sandburg sold
stereoscope views and wrote poetry for two
years before his first book of verse, In Reckless
Ecstasy, was printed on Wright's basement
press in 1904.
 As the first decade of the century
wore on, Sandburg grew
increasingly concerned with the
plight of the American worker. In
1907 he worked as an organizer
for the Wisconsin Social
Democratic party, writing and
distributing political pamphlets
and literature.
 At party headquarters in
Milwaukee, Sandburg met Lilian
Steichen, whom he married in
 Sandburg was virtually unknown to the literary
world when, in 1914, a group of his poems
appeared in the nationally circulated Poetry
 Two years later his book Chicago Poems was
published, and the thirty-eight-year-old author
found himself on the brink of a career that would
bring him international acclaim.
 In the twenties, he started some of his most
ambitious projects, including his study of Abraham
 His Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, published
in 1926, was Sandburg's first financial success.
 The War Years, for which he won the Pulitzer
Prize in 1940.
 Sandburg's Complete Poems won him a second
Pulitzer Prize in 1951.
 From 1945 he lived as a farmer
and writer, breeding goats and
folk-singing, in Flat Rock, North
 Sandburg died at his North Carolina home
July 22, 1967. His ashes were returned, as
he had requested, to his Galesburg
 In the small Carl Sandburg Park behind the
house, his ashes were placed beneath
Remembrance Rock, a red granite boulder.
 Collections
Chicago poems
Smoke and Steel
Good Morning, America
The People, Yes
 Poems
“The Harbour”
“I Am the People, the Mob”
 Collections of folk songs
The American Songbag
 Biographies
Abraham Lincoln: The War Years
The Prairie Years
 Carl Sandburg was one of the best
know and most widely read poets in
the United States during the 1920s
and 1930s. His subject matter is the
people themselves.
 Like Walt Whitman, Sandburg
exclaimed: “I am the People, the
 His poetic tone is always affirmative
and he is free from rhyme and
regular meter.
 In Whitmanesque free
verse he sings about
factories and the building of
 Sandburg’s form is the free
verse with its lines of
irregular length, its looser
speech rhythms, and the
absence of end rhyme.
 Sandburg won Pulitzer
prizes in history and
 He was always trying
new forms of writing and
taking on new challenges.
 Once he wrote, "I had
studied monotony. I
decided whatever I died
of, it would not be
 Sandburg's poems are often full
of slang and the language of
ordinary Americans. Sandburg
wrote poems about Chicago-the "stormy, husky, brawling" life
of the city and the lonely peace
of the prairie. He wrote about
real people with real problems
and he wrote by his own rules.
 To many, Sandburg was a latter-day Walt Whitman,
writing expansive, evocative urban and patriotic
poems and simple, childlike rhymes and ballads.
 At heart he was totally unassuming,
notwithstanding his national fame. What he
wanted from life, he once said, was "to be out of eat get what I write printed,...a
little love at home and a little nice affection hither
and yon over the American landscape,...(and) to
sing every day."
 He played a significant role in
the development in poetry
that took place during the first
two decades of the 20th
 In the first quarter of the 20th
century, Sandburg was a
breaker of conventions and
an innovator of American
 Carl Sandburg's poem, "Fog," is among the few
exceptions that mark Sandburg's break from free
verse poetry. Fog", a mere six lines long, is written
in verse-form and is an innocent expression of
finding beauty in an ordinary world.
 "Fog" is a delightful poem, using simple imagery.
 There aren't a lot of words, and the image, at first
look, isn't very complex. However, like a haiku
poem, there is far more than just the description of
the movement of misty air. Fog leaves the natural
and becomes surreal and ethereal, but always
anchored to the familiar reality we all know.
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on
The Harbor
 The contrast of the city to
the shore is exquisite.
 One underlying meaning
one may extricate from
the poem is that of one
who has had his share of
lovers, all of which left
him unsatisfied.
 Yet the shore, and its image of
gleaming beauty and youth gives the
idea of a new love, one with meaning.
The blue lake appears to serve as a
symbol for hope and rebirth in the
sexual awareness of the poet.
 The overwhelming theme in Illinois
is the city of Chicago.
 This poem was part of the book of
Chicago Poems by Sandburg
published in 1916. Sandburg said
that the difference between Dante,
Milton, and himself was that they
wrote about hell and never saw the
place whereas he had written
about Chicago.
I Am the People, the Mob
 Sandburg the poet gave a
powerful voice to the
"people--the mob--the
crowd--the mass“.
 He championed the cause of
"the Poor, millions of the
Poor, patient and toiling;
more patient than crags,
tides, and stars; innumerable,
patient as the darkness of
night" .
 He was established as the
poet of the American people,
pleading their cause; reciting
their songs, stories, and
proverbs; celebrating their
spirit and their vernacular; and
commemorating the
watershed experiences of
their shared national life.
In 1930, he became the first American to
win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
During his lifetime he published 22 novels.
Who was he?
Sinclair Lewis
Life Experiences
Born in the town of Sank Center,
Graduated from Yale;
Became an editor and a writer;
Published Main Street in 1920 and won
the Nobel Prize in literature;
Published Babbitt in 1922.
Main Works
Our Mr. Wrenn (1914)
The Trial of the Hawk (1915)
Main Street (1920)
Babbitt (1922)
Arrowsmith (1925)
The Man Who Knew Coolidge (1928)
It Can’t Happen Here (1935)
Main Street
 Main Street was a study of idealism and reality in a
narrow-minded small-town.
 "Main Street is the continuation of main Streets
 It meant cheap shops, ugly public buildings, and
citizens who were bound by rigid conventions.
 The book had parallels with the author's own early
life. The protagonist also has skin problems. Lewis
claimed that Main Street was read "with the same
masochistic pleasure that one has in sucking an
aching tooth."
The photographs of “Main Street”
Illustrations of the photographs
When Sinclair Lewis wrote “Main Street”, it
was generally believed that his home town,
Sauk Center, Minnesota, was the locale
although he called his fictional town Gopher
Though the heroine of “Main Street” Lewis
expressed his own feelings, particularly his
Sinclair Lewis’ Nobel Prize Address
(After praising Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe
and other contemporary American writers:)
I solute them, with a joy in being not yet too far
removed from the determination to give to the
America that has mountains and endless prairies,
enormous cities and lost farm cabins, billions of
money and tons of faith, to an America that is as
strange as Russia and as complex as china, a
literature worthy of her vastness.
Main Street (1920)
Lewis criticized at times the American way of
living, but his basic view was optimistic.
"His central characters are the pioneer, the
doctor, the scientist, the businessman, and the
feminist. The appeal of his best fiction lies in
the opposition between his idealistic
protagonists and an array of fools, charlatans,
and scoundrels - evangelists, editorialists,
pseudo-artists, cultists, and boosters."
Babbitt (1922)
The novel behind the name, Babbitt is Sinclair
Lewis’s classic commentary on middle-class
society. George Follanbee Babbitt has acquired
everything required to fit neatly into the mold
of social expectation—except total comfort
with it. Distracted by the feeling that there
must be more, Babbitt starts pushing limits,
with many surprising results.
Babbitt (1922)
He appears to be a stereotype of millions of
American men.
He sells real estate and lives in a typical
middle-class house.
He has a typical family, a wife and three
He expresses typical American prejudices.
Babbitt (1922)
 He has yearnings, fantasies of youth and love and
 The slow rise and all too rapid failure of his efforts to
be himself instead of falling into the typical mold is
 He is grumpily dissatisfied with the existence he
 He tries a mild sexual adventure.
 He consorts briefly with radical thinkers.
 He expresses unorthodox ideas.
Sinclair Lewis
A sensational event was
changing from the
brown suit to the gray
the contents of his
pockets. He was earnest
about these objects.
They were of eternal
importance, like
baseball or the
Republican Party.
Chapter V
Henry L. Mencken
Mencken’s Life Experiences
Born in Baltimore;
Studied at the Baltimore Polytechnic;
Began his career on the Baltimore Morning Herald at the
age of 18;
from 1906 until his death was on the staff of the Baltimore
Sun or Evening Sun;
(1914-1923) was coeditor of the Smart Set with George
Jean Nathan; together they founded the American Mercury
in 1924, and Mencken was its sole editor from 1925 to
Mencken’s Major Works
The American Language: An Inquiry into the
Development of English in the United States,
2nd ed. (1921)
 Prejudices, First Series
 “Criticism of Criticism of Criticism”
 “A Neglected Anniversary”
The American Language (1919)
It contrasted American English with British English;
It explained the origin of many colorful American
slang expressions;
It examined uniquely American geographical and
personal names;
It traced the influence of immigrant languages on
the American idiom.
Mencken’s Attack
His attack was devastatingly direct, with invective
as a substitute for caricature and with no trace of
obliqueness or subtlety.
He derided the smugness of the middle-class
businessman, the narrowness of American cultural
life, and the harshness of American Puritanism.
The American Mercury
It was the most influential magazine of its time.
In the magazine, he wanted to “stir up the
He wanted to arouse his antagonists, and he
usually succeeded.
Nothing was sacred to him. He attacked the
churches, the business and the government in
Comment on Mencken & His Writing
Mencken was the most prominent newspaperman,
book reviewer, and political commentator of his
Mencken's writing is endearing because of its wit,
its crisp style, and the obvious delight he takes in
He had a rollicking, rambunctious style of writing.
He meant what he said, but he said it with wit.
Mencken’s Witty Remarks (1)
Every third American devotes himself to
improving and uplifting his fellow-citizens,
usually by force.
--from his Prejudices: First Series
Badchelors know more about women than
married men. If they didn’t they’d be married,
--from his Chrestomathy 621
Mencken’s Witty Remarks (2)
A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he
is glad he doesn't know.
--from his Chrestomathy 617
Conscience—the accumulated sediment of ancestral
--quoted in Smart Set Dec. 1921
The most costly of all follies is to believe
passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief
occupation of mankind.
--from his Chrestomathy 616
Mencken and His Rival
Henry L. Mencken
William Jennings Bryan
The “monkey trial” at Dayton, Tenn.
Mencken's Assessment of Life in U.S.
We live in a land of abounding quackeries, and
if we do not learn how to laugh we succumb to
the melancholy disease which afflicts the race
of viewers-with-alarm... In no other country
known to me is life as safe and agreeable,
taking one day with another, as it is in These
Mencken's Assessment of Life in
the U.S (continued)
Even in a great Depression few if any starve,
and even in a great war the number who suffer
by it is vastly surpassed by the number who
fatten on it and enjoy it. Thus my view of my
country is predominantly tolerant and amiable.
I do not believe in democracy, but I am
perfectly willing to admit that it provides the
only really amusing form of government ever
endured by mankind.
Chapter VI
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Dominant influences on FSF
 Aspiration;
 Literature;
 Princeton;
 Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald;
 Alcohol.
Life Experiences (1)
 24 September 1896 Birth of Francis Scott Key
Fitzgerald in St. Paul, Minnesota.
 October 1909 Publication of “The Mystery of the
Raymond Mortgage”, FSF’s first appearance in print.
 September 1913 FSF enters Princeton University with
Class of 1917
 February 1919 FSF discharged from army.
Planning to marry Zelda Sayre.
Life Experiences (2)
 26 March 1920 Publication of This Side of
 3 April 1920 Marriage of FSF and Zelda Sayre.
 10 April 1925 Publication of The Great Gatsby.
 21 December 1940 FSF dies of heart attack.
Major Works
 This Side of Paradise (1920)
 Flappers and Philosophers (1920)
 The Beautiful and Damned (1920)
 Tales of the Jazz Age (1922)
 The Great Gatsby (1925)
 Tender Is the Night (1934)
 The Last Tycoon (1941)
This Side of Paradise (1920)
This Side of Paradise:
an introduction
 F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the first draft of his first novel in
the army during 1917 and 1918. The working titles were
"The Romantic Egoist" and "The Romantic Egotist." It was
rejected by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1918. In 1919
Fitzgerald rewrote the book as This Side of Paradise. Its
publication by Scribners in April 1920 made him a literary
celebrity before his twenty-fourth birthday.
 Set mostly at Princeton, This Side of Paradise was the
most influential American college novel of its time and
announced the arrival of a younger generation with new
values and aspirations.
The Great Gatsby (1925)
The Great Gatsby: plot
Jay Gatsby is a man possessed—driven by greed,
ambition and, most of all, an unwavering desire for
a woman he met before the Great War, when he was
poor and she was unobtainable. As Gatsby reinvents
himself in an attempt to buy his way into the social
elite of Long Island's Gold Coast, he yearns to
rekindle his romance with the woman who stole his
heart years before. But when the chance finally
arrives, a shadow of tragedy is cast over what
Gatsby long-imagined would be his triumphant
The Great Gatsby:
Important Quotations Explained (1)
1. I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl
can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.
2. He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of
eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across
four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to
face, the whole external world for an instant and
then concentrated on you with an irresistible
prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as
far as you wanted to be understood, believed in
you as you would like to believe in yourself.
The Great Gatsby:
Important Quotations Explained (2)
3. The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg,
Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception
of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which,
if it means anything, means just that—and he must
be about His Father’s business, the service of a
vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he
invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a
seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent,
and to this conception he was faithful to the end.
The Great Gatsby:
Important Quotations Explained (3)
4. That’s my Middle West . . . the street lamps and sleigh
bells in the frosty dark. . . . I see now that this has been a
story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and
Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we
possessed some deficiency in common which made us
subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.
5. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that
year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s
no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our
arms farther … And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back
ceaselessly into the past.
Study Questions
o Discuss Gatsby’s character as Nick perceives him throughout the
novel. What makes Gatsby “great”?
o What is Nick like as a narrator? Is he a reliable storyteller, or
does his version of events seem suspect? How do his qualities as
a character affect his narration?
o What are some of The Great Gatsby’s most important symbols?
What does the novel have to say about the role of symbols in life?
o How does the geography of the novel dictate its themes and
characters? What role does setting play in The Great Gatsby?
F. Scott Fitzgerald
 Fitzgerald’s clear, lyrical, colorful, witty style evoked the
emotions associated with time and place.
 The chief theme of Fitzgerald’s work is aspirationòthe
idealism he regarded as defining American character.
Another major theme was mutability or loss.
 As a social historian Fitzgerald became identified with the
Jazz Age: “It was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it
was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire,” he wrote
in Echoes of the Jazz Age.
Chapter VII
John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.
Life Experiences
Born: February 27,1902; 132 Central Avenue,
Salinas, CA
(what is now the reception room of the
Steinbeck House)
 Graduated from Salinas High School--June
 Attended Stanford University--1919-1925
 Died in New York, December 20,1968
Steinbeck Family
Father: John Ernst Steinbeck (1863-1935), County
Mother: Olive Hamilton Steinbeck (1867-1934),
Wives: Carol Henning Steinbeck Brown, married
1930 and divorced 1942;
Gwyndolyn Conger Steinbeck, married 1943 and
divorced 1948;
Elaine Anderson Scott Steinbeck, married 1950
Sons: Thomas Steinbeck, August 2,1944;
John Steinbeck IV, June 12, 1946 - February 7,1991
Major Works
Cup of Gold, 1929
The Pastures of Heaven, 1932
Tortilla Flat, 1935
In Dubious Battle, 1936
Of Mice and Men, 1937
The Red Pony, 1937
The Grapes of Wrath, 1939
Cannery Row, 1945
The Pearl, 1947
East of Eden, 1952
Travels with Charley, 1962
“Man, unlike any other thing organic or
inorganic in the universe, grows beyond
his work, walks up in the stairs of his
(from The Grapes of Wrath)
The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
Cover of
Movie Poster
The Grapes of Wrath
Above: "66 is the mother road,
the road of flight."
Right 1: the setting for
Chapters 18-30 of
The Grapes of Wrath
Right 2: places mentioned in
Chapter 12 of
The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath
 The
Grapes of Wrath- the title originated
from Julia Ward Howe's The Battle Hymn of
the Republic (1861)--Steinbeck traveled
around California migrant camps in 1936.
 The Exodus story of Okies on their way to
an uncertain future in California, ends with a
scene in which Rose of Sharon, who has
just delivered a stillborn child, suckles a
starving man with her breast.
The Ending of The Grapes of Wrath
Rose of Sharon loosened one
side of the blanket and bared her
breast. 'You got to,' she said. She
squirmed closer and pulled his
head close. 'There!' she said.
'There.' Her hand moved behind
his head and supported it. Her
fingers moved gently in his hair.
She looked up and across the
barn, and her lips came together
and smiled mysteriously.
The Ending of The Grapes of Wrath
Rose of Sharon loosened one
side of the blanket and bared her
breast. 'You got to,' she said. She
squirmed closer and pulled his
head close. 'There!' she said.
'There.' Her hand moved behind
his head and supported it. Her
fingers moved gently in his hair.
She looked up and across the
barn, and her lips came together
and smiled mysteriously.
Themes of The Grapes of Wrath
 Man’s
Inhumanity to Man;
 The Saving Power of Family and Fellowship;
 The Dignity of Wrath;
 The Multiplying Effects of Selfishness and
Half of the chapters in The Grapes of Wrath focus on
the dramatic westward journey of the Joad family,
while the others possess a broader scope, providing a
more general picture of the migration of thousands of
Dust Bowl farmers. Discuss this structure. Why might
Steinbeck have chosen it? How do the two kinds of
chapters reinforce each other?
What is Jim Casy’s role in the novel? How does his
moral philosophy govern the novel as a whole?
Many critics have noted the sense of gritty, unflinching
realism pervading The Grapes of Wrath. How does
Steinbeck achieve this effect? Do his character
portrayals contribute, or his description of setting, or