Critical Essays Humor and Exaggeration


The Nobel Prize, according to the official citation, was awarded Lewis for his "powerful and vivid art of description and his ability to use wit and humor in the creation of original characters." It is doubtful if the Europeans who selected Lewis for the award understood that America was not all like the America of Sinclair Lewis and that even the small, decadent towns had some good points.

Lewis' humor is often of the sarcastic sort, based on the foibles of mankind. Mrs. Bogart and Aunt Bessie Smail furnish humor with their gossip, and so does Percy Bresnahan, who makes everyone conscious of his millions. It is often wry humor, off beat and biting. Lewis was unsurpassed in the art of mimicry. He used it in real life for the amusement of his friends, though sometimes to their consternation. In his books, it provides variety and relief. Whenever Lewis uses dialect or local speech, it is authentic. Exaggeration, such as that of the account of Fern Mullins and her influence on the boys of Gopher Prairie, is used also with telling effect.

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