Sinclair Lewis was born February 7, 1885, in Sauk Centre, Minnesota to Dr. Edwin J. Lewis and Emma Kermott Lewis. Lewis's father remarried within a year of Emma Kermott Lewis's death in 1891. Lewis was an awkward youth overshadowed by his more attractive, popular older brother. He attended Yale University where he made the acquaintance of Upton Sinclair and contributed to the college literary magazine.

After graduation, Lewis floundered about for several years. He married Grace Hegger in 1914 and wrote several novels that he himself did not much like. In 1920, he finally found his voice in his first published work, Main Street. The novel, which attacked the romantic myths of the American small town, established Lewis as a witty satirist of American culture. It was followed by Babbitt, a satire on the American middle class, in 1922. When he was offered the Pulitzer Prize for Arrowsmith in 1925, Lewis turned it down. He published Dodsworth in 1929. One year later, Lewis became the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In 1925, Lewis divorced his first wife and married Dorothy Thompson. Although he continued to write prolifically, his popularity declined. After divorcing his second wife in 1942, he became increasingly short-tempered with his friends and acquaintances, partly because he resented the accusation that he had become "dated." In 1951, Lewis died in Rome at the age of 66.