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The Trail of the Hawk by Sinclair Lewis

Updated on February 9, 2014

The Trail of the Hawk, an Ironic Comedy by Sinclair Lewis

The Trail of the Hawk was the third novel written by American literary giant Sinclair Lewis, though only the second one using his real name.  This novel is subtitled: "A Comedy of the Seriousness of Life" and shows the young Lewis coming into his own as a literary force to be recokened with. 

Published in 1915, this work is a classic and is now a highly sought after and collectible antique book.  The resurgance of Sinclair Lewis in academe makes the reprinting of "The Trail of the Hawk" far more likely in the near future. If you want to read some classic American literature, you won't do bad looking up forgotten giant Sinclair Lewis

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The Trail of the Hawk by Sinclair Lewis

Critical, but not commercial, success

The Trail of the Hawk: A Comedy of the Seriousness of Life was the third novel authored by Sinclair Lewis, the second "serious" one.

Although Our Mr. Wrenn seemed to be heavily enjoyed, it was printed in only a limited 3,000 copy printing, and so Lewis was still searching for his first significant success.

"Trail of the Hawk" is a story about boyhood, youth, and later adventurous careers in early aviation and automobile manufacturing. The protagonist is Norwegian American Carl Ericson, born in 1885. This puts him at a great time of technological change and advancement in American history, as aviation and automobiles would not have even existed during his birth, but by the time he was an adult both were in full swing development.

Carl is an adventurous youth, and when he was eight years old in Joralemon, Minnesota, he ran off on impulse into a cold night with Gertrude ('Gertie') Cowles, three years his senior.

This begins a life long trend as again and again Carl will run off somewhere new. Occasionally he will long for a return to Joralemon and to Gertie, his first accomplice. Carl's life moves through three "adventures."

These three adventures are also phases. The first is simply being young, the secon is living a life of adventuring and daring for adventure's sake, and the third is finally seeking love as a way of unifying his fragmented life.

An interesting note is that during the second set of adventures Hawk has, which includes trips to California and Panama while acquiring the nickname "Hawk," he runs into Istra Nash, the same artist that Mr. Wrenn met with in Sinclair Lewis's previous novel.

This novel, more than any other of Lewis, is extremely autobiographical, involving his notebooks from various years and places, as well as his courtship and marriage with Grace Hegger.

This novel was well received, and seen by many critics as an advancement in both style and skill from the original novel Our Mr. Wrenn. Several critics thought that "Hawk" showed glimpses of the potential for greatness, but it wouldn't be realized with this book.

Only 6,500 copies were published--over double of "Our Mr. Wrenn" but not nearly enough for a full year's work. Still, critically this book garnered enough positive reviews to ensure future book contacts.

eBay is Great for finding Sinclair Lewis 1st Editons!

I've found several good ones here, even the occasional rare first edition from pre 1920!

Links on Sinclair Lewis and his work

Various sites and lenses on Sinclair Lewis and his antique novels.

The Most Valuable Sinclair Lewis Novel I Own

Right now, it's Trail of the Hawk

Trail of the Hawk is currently the most valuable first edition that I own. At one time I owned a first edition, first printing of The Innocents but I ended up selling that for an excellent profit. Bought for under $60, sold for $775. That was a very good day.

The copy I have now is excellent, and would fetch around $350. However, I am rather partial to it, but I did track down another first edition, so I actually own two copies of "Trail of the Hawk" right now. The one that's just in good condition is probably more in the $125-150 range as opposed to $350, but that "cheap" one would pay for both of my copies, with about $5 left over, so I'm leaning that way.

That's the one thing about becoming a book hound. Sometimes you get favorites you just don't want to let go :)

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I just bought The trail of the Hawk by Sinclair Lewis author of Our Mr. Wrenn, trying to find what the value is on this book. Great condition

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      I have not read The Trail of the Hawk but I will be now.

      Great lens.



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      ank 9 years ago

      hi Monteath,. i really liked your lens. it gives full-fledged information regarding Sinclair Lewis's The Trail of the Hawk. i have also created a lens-

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