Nov. 30, 2006
Analysis of "Babbitt"
The novel Babbitt was written by Sinclair Lewis in 1922. The book's main character is named George Babbitt, a real estate salesman. He lives in a city called Zenith. The character of Babbitt is a conformist, a traditionalist type who Lewis is satirizing in this novel. The events of the book chronicle the events of 1920-21 in Babbitt's life. He has a sudden change of mindset and stops conforming for a time. He supports labor unions, has an affair with a widow, and is ostracized by the community. He eventually goes back to his old ways and is accepted once again, but encourages his son to break away.
Lewis, as we know, hated small towns. I also suspect that the issues in Babbitt were a part of living in one. Sinclair Lewis used Babbitt to illustrate negative themes such as conformity. Conformity is a major issue in this novel. Babbitt is the ultimate conformist. He believes, as Coolidge said, that "The business of America is business." Babbitt thinks that being successful in business is the greatest possible achievement for a man. He belongs to the Elks Club, Booster Club, Republican Party, etc., yet probably doesn't know why. He joined because he was expected to and everyone else did.
George Babbitt is very concerned with his status in relation others. He very much wants to be well-regarded. Babbitt helps a local conservative in his bid for mayor, because he wishes to improve his social position and power. Babbitt buys all the latest home appliances and expensive technology to "keep up" with his friends and neighbors. He wears his Booster Club button on his suit, and belongs to various social clubs.
Babbitt's hypocrisy was another theme covered in the novel. He advocates prohibition, but drinks privately. He contributes to the church, but has no faith. He believes in his own righteousness and is proud of his position in society, but cheats...