The Role Of Conformity In Sinclair Lewis's Babbit

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In the satirical novel Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt goes through life under the assumption that the only way to achieve happiness is through conforming in society. He looks towards wealth and material possessions to provide him with that happiness and social status. Once he becomes aware of his ignorance, he makes an effort to change his ways. However, Babbitt’s way of thought, filled with hypocrisy, is too far gone.
Throughout most of the novel, Babbitt is ignorant with regard to how much conformity has conditioned him. He is oblivious to how much society has changed his way of thinking. All of Babbitt’s thoughts regarding relationships, business, family, and social life are based upon his ability to conform to Zenith's standard of
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Babbitt represents the typical middle class man only concerned with how others see him. From the beginning, his life style showed his need for material possessions starting with his luxurious home. It had all the modern conveniences, including the “best of nationally advertised and quantitatively produced alarm clocks, with all the modern attachments (Lewis 5). However, the description of the house reveals that its sleek modern appearance is just that-appearance. All Babbitt gets from his material possessions is the praise and jealousy of others. He receives no true happiness from them. Zenith uses this constant need of material objects as a distraction. People in society will not focus on the corruption resulting from the immense amount of conformity when all they strive for is being higher in status. The middle classes favor appearance over substance since their entire outlook on life is influenced by their worship of material objects. One instance of this worship is with Babbitt’s car. He cares so much for his car that he tells his son that he needs to get a “car of [his] own, like lots of the fellows” rather than just letting his son use his (Lewis 26). This shows the middle classes’ obsession with material objects. For Babbitt, his car represents “poetry and tragedy, love and heroism” since his life lacks all these characteristics (Lewis 31). His lifestyle is filled with …show more content…
Due to his ignorance, he is more than happy to conform to the standards set for him by the rest of society. However, as he becomes more and more aware of the corruption in Zenith, he becomes less content with its ideals. But due to the resounding amount of hypocrisy found in the middle class, Babbitt tends to resort back to those ideals. He continues to worship material possessions even though they bring him no happiness. He tries to rebel and seek individualism but the rejection from society was too hard for him to take. He knew that his time was up and the only way the middle class can change is through the future generations. This is where the idea of hope comes into the novel. When Ted decides to marry Eunice Littlefield in secret after deciding not to go to college and to work as a mechanic instead, he is condemned by everyone except Babbitt. He realizes that Ted has developed qualities that he has never obtained including individuality, courage, and independence. In Zenith these qualities are frowned upon since they do not fit in with the conformity in society. However, Babbitt encourages Ted to follow his dreams since he wants his son to live a more fulfilling life then he

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