The aspect of youth and being young is a prevalent aspect found in George Babbitt, the main character of Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt. On the outside, Babbitt comes across as a very conformist and self-serving individual. However, upon further examination, Babbitt becomes less and less a prevalent societal figure, and more so an individual who is haunted by indecision and insecurity. Like a young child, he frequently enters into an imaginative world where he pretends that he is someone else.
He also laments over his shortcomings and failure by desiring to return to his youth. He views youth as an escape from the pressures and hindrances of his job and family. George Babbitt is also unable to communicate with the young people of his day and age, specifically with his own children. In short, youth is an important aspect which shapes Babbitt's character. During many instances in the novel, Babbitt enters into a state of imaginative fantasy where he takes on the persona of another person whom he admires or wishes to emulate.
He often times takes on another persona in order to make himself believe that he can accomplish what that person did, even though he knows he truly cannot. 'He drove happily home, and to Mrs. Babbitt he was William Washington Earthorne,' (209), is an instance where Babbitt not only wishes to be in the same economic standing as Eatthorne, the wealthy banker, but he also uses this fantasy to disguise the fact that he is unhappy with who his family perceives him to be.
His invented military rank of colonel during his time on the Sunday School campaign is another example of how Babbitt needed others to address him as something other that an average, middle – class citizen. 'He was plumply pleased by salutes on the streets from unknown small boys; his ears were tickled to ruddy ecstasy by hearing himself called 'Colonel,'' (210). In this instance, Babbitt is again entertained and amused by pretending that he is something bigger than what he actually is.
Lewis uses these imaginative sequences to illustrate that George Babbitt is generally unhappy with who he is, he is not content with simply being a regular real-estate agent, but rather, he is struggling to define himself as something as something that will set him apart from all others. George Babbitt experiences alienation with the youth of the 1920's, especially with his children, Verona and Ted. This is evident in his disgust at how the young people at Ted's party behaved and treated Babbitt. 'These children seemed bold to him, and cold,' (218) is an example of the indifference the children showed Babbitt.
He wanted his children to have no part in such frivolity, but rather for them to try and emulate him, as he wants Ted to go to the State University, in the same way that he did. He also has trouble listening to the opinions of his children. He often dismissed Verona's ideas as being 'radical' and 'foolish. ' Babbitt also has a desire to be young again, and escape the hindrances of his job and married life. When Babbitt, 'bought a violent yellow tie, to make himself look young... ,' (320), he is trying to recapture his youthful vigor in order to impress members of the opposite sex.
There was also an instance in the forests of Maine where Babbitt commented on the monotony of his life with his wife, 'If she wouldn't be so darn satisfied with just settling down,' (320), and later he denounced the life he had in Zenith by exclaiming 'I'll be fifty in three years. Sixty in thirteen years. I'm going to have some fun before it's too late. I don't care! I will! ' (321). Babbitt is obviously unhappy with the way in which his life has turned out, and as such, desires to escape the monotony which he feels has trapped him by trying to recapture his youth.
Babbitt reflects on how he has wasted his life by becoming tied down to a job that he does not wish to pursue and a family that he feels is more of a hindrance that a blessing, 'He saw the years, the brilliant winter days, and all the long sweet afternoons which were meant for summery meadows, lost in such brittle pretentiousness,' (224). In conclusion, youth and the aspects thereof are an intricate part of understanding the character of George Babbitt.
His desire to recapture being young exemplifies his disappointment of his family, job, and life in general. The pleasure he receives by imagining that he is someone else illustrates that he would, in fact, rather be someone other than himself. He is however, incapable with communicating or understanding the young people of his own time, as demonstrated by his inability to listen and respond to his own children. To put it bluntly, George Babbitt is scared of aging and as a result, wants to be young again. These aspects of youth and youthful desire help provide a better, more distinct view into the character of George Babbitt. The strict conformity which he hides behind becomes a mask, and he becomes a pathetic and sorrowful character.