Skimming the Surface of Babbitt

Not all of us can have a great escape with that fairy child in our dreams. In Chapter 1 part II of the satirical phenomenon, Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis; he really gives you something to ponder. In the previous section Lewis had just ended saying how the city of Zenith was “built-it seemed- for giants”, putting this city on a pedestal for its community. This statement is already mocking the citizens of Zenith who are materialistic middle-classmen, like Babbitt.

Ironically enough, Babbitt is anything but a giant- as Sinclair himself says “There was nothing of the giant in the aspect of the man who was beginning to awaken. ” By saying this, a juxtaposition is established, giving note to how infinitesimal Babbitt is. Babbitt just aspires to be more of a “typical” middle-class man. For example, it is pointed out that he is sleeping on the porch of a Dutch Colonial house. In his society, to most middle-class people, this was an amenity.

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The beginning of this passage is most likely to set the scene to portray the “tired, overworked business-man”, which when you get to know Babbitt, he is truly just a “want to be”. Throughout the passage Babbitt is described as a wrinkly and stout man. “He made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry”, all of this goes into showing how utterly dull he was; he wasn’t the least bit creative, and just his look overall was uninteresting. Also, “prosperous” is used one of the many times that it will be used throughout the novel.

Sinclair makes a point in using it so much because that’s almost all of what these rich men in Zenith care about, being prosperous. Take notice to what he says before “prosperous” though, “seemed”. Why does he do this? Lewis does this quite frequently. It’s almost putting doubt in everything he says after it. “He seemed prosperous, extremely married, and unromantic”, it almost makes every word symbolize being fake, which “altogether unromantic [fake] appeared this sleeping porch”. After all this dull talk of describing Babbitt like his “khaki-colored pants”, and suddenly the mood changes with just the word “yet”.

Sinclair continues with “Yet Babbitt was again dreaming of the fairy child, a dream more romantic than scarlet pagodas by a silver sea. As soon as this fairy child is brought up the mood goes from dull to almost whimsical and beautiful. Sinclair describes “a dream more romantic than scarlet pagodas by a silver sea. ” You almost can’t even imagine a thought of this going through Babbitt’s head. Sinclair says “she [the fairy child] discerned gallant youth”, this goes hand-in-hand that the fairy child is a symbol. She symbolizes his dissatisfaction with his life.

And while she’s a symbol of beauty and youth, she also symbolizes his desire for anything but the life he’s living. There is also a theme represented. Words and phrases such as “Darted”, “slipped away”, “fleet”, “escape”, scattered throughout the passage, represent a theme of escaping. This theme of escape fits Babbitt because he is just a man failing to attempt to escape his confined life. Overall, the idea is that what the world sees this man as versus what goes on beyond the surface of his mind is different. Babbitt seems boring but he dreams of fanciful things and hopes to be greater than he is.



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