Babbitt Study Guide

Babbitt Study Guide

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Another satirical piece that exposes the flaws of American society by Sinclair Lewis was a huge success, and we can completely understand why it brought to its author the Nobel Prize in literature and why the word “babbitt” became a definition for the people who desperately try to fit themselves into the standards of the average middle-class by all costs.

After the World War I and the economic depression, the idea of starting a small business and turning into a self-made man became for lots of the people a kind of lifebuoy that saved them from the psychological depression and despair. The dream about success bordering with delusion engulfed lots of them, creating the class of ever-cheerful people who try to always think positively and measure everything with financial success and fame they can get through it. The consumer society became a part of the promoted American identity as the opposition to Communism, and for some of the people it substituted the previous values entirely.

The plotline - if we can call it plotline - follows the life of the aforementioned Babbitt, a successful real estate agent, his attitude to life and the relationships with family members, especially with his daughters. We see how shallow is his worldview and how thoroughly he divides people by their income, clubs they visit and people they befriend and it seems that nothing can change here. But something just breaks one moment and Babbitt becomes a completely different person.
We can’t expect the drive of the “Fighters Club” here, but the very idea of individuality and repressed anger versus conformity and comfort is present in “Babbitt” in the same quantity. Still, the best thing in this book is that Babbitt’s protest leads not to the destruction, but to self-discovery and self-development, that is worth everything he has lost in his rebellion against the social standards.

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