Babbitt Summary

Babbitt is a very intriguing book. The best feature of the book is the way it portrays the present situation of the middle-class people residing in the most developed countries of the world. The story is about the Babbitt family and how their beliefs, culture and life unfold through the courses of time. The protagonist George Babbitt is seen changing with time as he struggles each day to maintain his family and at the same time, his love life with his wife.

The story begins on 20th of April, 1920. George F Babbitt wakes up with a headache from last night’s drinking, smoking and gambling after being greeted by Myra Babbitt. He is a real estate broker who lives in the Floral Heights area of Zenith, a city bustling with skyscrapers and vehicles. He joins his family for breakfast. Verona wants to follow a socialist career but her father, George Babbitt wants her to be a secretary. Ted is in high school and is obsessed with girls, clothes and cars. Tinka is a young girl with sweet tooth. Babbitt reads the newspaper and Myra states a wish to visit his friend McKelvey’s place. Grumbling under his breath, he starts his car.

Babbitt does not particularly like his neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Doppelbrau. However, he does have a penchant for his PH.D. holder neighbor Howard Littlefield with whom he enjoys small intellectual talks. Babbitt stops for gas and has a rather self-dignifying conversation with the attendant. He provides a lift to a stranger who thanks him for his generosity. He complains about the streetcars and confirms his hatred for people who exaggerate charitable efforts. He rushes to work through the rustle and bustle of Zenith. After reaching his office, he dictates letters to his secretary, Ms. McGoun about whom he often fantasizes. This somehow makes him uneasy since he hates to think of anyone other than his wife since his marriage.

The next scene begins with Babbitt criticizing Chester Kirby Laylock for his soft approach in his advertisements for Glen Oriole. Babbitt believes that the approach for advertisements needs to be more forceful. Then, he joins Paul Riesling for lunch as he plans out strategies to quit smoking as always. Paul is his college roommate and the owner of a store that manufactures and sells roofing, a paternal service. Babbitt has a good memory for facts and prices but lacks greatly in fields of depth of knowledge. He is a member of Booster’s club where he preaches Ethics. His opinions, however, are that of a hypocrite in this field. He makes a good deal by making Purdy buy a lot at twice the price.

Babbitt thinks about a thousand things as he approaches Athletic Club for lunch. He plans on resolving his health issues, compliments himself on his expensive get-up and buys an expensive electric cigar. The Athletic club members are genuine hypocrites since they hate the posh and extravagant Union Club but as soon as they get invited to join, they leave the former one. Babbitt’s acquaintances praise him for his new lighter. Riesling talks about the downs in his business and his ever-nagging wife while Babbitt regrets that he is unhappy despite having achieving everything. Riesling makes statements about the corporate people and how their boring lives are filled with unethical practices. Babbitt resists but later on , agrees with Riesling.

Next, Babbitt is seen talking with and giving a tour to a client through the tenement. He tries to flaunt mechanical terms although he is not aware of the meaning of most of these words. Later on, he helps his father-in-law buy a car at a reasonable price since the car dealer was a member of Booster’s Club. Stanley, an employee of Babbitt, asks for a raise to which he declines and later agrees to since it is the logical approach. Babbitt reads comic strips at home while he has a talk with his son about education. Myra suggests to Babbitt that he has the sex talk with Ted and this takes him to a flashback. Meanwhile, an array of news is mentioned.

Babbitt has a booming business and thus, he throws a party for intellectuals. Babbitt feels like he needs a break and expresses it to Myra after failing to hide the feeling. He plans on going to Maine for a week to which she consents (with sadness in her heart). When they go to visit Riesling and Zilla’s house, they discuss about their idea of going to Maine beforehand. This gives rise to Zilla’s doubts about her husband cheating on her. While travelling to New York, they have a conversation about why immigrants should be restricted. They have a good time at Maine and Babbitt tries changing some habits.

Babbitt gets the chance to be a delegate for the annual convention of State Association of Real Estate Boards. Moreover, the Chairman gives him the responsibility of writing down his views on real estate for the convention. This puts him in a fix when his mind starts to clutter with a lot of unconventional things about the presentation. Finally, he manages to whip up a clear one. Babbitt tries to evaluate his writings and is praised very much for it. This boost of praise leads to him staying longer for the drinks, a burlesque show and later on, a visit to the brothel with the other delegates. He makes sure that the incidents of the evening will never be spoken of, afterwards.

Lucas Prout and Seneca Doane are two candidates for the election of Zenith. Babbitt, who is a good orator, gives the speeches on Prout’s behalf. Prout wins in the election. As a reward, Babbitt gets insider information about deals for paving highways. Then, he takes pride in the fact that local papers quote his speeches. Unfortunately, he gets no invitation to join the elite class. As a desperate approach, he decides to invite the McKelveys to dinner, which goes horrible. Babbitt then engages in club activities and agrees when Reverend John invites him to promote Sunday Schools. Babbitt makes plans and executes them successfully. As a result, he is successful in making a link with Earthorne alongside earning good reputation. They even conduct business together.

Meanwhile, Babbitt is also worried about Ted’s studies. He realizes that although Ted is terrible at law, he is really interested in mechanics and can even build a car out of spare parts. Ted’s love life with Eunice is unstable too. Once, he is caught dancing very closely to Eunice. Babbitt’s mother and brother come to visit him. Myra’s family moves into a hotel and the entire party decides to enjoy a meal together every Sunday. Babbitt manages to make three thousand dollars as profit from the insider news. However, Graff is fired for his dishonesty. Babbitt takes Ted on a business trip. Next, he spends a day with Doak. Babbitt catches Riesling with another woman but defends him against Zilla.

The next chapter, Babbitt is happy to be informed that he has become the vice president of Booster’s Club. Soon after this, he comes across the incident of Riesling shooting Zilla. Riesling is taken to jail and sentenced for three years. Babbitt starts to feel depressed at his failure to save Riesling. Myra and Tinka go on vacation and Babbitt meets Chum Frink while they are away. In the absence of his wife, he grows needy and tries to find his fairy girl in flesh. He flirts with his secretary, a lady named Louetta, a manicurist and so on. He makes a trip to Maine, wanders around the woods and finally returns home. On the way, he meets Seneca and they talk. Verona and Escott get engaged.

Then comes unrest from the laborers. The National guards are engaged to control them but this enrages Babbitt who expresses his vocal opinions about the matter only to be shut out from his friends. Meanwhile, an illicit relationship grows between Tanis and Babbitt. Myra starts to grow suspicious of him as he continues to stay out late every night. As he spends more time with Tanis and her friends, Babbitt becomes more prone to bohemian parties. He also flirts with Louetta. Babbitt is seen out with Tanis, which leads to people talking behind his back about his reputation. Myra returns from her ill sister and finds him still going out on evenings. She wants him to visit American New Thoughts League to which he refuses. After much resistance, he finally breaks his relationship off with Tanis.

Babbitt goes through a rough patch in his life. He refuses to join the Good Citizen’s league. Which leads to him losing his deals and his secretary to his rivals. Tanis rebuffs him but only Ted and Eunice comfort him. Myra soon falls ill and ends up in the hospital for seventeen days. Babbitt stays with her and they mend their broken relationship. Babbitt joins the league and gets his business in line again. In the end, he has a talk with Ted and encourages him to chase his dreams after marrying Eunice.