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Babbitt (1922)

by Sinclair Lewis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,251801,921 (3.71)291
In the fall of 1920, Sinclair Lewis began a novel set in a fast-growing city with the heart and mind of a small town. For the center of his cutting satire of American business he created the bustling, shallow, and myopic George F. Babbitt, the epitome of middle-class mediocrity. The novel cemented Lewis's prominence as a social commentator. Babbitt basks in his pedestrian success and the popularity it has brought him. He demands high moral standards from those around him while flirting with women, and he yearns to have rich friends while shunning those less fortunate than he. But Babbitt's secure complacency is shattered when his best friend is sent to prison, and he struggles to find meaning in his hollow life. He revolts, but finds that his former routine is not so easily thrown over.… (more)
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» See also 291 mentions

English (73)  Catalan (2)  Portuguese (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (79)
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
Written 95 years ago, still timely. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
Excellent writing and witty mocking of the "good ole boy" network. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Apr 3, 2020 |
A big DNF for me! I stuck with it for 105 pages of 464, but it was so dry and boring that I'm not going to waste any more time with this book. It is a satire on 1920's American life and the main character is such an egoist and narcissist that there just isn't anything to draw me to the book. ( )
  Tess_W | Aug 25, 2019 |
This book is everything I dislike about literary fiction, and yet it's so darn well written I'm giving it four stars, even though I never would have finished the thing if it wasn't for research purposes. Lewis can WRITE. There's a reason he's remembered as one of the great writers of the 20th century.

Here's the thing about Babbit. He's a horrible person, but he's like people all of us know. The book really centers around a catastrophic mid-life crisis. Babbit is sanctimonious, loud-mouthed, a sexual harrasser, desperate to climb the social ladder. He's largely spineless--he follows whatever crowd holds sway over him. Most of all, we are never intended to like him, but we relate to him in small ways all the same. It was only by the power of Lewis's writing that I stuck with the book, because this really hit on so many tropes that I loathe, especially when it comes to spousal abuse (though Babbit's sin in this regard is mostly in supporting his best friend's abuse/near-murder of his wife) and Babbit's extramarital affair. I mean, I HATED this guy, but I kept reading, and on the last page I genuinely pitied him. This book is an exercise is incredible character development.

One of the reasons I braved this book was due to the social impact it had in the 1920s. In several books from that period, I have come across mentions of people being considered "like Babbit." The book was a bestseller, and since we all know people like Babbit, it's no wonder the name entered popular culture. ( )
  ladycato | Jul 19, 2018 |
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis is a satirical novel about American culture and society that explores the dullness of middle class American life as well as the social pressures there are toward conformity. Written and set in the early 1920’s, many of Lewis’ observations are still valid today. The novel is set in the fictional Midwestern town of Zenith where George F Babbitt, a 46 year old prosperous real estate broker is on the verge of a mid-life crisis.

Babbitt ‘s family consists of his devoted wife, Myra, and his three children, Verona, Ted and Tinka. The social status of the Babbitt family is important to George and they constantly are on the lookout to improve their status in the community. Yet, there is a bit of a rebel inside George and when his best friend ends up going to prison and his wife goes away to nurse her sister, George mounts his own small rebellion, but eventually realizes that it is too late for him to change and retreats back into the security of conformity. He does however, encourage his son, to explore his possibilities and not just settle into life.

I thought Babbitt was a very interesting read. Instead of the glamour and glitz of the 1920’s, this book gives us a glimpse of middle class American life in ways that are both insightful and humorous. The middle class became a recognizable force during this decade and this book helps us to understand it’s place and importance in society. My opinion of George Babbitt went through a number of changes during the course of the story for which I credit the author for developing such a well rounded character. And although the slang and much of the dialogue was dated to it’s time, in many ways this was a timeless story. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jun 5, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lewis, SinclairAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dospevska, NeliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krauss, KennethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robles Pazos, JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods.
When Sinclair Lewis published Main Street in 1920, he was the author of four inconsequential novels that had appeared over the preceding six years. (Introduction)
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Tantor Media

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