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Babbitt (Bantam Classics) by Sinclair Lewis

Babbitt (Bantam Classics) (original 1922; edition 1998)

by Sinclair Lewis

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Title:Babbitt (Bantam Classics)
Authors:Sinclair Lewis
Info:Bantam Classics (1998), Edition: First Thus, Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Read, Your library

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Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1922)


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Strangely enjoyable. The main character, George Babbitt, isn't particularly likable -- but then, neither are the people he does business with. The story starts with his pompous viewing of his self-worth, dives into a mid-life crisis which includes completely switching world and political views, back up to a doting husband, and ultimately ends with his deciding his son should live the life he always wanted to but never was brave enough to.

I can't quite say why this was so easy to read. Perhaps the characters were well drawn, or maybe it was fun watching Babbitt stumble over his own bombacity. I did like, it though, although I'm sure there was a ton of symbolism my English Lit teacher would shout at me for not catching.

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  limamikealpha | Jun 5, 2014 |
Change the technology and take away prohibition and this story could've been written last week. Hard to believe it was written in 1922. I thought this went so far but wasn't willing to go too far, but then again it was written in the twenties. Lot of proto-types for Babbitt on TV. ( )
  charlie68 | Jan 17, 2014 |
It took me a while to get into this book. Babbitt is supposed to be a satirical, ironic look at American life in the 1920's - after World War I and before the Great Depression, a period of increasing prosperity for America. Sinclair Lewis struck me as almost intentionally forcing himself to write in the idiom of his period, rather than with a neutral, literary language, and I did not find the style comfortable. That's my problem, not Lewis'.

The story is of a middle-aged, fairly successful, real estate dealer who aspires to become more than just "fairly" successful at the same time he seems to be going through a mid-life crisis: he feels lost in himself, and wants to experience a more "liberal" lifestyle. He discovers, however, that the pursuit of success and a liberal lifestyle may not be compatible.

Ultimately, it is a story of learning about oneself, the choices one has to make to achieve one's dreams, and the recognition that life is a series of compromises between idealism and pragmatism.

What amazes me is the extent to which the situations in which Babbitt finds himself actually apply almost precisely to today's America: the attitudes, the aspirations, the contradictions and inconsistencies - the dichotomy between "liberalism" and "conservatism." Putting aside the dialectic differences, this book could have been written in the past 15 years with no loss of relevance. The pure genius of the book is that it applies to life in any era.

An exceptional book. I may not read Lewis again, but I am glad that the one book of his that I have read is so timeless. ( )
  jpporter | Oct 23, 2013 |
This is inferior I felt to Main Street, which is the only Sinclair novel I had read before I read this. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 29, 2013 |
What I love about old books like "Babbitt" is their historical authenticity. Had it been written today, it would have required an enormous amount of research just to provide trivial details... the way people talked, decorated their homes, and interacted socially. Like saying “doggone” instead of damn, “corking” instead of excellent, and “davenport” instead of sofa. Like homes having “sleeping porches” prior to the invention of air conditioning, people driving “Flivvers”- a reference to the Model T Ford, and inviting guests to “tea” meant putting on a tuxedo - which was always just called a “dinner jacket”. You are definitely taking a step back in time while reading "Babbitt".

I imagine some readers today may feel "Babbitt" has a deep ponderous message embedded in it’s pages about the evils of capitalism and narrow minded intolerance of conservative Republicans. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and Sinclair Lewis presents both of them beautifully. In 1921, inside the small mid-western city of Zenith, the capitalists were generally viewed as lying, cheating, pretentious, greedy bigots. And the liberals were frequently portrayed as cheap, vulgar, hot-headed, uneducated, immoral losers.

Although it was ninety years ago when this story took place, there was just as much class division, political unrest, and social angst as today. Babbitt was a 46 year old man with two children, a respectable, much admired wife, a new house in the suburbs, membership to several prestigious clubs and organizations, a wide circle of friends, and a successful real estate business. For what more could he ask?

Everything was going “corking” until Babbitt had an untimely mid-life crisis and started to question everything he ever imagined to be ideal. He seemed to be the only adult in the entire book who realized people should be entitled to their own opinions and judged as individuals rather than stereotyped and pigeonholed based on the company they keep.

Through several dinner parties, nights out at dance halls, vacations, business meetings, and evenings at home, Sinclair Lewis illustrates a myriad of American cultural and social conventions of the day... meaningless social activity, name dropping, emulation of the rich, social climbing and the lack of social mobility, women’s limitations, attitudes towards religion, sex, and moral issues.

The lack of sophistication - even in the upper echelon of this urban town - is summed up when hearing from his wife that the next door neighbor in their elite development speaks three languages, Babbitt replies, “So do I - American, baseball, and poker!” George Babbitt was chauvinistic, pompous, and egotistical... but no more so than most other men in town. At least he made a feeble attempt to break through the social barriers and find more meaning in life.

Upon publication "Babbitt" was an immediate success. Though readers disdained the character of George Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis’ forthright portrayal of life in an American city achieved literary distinction. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize but upstaged by Willa Cather’s "One of Ours", it is still a wonderfully creative and entertaining novel. ( )
3 vote LadyLo | Jul 9, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sinclair Lewisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Edith Wharton.
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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.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553214861, Mass Market Paperback)

When Babbitt was first published in 1922, fans gleefully hailed its scathing portrait of a crass, materialistic nation; critics denounced it as an unfair skewering of the American businessman. Sparking heated literary debate, Babbitt became a controversial classic, securing Sinclair Lewis’s place as one of America’s preeminent social commentators.

Businessman George F. Babbitt loves the latest appliances, brand names, and the Republican Party. In fact, he loves being a solid citizen even more than he loves his wife. But Babbitt comes to resent the middle-class trappings he has worked so hard to acquire. Realizing that his life is devoid of meaning, he grows determined to transcend his trivial existence and search for greater purpose. Raising thought-provoking questions while yielding hilarious consequences, and just as relevant today as ever, Babbitt’s quest for meaning forces us to confront the Babbitt in ourselves—and ponder what it truly means to be an American.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:39 -0400)

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Tale of a coniving, prosperous real estate man who becomes totally corrupt.

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