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Babbitt (1922)

by Sinclair Lewis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,623851,987 (3.72)298
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 298 mentions

English (78)  Catalan (2)  Portuguese (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (84)
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
Beautifully portrayed imperfect life of a 1920s American businessman. Evokes the type and times very well. ( )
  sfj2 | Mar 28, 2022 |
Here's what I wrote after reading in 1986: "A discomforting look at middle America. Unfortunately (yet maybe at times fortunately) it's easy to find a piece of Babbitt in ourselves, in that pinnacle of cities, Zenith, in knowing and associating with some of society's "best" people. Rather depressing, really." ( )
  MGADMJK | Jan 3, 2022 |
I echo what many other Goodreads reviewers have said. This book, though written in the 1920's, could easily be a contemporary story now. Forty plus year old man going through a classic midlife crisis. Fantasizes about new cars, younger women and more adventures...Dissatisfied with his status in society and in business. Unhappy with his marriage and feels neglected by his children.

He strays, not only in his marriage but from his business, career and social conventions. There are plenty of such stories in 2019. The newspapers and social media are full of CEOs, executives, politicians and celebrities taking the liberties that George Babbitt took.

How Babbitt turned around his life and came upon a realization that he shares with his son at the end of the book is compelling reading.

This book was a very pleasant surprise. I enjoyed this story very much. ( )
  writemoves | Oct 26, 2021 |
Go into a bookstore these days and often the only book you’ll find by Sinclair Lewis is It Can’t Happen Here, a satirical look at the rise of a fascist regime in America in the 1930s. Lewis’ book enjoys a resurgence every few years as American politics grows polarised, and never more so than following the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Within weeks of Trump’s inauguration, the main shop window of one of London’s largest bookstores was filled with copies of It Can’t Happen Here. And that’s a pity, because Lewis’ forgotten earlier books, and in particular Babbitt, may offer a greater insight into the Trump era. Babbit and Lewis’ previous work, Main Street, are the reasons he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first American author to receive the honour.

George F. Babbitt is a real estate dealer in the fictional mid-western city of Zenith. His life revolves around his business, his family and his network of friends who he meets through his church and the various clubs he joins — the Elks, the Boosters, and so on. Babbitt sees the world through the eyes of a businessman; if he were to write an autobiography, he might well have entitled it The Art of the Deal. He is not intellectually curious, has no interest in foreign travel, is convinced that his country (and state, and city) are the very best in the whole world. He detests immigrants and labor unions. Does any of this sound familiar?

Babbitt is deeply opinionated and develops a reputation as an orator of sorts, though he has nothing particularly interesting or original to say. In the world of business, and later at home, he lies and cheats with impunity and without remorse.

Babbitt is a particular “American type” and this book, even more than It Can’t Happen Here, offers insights into today’s American president. ( )
1 vote ericlee | Sep 15, 2020 |
Written 95 years ago, still timely. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sinclair Lewisprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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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.

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