Babbitt

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New Amer Library Classics, Aug 7, 2007 - Fiction - 402 pages
Prosperous and self-satisfied, George Babbitt is forced by a personal catastrophe to reexamine his values and mount a short-lived rebellion against public opinion. Considered by many to be Sinclair Lewis' greatest novel, this social satire, set in a Midwestern city during the economic boom years of the early 1920s, depicts the hollow core of the American vision of success, and its protagonist's name has become a synonym for middle-class complacency. Unabridged republication of the original (1922) text.

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User Review  - ladycato - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

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User Review  - DeltaQueen50 - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

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About the author (2007)

The first American to win the Nobel Prize for literature, Sinclair Lewis was a busy and popular writer whose novels chronicle the social history of his time and constitute what Maxwell Geismar called "a remarkable diary of the middle class mind in America." The work that won him the Nobel Prize was a group of novels that realistically depicted various aspects of American life. Main Street (1920), his first important work, is a scathing picture of provincialism in the small town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, which Lewis modeled on his hometown of Sauk Centre, while Babbitt (1922), a moving account of midlife crisis experienced by an average American businessman, actually succeeded in adding a new word to the American dictionary---babbitry, or the ultimate in shallow, middle-brow materialism. Continuing a blend of social criticism with sympathy, Lewis wrote Arrowsmith (1925), in which the idealism of a devoted scientist and physician is contrasted with the materialistic forces that try to capitalize on his discoveries. Though offered the Pulitzer Prize for this novel, he refused it. Elmer Gantry (1927) is a portrait of a dissolute but successful evangelist, while Dodsworth (1929) deals with a retired industrialist whose material success and ambitious wife have failed to provide emotional sustenance. Lewis succeeded in bringing to life the talk and actions common to the middle classes of America. Although some of the conditions he describes now seem peculiarly dated, his people remain convincingly real. Lewis's sense of responsibility to society seemed to become all the stronger after his Nobel Prize, and some of the books he wrote afterward have topical subjects that now seem rather dated. It Can't Happen Here (1935) forecast an imaginary coming of fascism to the United States, Gideon Planish (1943) exposed corruption in organized philanthropy, Kingsblood Royal (1947) was one of the first novels to deal with the evils of racial prejudice, and Cass Timberlane (1945), originally subtitled A Novel of Husbands and Wives, gave a long, clear look at the institution of marriage in its story of a Minnesota judge and his young second wife. If American novelists of this century can be divided into opposing camps of social historians and literary artists, Lewis clearly belongs to the former group. As a result, he has seemed to fade further into the past as writer after writer has taken his place as an authoritative observer of the times. However, the characters he created and the human situations he has depicted have sometimes caused him to be compared to Dickens. He remains one of the great portrayers of American middle-class life in the 1920s.

Sally E. Parry is Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Illinois State University.

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