Babbitt and the Bildungsroman Genre

Babbitt is unconventional as far as bildungsromans go because of the age of its protagonist. George Babbitt is in his early 40s, but he does go through a major enlightenment and struggles between liberty (rebellion here) and socialization (represented as conformity).

Babbitt’s world is one where conformity is king. Babbitt marries and goes into business because that is what is expected of him. He conforms completely to his surroundings (he is over-socialized) until chapter twenty-two when he receives a shock that shatters his view of the world and causes him to rebel against society.

None of Babbitt’s attempts at rebellion lead to anything meaningful for him, and his foray into flapper culture even shows that conformity is the norm even for the counter culture.

His wife’s illness draws Babbitt back into conformity and he realizes that rebellion is merely futile for him, although he does encourage his son to make his own life and not merely do what is expected of him.

Ultimately Sinclair Lewis’ novel portrays a society free from liberty (here meaning the ability of a person to do what they want rather than what is expected of them from society) and ruled by conformity, though hope remains for future generations to rebel and follow their own way.

Click here to read a short biography of Sinclair Lewis

Click here for Babbitt part I analysis

Click here for Babbitt part II analysis

Click here for Babbitt part III analysis


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