My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt is American Satire at its best. No part of 1920s American is safe from his witty criticism. Babbitt is a middle-aged businessman, living in a small Midwestern city where the chief value is conformity. Lewis satirizes the business of conformity as Babbitt unsuccessfully pursues a climb up the social ladder.
Babbitt grows discontented as his climb and pursuit of material goods doesn’t seem to bring him happiness. He experiments with nonconformity, but finds that his forays are both destructive to his own life and are really just a different type of conformity in their own right. Near the end, Babbitt has an epiphany causing event and repents his nonconformity, though he retains some of the empathy and hope for meaningful life that he has learned through his experience. Even though Babbitt has returned to conformity, Lewis hints at the possibility of change through his rebellious son.
Bottom Line: Babbitt remains a popular classic because of its wit as well as the endurance of the issues of conformity/nonconformity and its criticism of the “hollowness” of the capitalism and the American Dream.