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Babbitt (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
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Babbitt (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.8 192
by Sinclair Lewis, Kenneth Krauss (Introduction)

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Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New


Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

In the small midwestern city of Zenith, George Babbitt seems to have it all: a successful real-estate business, a devoted wife, three children, and a house with all the modern conveniences. Yet, dissatisfied and lonely, he’s begun to question the conformity, consumerism, and competitiveness of his conservative, and ultimately cultureless middle-class community. His despairing sense that something, many things are missing from his life leads him into a flirtation with liberal politics and a fling with an attractive and seemingly “bohemian” widow. But he soon finds that his attempts at rebellion may cost more than he is willing to pay.

The title of Sinclair Lewis’s 1922 satire on American materialism added a new word to our vocabulary. “Babbittry” has come to stand for all that’s wrong with a world where the pursuit of happiness means the procurement of things—a world that substitutes “stuff” for “soul.” Some twenty years after Babbitt’s initial success, critics called Lewis dated and his fiction old-fashioned. But these judgments have come to seem like wishful thinking. With Babbitry evident all around us, the novel is more relevant than ever.

Kenneth Krauss teaches drama at the College of Saint Rose, in Albany, New York. His books include Maxwell Anderson and the New York Stage, Private Readings/Public Texts, and The Drama of Fallen France.

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Barnes & Noble
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Read an Excerpt

From Kenneth Krauss’s Introduction to Babbitt

In his novel Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis took a close look at what America was fast becoming and described it in clear, often damningly accurate and hilarious detail. In the 1920s, when readers first encountered the novel, they glimpsed new trends and tendencies that were going on all around them; we, as readers, today are in the curious position of witnessing just when and how the world as we know it—the world that we see virtually everywhere and that we tend to take for granted—came into being.

The hero, or at least main character, of the book is hardly unusual. He is distinguished by neither intelligence nor stupidity, bravery nor cowardice, kindness nor cruelty. Although he manages to demonstrate all of these characteristics, none of them can quite characterize him. In fact, George F. Babbitt is most interesting because he is not interesting, because he manages to locate himself between the extremes, positioning himself resolutely in the middle. He is, to put it simply, a middle-class, middle-brow, middle-aged, middle-American male who is about to embark on a midlife crisis. As a resident of the middle-sized Midwestern city of Zenith in 1920, he is poised on the brink of a great boom in the American economy and all the daring social changes that came along with it.

Yet as a person of some (although it must be stressed, just some) feeling, moral conscience, and spiritual belief, he is also heir to the terrible disillusionment that followed the Great War (World War I), which, in fact, is directly mentioned only once in the book. Babbitt may not have participated in the “war to end all wars,” but his experience of his world makes clear in subtle ways just how America was struggling to redefine and, at the same time, to remain itself after the cataclysm. Babbitt, who was (and probably still is) regarded by many as a (if not the) quintessential American type, stands at the center of a culture that, to borrow from Charles de Gaulle, had gone from barbarism to decadence without the usual intervening phase of civilization.

George F. Babbitt may not be a very likeable character, but he is difficult to hate completely. Ultimately, like some, but not all, of the people who inhabit Sinclair Lewis’s fiction, he makes his peace with his times by choosing to go along with them and with all that he has previously questioned. The notion of conformism, which Babbitt at times praises and at other times ridicules, plays a powerful role in the way he lives his life. One may not wish to be exactly like everyone else, but at the same time, one cannot afford to be too different. The pressure of others is inescapable in the end.

Nevertheless, perhaps his very lack of anything outstanding, whether for good or ill, makes Babbitt a genuinely outstanding modernist creation. Babbitt functions in literature as most people appear to function in life: He blends in, goes along, tries to uphold what is generally thought to be best for himself and perhaps his family and, at the same time, strives to make a buck. This blend of business not with pleasure but with what is supposed to be decency (which is never much fun) is an uneasy one. During the course of the narrative, Babbitt strays, questions his own misgivings, looks to end his own unhappiness, and rebels. In the end, he makes amends. Unwilling to accept the peril that comes with rebellion, Babbitt cautiously, but gratefully, interjects himself back into the social matrix that he has come so close to despising. He is saved at the expense of being lost.

Meet the Author

Born in 1885 in Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis worked as a newspaper journalist before becoming an acclaimed novelist. Known for their satirical take on modern affairs, his best-known books include Main Street, Arrowsmith, Babbitt, and Dodsworth. In 1930, he became the first U.S. writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Lewis died in1951 in Italy.

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Babbitt 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 192 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Babbitt is a story satirizing the fanciful, ridiculously materialistic lifestyle of an affluent middle-class American, George F. Babbitt, in the 1920s. Babbitt is a haughty businessman who gradually becomes so bored with social parties and an elite lifestyle that he hypocritically partakes in activities and principles he vilifies, such as drinking rampages, liberalism, and blatant infidelity. As the story progresses, Babbitt becomes less and less glued to his conventional and materialistic ideals and through spontaneous realizations and epiphanies, learns to develop treasured family ties and friendships. Lewis focuses on Babbitt¿s life, which is filled with the latest technological inventions, a surplus of money, and a handful of elite friends, yet devoid of meaning. Lewis utilizes Babbitt¿s character and unhappiness with life to portray when humans become obsessed with their social status, they will surrender their own comfort and happiness to advance their place in society. Babbitt is a beautiful masterpiece, honed to sharp precision and programmed to disclose the flagrant hypocrisy and immorality of the esteemed middle-class. When one weaves through Lewis¿s brilliant rhetoric, one will discover the ludicrousness of respected and orthodox American ideals in the early twentieth century. A small problem with Babbitt is that despite its magnificent oratory, it slowly and monotonously drags in certain parts of the novel. At times the language can become cloudy and difficult to comprehend. However, Lewis¿s strong rhetoric shines through these dull moments and successfully leaves a lasting impression on the reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Babbitt may be a fictional account, but Sinclair Lewis¿s satire contains a humbling effect for anyone in the American middle-class majority. The story centers on George F. Babbitt, a resident of Zenith City and the epitome of middle-aged businessman, Republican and capitalist in judgment. Throughout the course of the novel, Lewis portrays his message about the dangers of both conformity and trying to break from it through the development of Babbitt as a character. He begins as a highly opinionated and hypercritical real-estate salesman, unable to formulate original biases. As the story progresses, Babbitt realizes his dissatisfaction with the monotony of constant dinner parties, Booster Club meetings, and golf games. As a result, he resorts to such indecencies as drinking (the book is set during the Prohibition era), infidelity, and the most deadly of all sins a socially liberal ideology. From associating himself with the self-titled ¿Bohemian¿ lifestyle of his mistress and the leftist views of strikers in the streets, Babbitt not only incurs the ostracism of his companions, but discovers the Bohemian¿s hypocritical nature through their tedious routine and continuous parallels with the middle-class routine it tries to escape. Lewis¿s critical tale has continued to hold the same relevancy in American culture because of its timeless observations of a universal human tendency. Through the weaving of almost comedic satire into a description of a dull life, the book provides a haunting analysis of the displeasure almost all people feel with where they sit in society.
EagleIDEyes More than 1 year ago
This was my first Sinclair Lewis read. This book does doesn't fall into the category of 'page turner'. Rather, Babbit chronicles the struggles of a typical American father. In this book, there is something that most men could relate to. It was interesting to me to see how timeless some of the principles outlined in this book are. Although the setting is much earlier, the struggles Babbit deals with in his professional and personal life are in one way or the other played out today. Because of the steady even pace of this book, it did take me a while to get through, but I'm glad I did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book. One of my favorites. Sinclair Lewis writes in beautiful vivid language about issues that we tend to think of as unique to our own time, not the least of which is the standardization and homogenization of american culture. Bully!
wookietim More than 1 year ago
I like Lewis's writing, and have read a couple of his books. In this one his opinions come through loud and clear and with the least amount of distraction. Babbit is a wonderful character - worthy of pity and revulsion but also able to be identified with at the same time. You actually kind of cheer for him to change and are sad when he can't quite do that... although the and does show that maybe he has learned a little something at least. And in the end, that is the essence of a great literary character - the fact that he goes through a lot and maybe doesn't change completely but makes a believable step forward.
PAPA-NYC More than 1 year ago
I was concerned that it was going to be too much of a "period book" but the way that Sinclair Lewis shows how "in tune" he was with the male psyche was almost dumbfounding. The book is timeless and enjoyable at almost every page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 'Babbitt', Lewis introduces us to George Babbitt, a materialistic, proud man. When tragedy strikes, Babbitt finds himself questioning his very middle-class lifestyle and looking for meaning. An extremely well written book, Lewis mocks the emptiness of middle-class society. Although it takes place in the 1920's it is still true today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Author, Sinclair Lewis subtly takes us into George F. Babbitt's mind inclusive of his environment. I cannot remember the last time I read such a well written novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She walks in and looks at Phobe
mandomama More than 1 year ago
Babbitt is one book which I reread yearly. I adore Sinclair Lewis as one of America's best authors who captures the essence of American life at the turn of the century.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a superbly written satire on American materialism. Though the technology and language is outdated, George Babbitt's behaviors and actions are much like the members of today's middle-class society.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As American men go, George F. Babbitt, realtor of Zenith, is not particularly good, not notably bad. But he is restless and he grows worse, particularly after his best friend shoots his nagging wife and is sentenced to three years in prison. Babbitt then falls apart, chases women, drinks too much Prohibition era liquor and shows dangerous sympathy for labor unions and a radical local lawyer named Seneca Doane. Babbitt determines to break free and become accountable to no one. But his friends in the Boosters' Club, the Presbyterian Church, the Republican Party and other organizations make it clear that he must either return to being the old predictable, conformist George F. or he will find his business fading to nothing. *** Babbitt then sees the light, hauls himself up and is welcomed back to normalcy as husband, father, businessman, Republican and Booster. In token of atonement offered and accepted, one of his fraternal admirers, while on a trip to Catawba, George's birthplace, discovered the truth about Babbitt's middle initial. The 'F' stood for FOLLANSBEE (the name of the Babbitt family doctor). The once lapsed Babbitt was rebaptized on the spot back where he belonged. *** What fun the broad-minded Boosters had with that revelation of inner weakness before they forgave their Georgie! What name might they have otherwise guessed? *** 'Flivver, they suggested, and Frog-face and Flathead and Farinaceous and Freezone and Flapdoodle and Foghorn. By the joviality of their insults, Babbitt knew that he had been taken back to their hearts ... ' (Ch. 34). 'He knew that he would no more endanger his security and popularity by straying from the Clan of Good Fellows.'
Anonymous 11 months ago
Good actually!.. for now at least How about you?
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She appears, confused.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She walks in wearing a tight red and white striped crop top and navy blue high waisted shorts she looks around for something to do
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She huffs. "Rose, you are making an unnecessary scene. You too Grace."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He looked around. "Huwo"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She sinks into the couch
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Weelll. I came back
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She smiles "ok!" She goes to the tv and turns batman on then sits on the couch
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
she walks in looking around (sorry phone had broken...and Maddi mom wont let me get an account on g+ so i cant message u on hangouts...and if i do anyways it will send a thibg to her phone...e.e :/ ....but i do have kik :).....)