Lewis, Sinclair: Babbitt
(researched by Hae-Jin Choi)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in New York, 1922. Printed by The Quinn and Baden Company, in Rahway, New Jersey.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition was published in navy blue cloth with orange letters.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
i. blank ii. blank iii. title page iv. other novels by Sinclair Lewis v. title, author, and copy right information vi. blank vii. dedication page viii. blank 1-401 text ix-xiv. list of books published by Harcourt, Brace and Company. 208 leaves
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
It was neither introduced nor edited.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
It does not contain any illustrations.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The cover is in navy blue cloth. On the front cover, the title is in navy blue capital letters and is blocked off in orange. On the bottom of the front cover, the name of the author is in orange letters and only "S" and "L" are capitalized. The cover page has an orange border. The book is well printed. The letters are approximately 11 pt and are probably the courier font. The typography is very readable. Each chapter is divided by sections and the sections are marked off by Roman numerals. There are at least two sections in each chapter and at most, five sections.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The book is well-kept. The paper is ivory colored, smooth, and flat. It is very durable and thick.
11 Description of binding(s)
The title is in capitalized navy blue letters and is blocked off in an orange rectangle. The name of the author is also in navy blue and is in slightly smaller font than the title. There is a navy blue line that separates the title and the name of the author. The name of the publisher is in orange letters and is slightly smaller than the name of the author.
12 Transcription of title page
BABBITT
BY SINCLAIR LEWIS AUTHOR OF "MAIN STREET"

HB in square
NEW YORK HARCOURT,BRACE, & WORLD, INC.
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
University of Texas holds 56 manuscripts of Lewis and Yale holds 300 manuscripts,thus the manuscript of Babbit might be found in either of the two. Port Washington Public Library holds a contract between Lewis and Harcourt, Brace and Company, which proposes that Lewis give 100,000-200,000 words manuscript of Babbit to the company. In return, the publishers proposes to pay a royalty of ten percent of the published price on all copies which they sell. The call number for this contract is SLMS12.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
This book is dedicated to Edith Wharton. The last three pages of the book list new books from Harcourt, Brace and Company, as well as foreign books in translation from The European Library and also unusual collections of modern writing. Most of the books cost less than two dollars.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Harcourt, Brace, & Company issued another edition in 1931. The second edition was slightly larger in comparison to the first edition, which was 18.7cm, whereas the second edition measured 19 1/2 cm. In 1950, the Harcourt, Brace, & Company changed its name to Harcourt, Brace, & World and published another edition, which measured 21 cm. Further information on physical appearance of other editions were not available, but Harcourt, Brace, & Company published in 1949, 1961, and then in 1989 under the name of Harcourt, Brace, & Jovanovich.
The National Union Catalogue Pre-1956 Imprints vol.330 p.634 World CAT
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
There were two states of the first edition, in which the first one is less common. On page 49 line 2, "Purdy" is changed to "Lyte". On line 5, "my" is changed to "any". On page 75 line 34, "plain" is changed to "plane". On page 85 line 5, "means" is changed to "mean".
First Printings of American Authors V.3
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
P.F. Collier 1922 Editions for the Armed Services 1922 1943 Grosset & Dunlap 1922 1924 Modern Library 1922 1942 George J.McLeod Limited 1922 E.Nash & Grayson 1928 J.Cape 1924 1929 1945 1960 1968 Cape 1922 1932 1973 Albatross 1935 1947 Bantam Books 1922 1946 1998 New American Library 1950 1961 1963 1980 Signet Classic 1922 1961 1991 1998 G.K. Hall 1922 1998 Transction Publishers 1996 1997 Amereon House 1990 1992 Penguin Books 1996 Panther 1922 1974
World CAT The National Union Catalogue Pre-1956 Imprints, Vol330 p.634
6 Last date in print?
In print as of 1999. 1998 Bantam Books 1998 Macmillan Library Reference-Large Type 1997 Transaction Publishers-Large Type
Books in Print with Book Reviews-UVA Virgo
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
By 1936, 1,275,739 copies were sold.
According to 80 Years of Best Sellers by Hackett, Babbitt made the best sellers list on the basis of over 50 years cumulative sales.
Hackett, 80 Years of Best Sellers
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
The information was not available
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
An advertisement for Babbit first appeared on New York Times Book Review , on Oct.22 of 1922 on pg.19. It appeared on the bottom of the page, in a small rectangular shaped box. The title of the book was capitalized and was in black blocked letters. Sinclair Lewis was introduced as the author of Main Street. May Sinclair praised the book as "a great work of art".
New York Times Book Review Nove.5, 1922. In the middle of the page, the title was capitalized in black blocked letters. The advertisement introduced the book by saying, "England and America agree about Babbitt..." There were quotes by six authors, like H.G Wells who said, "I wish I could've written Babbitt". Hugh Walpole said, "It is fine tone,complete, and understanding". William Allen White said, "Sinclair Lewis is one of the major prophets of our time".
New York Times Nov.19, 1922, p.18 has an ad of H.G. Well writing a letter to Sinclair Lewis, prasing Babbitt. It starts off "My Dear Lewis..."
New York Times Book Review Oct-Dec 1922
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
In New York Times Nov.10, 1922 p.22, "For your Christmas list..." and Babbitt is one of them.
American Babbitt Bearing, a business servicing major industries in steel, paper, aluminum, cement, and motor repair shops.
St.Louis Bearing, the Babbit Bearing Specialists, bearings designed in bronze
Illustrated with scenes from the photoplay, A Warner Brother's screen classic New York, Grosset & Dunlap 1926
Netscape New York Times Book Review Oct-Dec 1922 World Cat
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
There was no information available.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Portuguese: Babbitt. Traducao de Leonel Vallandro. Porto Alegre, Brazil, Edicao da livraria do globo, 1942.
Romanian: Babbitt. Traducere de Jul. Giurgea. Bucharest, 1938.
Slovenian: Babbitt. Prevedel Izidor Cankar. Ljubljana, Drizavna Zalozba Slovenije, 1953.
Spanish: Babbitt. Traduccion directa del ingles y prologo de Jose Robles Pazos. 1.ed. Madrid, 1930.
Palestine: 1929
Chinese: Yuan Ching Chue pan shih yeh kung ssu, 1983. 1st translated by Wu Yin, 2nd by chung ch'iao.
French: Editions Rombaldi 1962 les Presses du Compagnonage translated by Maurice Remon
Norwegian: oslo? Gyldendal Norsk-Forlag 1993
World CAT The National Union Catalogue Pre-1956 Imprints vol 330
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
There is no evidence that this book was serialized.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
There is no evidence that this book had sequels or prequels.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
On February 7, 1885, Edwin J. and Emma Lewis, celebrated the birth of Sinclair Lewis in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. Their ancestor John Lewis had immigrated from Wales and settled in Conneticut around 1680. Sinclair Lewis spent few months at Oberlin Academy in Ohio, before entering Yale University in 1903. During college, he was active as an editor of "Yale Literary Magazine", but he also did some journalistic work for New Haven's "Journal and Courier". D
uring his senior year at Yale, he took an ephemeral flight to Upton Sinclair's cooperative colony at Helicon Hall, in Englewood, New Jersey, but soon returned to Yale and received his degree in 1907. His career as a novelist was launched off in 1912, wh
en he wrote a book for boys, titled, "Hike and the Aeroplane", under a pen name, "Tom Graham". In 1914, he wrote "Our Mr.Wrenn" under his own name. In 1915, he resigned from all editorial reponsibilities, in order to focus on his free lance writing. He
became known to the public through a short-fiction publication titled, "Century",which appeared in "Saturday Evening Post". Some of his most well known novels include "Main Street"(1920), "Babbitt"(1922), "Arrowsmith" (1925), "Mantrap"(1926),"Elmer Ganr
y"(1927), and many more. His last book, "World So Wide", was written in 1951, which is the year that he breathed last, in Rome, Italy. In addition to writing novels, he also wrote, starred in, and directed plays. Lewis collaborated with J.C. Moffitt to
write "It Can't Happen Here", which was produced by the Federal Theater in 1936, and he played the starring role in "Angela is 22", which was produced on the road in 1938-39. His most famous novel is probably "Babbitt", which was awarded a Nobel Prize i
n 1930, and he became the first American to receive such distinguished honor. According to the National Cyclopedia of American Biography, the plot of "Babbitt" revolves around an average middle-aged American man and it also records that in writing "Babbi
tt", Lewis visited various places that appear in the novel, conducted a research on real-estate business, which was the occupation of the main character, drew a fictional map of the town, composed notes on cars, furnishings, clothes, and clubs, and gave b
irth to a city called Zenith, which appears in his several other works. According to Martin Light in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "Babbitt" is famous for its satiric representation of American speech. An example of Babbitt's speech testifies to such cl
aim; "by golly, here they go and use up all the towels, every doggone one of'em"(Lewis 6) and in his lecture to his daughter, "Now look here! The first thing you got to understand is that all this uplift and flipflop and settlement-work and recreation i
s nothing in God's world but the entering wedge for socialism"(Lewis 17). Furthermore, the Dictionary of Literary Biography records that it is from the novel that the word "babbitt" originated, which refers to a person who conforms to prevailing social
and moral standards. According to the National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Lewis was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for "Arrowsmith", but he rejected it, for he felt that it did not fulfill the provision of the Pulitzer will, which stated that it should
be given to "American novel which shall best represent the wholesome atmosphere of American life and the highest standard of American mannners and manhood"(236). Lewis was married and divorced twice in his life; he married his first wife,Grace Livingston on April 15th, 1914, and divorced her in 1928,then he married his second wife, Dorothy Thompson, on May 14th, 1928, and divorced her in 1941. He has two sons Wells and Michael, Wells by his first wife Grace, and Michael, by his second wife, Do
rothy.
National Cyclopedia of American Biography. James T Whitt & Company: NJ, 1977. Light, Martin. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Gale Research Company: Michigan, 1981. Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt. Harcourt, Brace & World, INC: New York, 1950.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Lewis's Babbitt was generally received with much praise. R.M. Gay of Atlantic's Bookshelf said, "To follow Babbitt one day is to get a hideously true view of the worst in American ways and thoughts and speech at this particular moment of history, to feel its vulgarity and noise and glare, its aimless rush, its motor- and movie-madness, its spiritual emptiness". Many critics applauded Lewis for his representation of America, though some denied that it was not entirely true. For example, New Republic magazine recorded that "the fact that it is not the whole truth makes it not so much a novel as a terribly damaging attack on nearly all of our worst faults, and a brilliant piece of propaganda for some future." But many agreed that that it was an accurate reflection of American society, Burton Rascoe of New York Tribune said that Babbitt is "a successful, amusing, comic, human documention in our social history" and R.D. Townsend added that it is a piece of "meticulous exactness". Moreover, Babbitt was praised for its honest portrayal of a person; his short-comings as well as his positive attibutes. Greensboro Daily News said, "it will be hated, spat upon, possibly burned... but it will be read... because it attacks shams, hypocrisies, poltrooneries, and dishonesties", which exist in everyone. Furthermore, Babbitt was admired for its language, Carl Van Doren of Literary review said that it is "a masterpiece of language, a lexicon, a grammer, a commentray on American tongue." Lastly, Upton Sinclair adds, "I'm sorry to have praised this book so much because as it happens, it comes out one day ahead of my own novel... and I'm hoping that some of you will save a part of your money to buy a copy of that!"
R.M. Gay, Atlantic's Bookshelf N '22 620W Boston Transcript p.2 S 16 '22 950W Dial 73:456 O '22 230W Greensboro Daily News p.8 S 24 '22 1400W Literary Review p.21 S 16 '22 850W Literay Reivew p.23 S 16 '22 1200W Nation 115:284 S 20 '22 750W New Republic 32:152 O 4 '22 1400W New Statesman 20:78 O 21 '22 1750W New York Times S 24 '22 1800W New York Tribune p.8 s 17 '22 1500W North America 216:716 N '22 1000W Outlook 132:253 O 11 '22 500W Florence Fleisher, Springfield Republican p7a O 8 '22 1550W Lewig Lewisohn, The Nation, New York, vol.CXV, No.2985, September 20, 1922, pp.284-85
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Lewis's Babbitt was generally received with much praise. R.M. Gay of Atlantic's Bookshelf said, "To follow Babbitt one day is to get a hideously true view of the worst in American ways and thoughts and speech at this particular moment of history, to feel its vulgarity and noise and glare, its aimless rush, its motor- and movie-madness, its spiritual emptiness". Many critics applauded Lewis for his representation of America, though some denied that it was not entirely true. For example, New Republic magazine recorded that "the fact that it is not the whole truth makes it not so much a novel as a terribly damaging attack on nearly all of our worst faults, and a brilliant piece of propaganda for some future." But many agreed that that it was an accurate reflection of American society, Burton Rascoe of New York Tribune said that Babbitt is "a successful, amusing, comic, human documention in our social history" and R.D. Townsend added that it is a piece of "meticulous exactness". Moreover, Babbitt was praised for its honest portrayal of a person; his short-comings as well as his positive attibutes. Greensboro Daily News said, "it will be hated, spat upon, possibly burned... but it will be read... because it attacks shams, hypocrisies, poltrooneries, and dishonesties", which exist in everyone. Furthermore, Babbitt was admired for its language, Carl Van Doren of Literary review said that it is "a masterpiece of language, a lexicon, a grammer, a commentray on American tongue." Lastly, Upton Sinclair adds, "I'm sorry to have praised this book so much because as it happens, it comes out one day ahead of my own novel... and I'm hoping that some of you will save a part of your money to buy a copy of that!"
R.M. Gay, Atlantic's Bookshelf N '22 620W Boston Transcript p.2 S 16 '22 950W Dial 73:456 O '22 230W Greensboro Daily News p.8 S 24 '22 1400W Literary Review p.21 S 16 '22 850W Literay Reivew p.23 S 16 '22 1200W Nation 115:284 S 20 '22 750W New Republic 32:152 O 4 '22 1400W New Statesman 20:78 O 21 '22 1750W New York Times S 24 '22 1800W New York Tribune p.8 s 17 '22 1500W North America 216:716 N '22 1000W Outlook 132:253 O 11 '22 500W Florence Fleisher, Springfield Republican p7a O 8 '22 1550W Lewig Lewisohn, The Nation, New York, vol.CXV, No.2985, September 20, 1922, pp.284-85
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt was an immense success at the time of its publication. Lewis made a hero out of Babbitt, by drawing a portrait of a middle-aged real estate broker and identifying him as a representation
of an average American man. In response, the Americans laughed, cried, and raged over Babbitt. According to the Greensboro Daily News, Lewis attacked "shams and hypocrisies and poltrooneries and dishonesties that pretty nearly every reader, if he is ho
nest with himself, will realize that he has engaged in, directly, or indirectly at one time or another " (Book Review Digest 318). Upon its publication, the Dictionary of Literary Biography asserts that "babbitt" was added to the American vocabulary li
st, which refers to a person who conforms to the prevailing social and moral standards. On the other hand, the critics praised Babbitt for its representation of America, its universality, its depiction of struggle between self and the world, its portrayal
of mundane routines of life, and the hope that it offers at the end. Burton Rascoe of New York Tribune called it, "a successful, amusing, ironic, human document in our social history" (Book Review Digest 318). Furthermore, Babbitt was not only applaude
d by the critics, but also by fellow authors of his time. H.G. Wells said, "I wish I could've written Babbitt" (NY Times 18), Hugh Walpole commented, "it is fine tone, complete, and understanding" (NY Times 18), and William Allen White remarked, "Sincl
air Lewis is one of the major prophets of our time" (NY Times 18). Lewis's Babbitt is often compared to its predecessor, Main Street. In Main Street, Lewis focuses on a small town, Gopher Prairie, where he shatters the stereotypes of farmers living peacefully in a hick town. Instead, he depicts a small town of 1920's
, where "it has the same standardized products but with a less variety, the same social and political orthodoxies, but with less dissent"(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism 343). In this, Lewis turns Gopher Prairie into "a single expression of mechanic
al and fatuous dullness" (TCLC 343). The critics often compare Gopher Prairie to Babbitt, as cultural critiques and sociological ideal types. However, the critics praise Babbitt with much more enthusiasm, for it focuses on one character, Babbitt, and
offers a complete and honest portrayal of a man. The New York Times says, "in Babbitt, Mr. Sinclair Lewis triumphs precisely where in Main Street he failed. By fixing attention firmly on one superb central figure he has achieved an admirable effect of
unity and concentration" (Book Review Digest 318). The Nations magazine asked a rhetorical question as to whether Babbitt is as good as the Main Street; it answers, "there needs to be no hesitation in answering; it is better" ( Book Review Digest 318).
On the other hand, Lewis's Babbitt is also compared to business novels and their authors; Henry James, William Dean Howells, Charles and Frank Norris, Jack London, David Graham Phippils, Robert Herrick, Upton Sinclair, Edith Wharton, Ernest Poole, and Bo
oth Tarkington . These writers have been interested in the business world and they primarily depicted ethical corruption, driven by power, money, and social prestige. However, whereas the other novels are generally "solemn or grandly melodramatic denunc
iations of monstrous figures if aggressive evil" (TCLC 342), "Babbitt was raucously satirical of a crowd of ninnies and buffoons, who, if they were vindictive and petty, were also absurd. Yet, along with all that, Babbitt himself was pathetic"(TCLC 342).
In this way, the readers were more sympathetic to Babbitt, because Babbitt was a man of a small business, dealing with everyday problems, and not a tycoon with plans to overthrow the government like the other business novels. But Babbitt is most well known for its accurate representation of American culture. R.M. Gay of Atlantic's Bookshelf says, "to follow Babbitt for one day is to get a hideously true view of the worst in American ways and thought and speech at this par
ticular moment of history, to feel its vulgarity and noise and glare, its aimless rush, its motor and movie madness, its spiritual emptiness" (Book Review Digest 318). This American-ness is epitomized in the main character Babbitt, who is a middle class
middle- aged man, living in a suburban area, who possesses a membership to the Zenith Athletic Club, where he socializes and chats about nothing particularly important, goes to church occasionally on Sundays and claims himself to be a Presbyterian, a sel
f-professed Republican, and starts the day with a breakfast with his loving and gentle wife and three kids. Furthermore, Lewis's attempt to give an accurate representation of America, is attested in Babbitt's language and dialogues. He uses phrases l
ike "by golly", "good lord", "say, uh", and "ah-huh" and makes small and meaningless chats with his neighbors and friends. For example, in his conversation with his neighbor, Dr. Howard Littlefield, Babbitt talks about early arrival of spring and discu
sses a bit of politics, like his thoughts about a Republican candidate. Their dialogue generates a feeling of familiarity, a type of dialogue that you can hear, when walking past lunch tables in a restaurant. In addition, Lewis's description of Zenith
characterizes a typical mid-sized city of America. For there were "austere towers of steel and cement and limestone" (Lewis 1), as well as "the red brick minarets of hulking old houses, factories with sting and sooted windows"(Lewis 1), people dressed up
in evening clothes returning from a play, as well as scrubwomen crawling through the building with weary shoulders and feet. The Twentieth Century Literary Criticism reports that Lewis studied and "worked up" the world of real state brokers to give an
accurate account of the kind of life that they lead. However, despite its overwhelmingly American nature, Babbitt is also applauded for its universality. The Times [London] Literary Supplementary notes, "the story, though intensely American in its setting and the language in which it is told, is a drama of
something universal" (Book Review Digest 319). Some of universal aspects found in Babbitt are hypocrisy, fear, spiritual emptiness, conformity, vanity, and materialism. Perhaps one aspect that encompasses all other aspects, is fear. At the end of th
e novel, Babbitt says to Ted, his son, and "practically I've never done a single thing I've wanted to in my whole life!" (Lewis 401). According to Ludwig Lewisohn in the Nation, Babbitt is a creature of fear living in a mechanical society where disse
nters are threatened with exile and hunger and conformity is highly encouraged. Consequently, Babbitt lives with a fundamental fear. He fears all those who are close to him; his business partners, his friends, his own family, and his social acquaintance
s. Furthermore, "he fears for his business which gives him prosperity without wealth, for his home that gives him order without comfort, for domestic affections that keep out forlornness but do not warm his soul" (TCLC 203). Moreover, his friend, Paul Riesl
ing, who bravely proceeds with his desires, ends up being alienated from the society. Consequently, the readers empathize with Babbitt and understand him, when Babbitt joins the Good Citizens League, an organization dedicated to fight socialism and liber
alism, but hiding behind a fa├žade of expressing civic concerns like park or city planning. This was significant because he initially denounces the organization, but eventually succumbs to social and peer pressure. In this, the readers empathizes with B
abbitt and are consoled, because they are not the only ones who are defeated by fear and they are not alone in feeling discontent. Though unhappily, the readers are able to live vicariously through Babbitt. In addition, the critics also praise Babbitt for its depiction of struggle between the self and the world. Caren Town of West Virginia University asserts that Babbitt's friend, Paul, represents all "self"; he is willing to destroy anything that gets in
the way of his desires (TCLC 257), whereas Babbitt's wife, Mara, represents all "world"; she is incapable of existing without the other characters. In the novel, Paul becomes increasingly discontent with his wife, who nags and complains all the time.
Gradually, he falls in love with another woman who offers understanding and rest. Eventually, overcome with hatred towards his wife, Paul shoots his wife, and ends up in prison. Likewise, Babbitt is also discontent with his wife. Though she is an exce
llent housewife and a mother, she does not understand his desires and passions, and is "as sexless as a anemic nun"(Lewis 7). Consequently, Babbitt falls in love with another woman, Tanis Judique, who is unconventional and passionate. Then he ventures i
nto a life of a "self", leading a bohemian life of drinking and dancing. But ultimately, he cannot let go of the "world" like Paul did; his security as a respectable citizen and the comfort zone that his family offers matter more to him than freedom from
conventions. Thus when the town starts gossiping about his relationship with Tanis and when his friend Vergil Gunch confronts him about his behaviors, "fear sat beside him, and he told himself that to-night he would not go to Tanis's flat; and he did no
t go?till late" (Lewis 348). Eventually, he leaves Tanis and returns to his conventional life style. This struggle probably appealed to the readers, because Babbitt, despite his ultimate defeat, attempted to follow his desires and to escape from conform
ity. The readers probably affirmed his courage for his endeavor. Another aspect that attributes to Babbitt's success, is its description of mundane routines of life. R.D. Townsend of the Outlook remarks, "Babbitt's literary portrait is a piece of meticulous exactness"( Book Review Digest 319). For example, the fir
st chapter of the novel records Babbitt's morning ritual; "he grunted; he dragged his thick legs, in faded baby-blue pajamas, from under the khaki blanket; he sat on the edge of the cot, running his fingers through his wild hair, while his plump feet mec
hanically felt for his slippers" (Lewis 4). Furthermore, Lewis provides a detailed account of Babbitt's search for his razor blades, his crime of wiping his face on a guest towel, his spectacles, "huge, circular, frameless lenses of the very best glass
"(Lewis 8). Lewis carefully outlines such mundane details of life to project an authentic life of his characters. Accordingly, Lewis constantly mentions Babbitt's struggle with his smoking habits; locking up his cigar box in a file box and hiding the k
ey in a more difficult place, throwing out his cigar case out of the smoking compartment window, only to buy another one at the next stop, and temporarily forgetting that he made resolutions to quit smoking. But such inconsistencies make Babbitt all t
he more genuine and Lewis heightens his authenticity with minute details. Lastly, Babbitt remains as a timeless classic for its hopeful tone. In the beginning of the novel, Babbitt is dreaming of a fairy child, " a dream more romantic than scarlet pagodas by a silver sea"(Lewis 2). In his dream, he is able to escape from the
crowded house, past his wife and his clamoring friends, to a secret rendezvous, where "she cried that he was gay and valiant" (Lewis 3). This dream offers him a flight from his conventional world and enkindles passion and vigor that are lacking in his li
fe. Additionally, the ending offers the ultimate hope for many readers. At the end, Babbitt's son, Ted, secretly marries his girlfriend, then introduces his new bride to the astounded and irate family, and announces his plans to leave the university in
order to get into mechanics. Though Babbitt expresses his concern about not finishing school, he says that he "gets a kind of sneaking pleasure out of the fact that [he] knew what [he] wanted to do and [he] did it" (Lewis 401). Furthermore, he tells T
ed not to be afraid of the people and the society and encourages him to pursue his desires and passion. He says, "Go ahead, old man! The world is yours!" (Lewis 401). The changes in the new generation of Babbitts offer a hope for America, as well as for it
s readers. The new generation of Babbitts is not afraid of unconventional life style and affirm individuality, authorizing departure from the norm. Thus Lewis is hopeful as he envisions a new America, even as he points to the hypocrisies and the defects
of the country. According to the Hackett's 80 Years of Best Sellers, Babbitt made the best seller's list on the basis of over 50 years of cumulative sales. Furthermore, even after over 70 years of publication, Babbitt remains in prints and the steadfast sales records
testify to its timelessness. The Greensboro Daily News attests to its success, for it acclaims that, "it will hated, spat upon, possibly burned by the common hangman. But it will be read" (Book Review Digest, 318). But not only is it read, it is also
loved and treasured, and bears the name of the most honorable literary award, the Nobel Prize.
Works Cited
"Advertisement for Babbitt". New York Times 19 November 1922:18. "Sinclair Lewis." National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Clifton, James T. White & Company. Hackett, Alice Payne, & James Henry Burke, eds. 80 years of Best Sellers 1895-1975. New York: R.R.Bowker Company, 1977. Knight, Marion, & Mertice M.James, eds. The Book Review Digest. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1923. Lewis, Sinlair. Babbitt. New York: Harcourt,Brace, & World, Inc., 1950. Martine, James,ed. Dictionary of Literary Review. Detroit: Gales Research Company, 1981. Poupard, Dennis, and James E.Person Jr., eds. Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Detroit, Gales Research Company, 1984.
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