On the surface, everything is all right with Babbitt’s world of the solid, successful businessman. But in reality, George F. Babbitt is a lonely, middle-aged man. He doesn’t understand his family, has an unsuccessful attempt at an affair, and is almost financially ruined when he dares to voice sympathy for some striking workers. Babbitt finds that his only safety lies deep in the fold of those who play it safe. He is a man who has added a new word to our language: a “Babbitt,” meaning someone who conforms unthinkingly, a sheep.
“[It is] by its hardness, its efficiency, its compactness that Mr. Lewis’ work excels.” (Virginia Woolf)
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From a first time Sinclair Lewis listener
This book was written and set in the early 1920s but it could have been written yesterday. It is an unflinching and penetrating look at a middle American town and a middle American man, Babbitt. Over the course of the book Babbitt slowly comes to the realization that something is lacking in his life. He doesn't know quite what it is. He is, by the standards of society, successful, mostly honest and upstanding, and yet he feels something is missing. After searching in the common places for meaning and excitement, he realizes that the answers are close at hand, and through his family, particularly his son and daughter, he comes to realize some of what he has been overlooking.
Babbitt could be a poster boy for living an unexamined life, a life lived by the lights cast by society at large as opposed to those emanating from within.
A lovely book well read by Grover Gardner. I was apprehensive about Gardner's narration because the only other book that I have listened to him narrate is The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and this novel seemed such a radical departure. I was very pleasantly surprised. His narration was pitch perfect.
Parody of Life?
- CHET YARBROUGH