by James Gilmore
Babbit by Sinclair Lewis is an all-but-forgotten literary masterpiece which espouses the hollowness of blind conformism. At the surface, the novel appears to be about a successful businessman entering (and surviving) a mid-life crisis. But more accurately, Babbitt is about a man whose identity only exists by means of his compromising conformity to everyone else. He struggles between being the person everyone thinks he should be and what he really wants for his own life, although he has become so entrenched in the conformist society that he cannot escape. In this he discovers that he is weak and pathetic, a living cliché, a human example of meaningless and futility.
Babbitt is a true character piece which explores every facet of the completely repressed individual in a society of demanding conformity. The text remains engrossing despite constantly straddling the line between thoroughness and repetitiveness. Unfortunately, reading the novel can be arduous due to its very slow story development.
Babbitt was internationally successful at the time it was published while domestically the novel’s brazen but accurate depictions and accusations of America offended or mystified many readers. Every student of American literature should study Sinclair’s Babbitt.
Rating: 5 / 5