Posted by: vanhoff | April 28, 2008

Sinclair Lewis and Babbitt: The American Dream

Hollowness is what Babbitt begins to feel as he sees the hypocrisy and homogenized world that he has created. He begins to rebel and seeks to rekindle a new vigor that was lost when he realized how shallow his class has become. He is no longer fond of partaking in such functions as balls or his beloved Athletic Club. He seeks independence by escaping to Maine with Paul, or by having an affair to rekindle a sexual flair which was lost in the quest for his perfection. Ironically enough today’s middle-class can be hollow in regards to their political and social views pertaining to the outside world, but culture is what has prevented the middle-class from becoming ever shallower. Lewis portrayed the middle-class of Babbitt’s time to that of a finely tuned instrument. Conform to the normalcy of ones class and one’s appearance with the outside world will give them an edge on life was the belief of Babbitt.

Today one can see more of a mixed middle-class. From lower to upper class structure, the middle-class has been broken down over time. The world in which one lives in today has become less concerned about where one will lay within the confines of their societal class. The world has become smaller, thus becoming cultured. Babbitt lived during a time when the market growth of the economy was strong. A middle-class family of today fears another stock market crash or terrorist attack upon American soil thus conservation is a key for a successful future. Babbitt does not seek for a retirement pension that so many middle-class of today prepares for, however Babbitt looks at the current condition of his class and base his financial goals around the here and now.

Babbitt ironically enough can be compared to a lot of what is seen in today’s class. Though the middle and elite classes have sought to bring more culture within their society either by sponsoring local theatre or a symphony there is still a hollow feeling when one drives through a local suburban community of today. One who might drive through a current, established neighborhood of the middle-class can sense hollowness that Babbitt felt. The cookie-cut house of today is compared to those of Babbitt’s time. The lawns are perfected by the landscaper’s touch. For the art of manicuring a lawn is still beneath the majority of middle-class Americans.

 Divorce rates are now at an all-time high and business relations are cut short of the handshake that was a necessary means of an agreement during Babbitt’s time. Children of the middle-class are still concerned with appearance, and rightfully so as the entertainment industry thrusts its cosmopolitan beliefs upon them. To compare and contrast Babbitt’s middle-class life to that of today’s middle-class, one can note many comparisons. Ironically today’s present class still believes that the bigger the better. The contrasts lay now within how today’s class view themselves, and that the middle-class is not the elite of the society norm. A strive for the mansion that is mass produced within a matter of months is now considered the norm. However, they have brought culture to the middle-class with a cup of Starbucks and bottled water. And though art and moral values may be lost forever, the money driven middle-class will not.

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Responses

  1. What a great book. If this had been written in the sixties people would have called it this landmark, sign-of-the-times novel. It’s so far ahead of its time.

    Have you ever actually met a booster? A Rotary Club or Lions Club member? Brrrrr.


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