One of the best known American social commentators in history and the first American novelist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sinclair Lewis was born in a small town in Minnesota.
This upbringing would greatly affect his writing. He wrote often about life in
small towns and the characters who filled them. For Babbitt, though, Lewis chose to stray from his normal formula
-- to work on a complex character set in a large city.
Lewis spent over a year searching newspapers, taking copious notes and observing many people to use as guidelines for his Babbitt. Lewis researched names, made maps for settings and made a plan of the novel with scenarios and summaries of the main scenes. After all this preparation, Lewis left for Europe. After a year and a half, he had Babbitt.
Babbitt wishes to be different from everyone else. In trying to be different, he falls into the trap of consumerism.
He prides himself on having the latest gadgets and a fine house filled with fine things. In the aftermath of a tragic event involving his best friend, Babbitt is left with feelings of doubt in the things he has trusted for many years. He begins to ask himself, what is life all about?
What does he want?
Babbitt slowly begins to question things, to think for himself, to distance
himself from the whitewashed culture that was preordained for him. This leads to
isolation and ostracism by his former friends. Only after a near death is Babbitt welcomed back into the fold of the good citizens of Zenith.
I enjoyed this book, but it took itís toll. Iím capable of reading many books
a month and I love to read current fiction, with its fast pace and loads of dialogue. I really donít like to think while I read
-- I read to get away from everything, to dwell on nothing but the world the
author has created. Youíre not left questioning anything but perhaps a line or
two that didnít ring true. Still, I attempt to read the classics and finishing Babbitt is one of my latest triumphs. Iím glad that I struggled through this book and I feel that I am better for it. Babbittís issues with consumerism and conformity are nothing compared to whatís going on today. Today even the unconformists conform to their own codes and rituals. Few people actually think at all, let alone for themselves. They may pretend, but look closely
-- they donít. This book was an eye-opener for me. I see the world in a whole new light and Iím glad that I do.