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Babbitt (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – August 7, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 134 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[It is] by its hardness, its efficiency, its compactness that Mr. Lewis’s work excels.”—Virginia Woolf

From the Back Cover

Prosperous and socially prominent, George Babbitt appears to have everything a man could wish. But when a personal crisis forces the middle-aged real estate agent to reexamine his life, Babbitt mounts a rebellion that jeopardizes everything he values. Widely considered Sinclair Lewis's greatest novel, this satire of the American social landscape created a sensation upon its 1922 publication. Babbitt's name became an instant and enduring synonym for middle-class complacency, and his story remains an ever-relevant tale of an individual caught in the machinery of modern life.
Unabridged republication of the classic 1922 edition.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Signet Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451530616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451530615
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,133,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on August 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Sinclair Lewis wrote a series of satires that exposed the hypocrisy of early 20th century America. “Babbitt” is a snapshot of the life of George F. Babbitt, a somewhat prosperous middle class businessman who lives in Zenith, Ohio. Zenith has a population of 300,000+, and has an active business community. This community has its own rituals and ironclad rules. These rules consist of being one of the gang, being a member of all the right clubs and organizations, and never deviating from the ideals of business and money. These rules cause enormous difficulties for Babbitt when he goes through a midlife crisis at the end of the book and begins spouting liberal ideas and associating with the “wrong” crowd.
This is my first encounter with Sinclair Lewis. I really don’t know why I chose to read “Babbitt” first, as I also have copies of “Main Street” and “Arrowsmith”. I think it was the unusual cover of the Penguin edition, which is a picture of a painting called “Booster” by Grant Wood. To me, that picture IS Babbitt, and I’ll always be able to see Babbitt in my head whenever I’m reminded of this book.There really isn’t a lot of symbolism here (and the symbolism that is here is pretty easy to decipher) and the prose is much closer to our present day writing and speech. This is brilliant satire, and you’ll laugh out loud at many of the situations Babbitt gets himself into. An especially hilarious incident occurs when one of the local millionaire businessmen finally accepts an invitation to dine with Babbitt. The evening goes badly because Babbitt is in a lower social class. Lewis then shows Babbitt going to a dinner at an old friends house who is in a lower class then him.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
George F. Babbitt is middle-aged and middle-class. He lives in a medium-sized home in a medium-sized city in the Middle West. He's a middleman--he sells real estate. He went to a state university and depends on his secretary to fix the spelling and grammar in his letters. His children fight over who gets to use the car. His life is pretty straight and narrow, until he begins an affair when his wife is out of town and all of a sudden things aren't so middle-of-the-road anymore.
Sound like anyone you know? But "Babbitt" was published--almost unbelievably--in 1922. Funny how little some things have changed. Lewis's satire on suburban life and its conformities was an instant hit. Even today, we know what a Babbitt is--a guy who's all show and no go--whose lifestyle and opinions have been furnished for him but maybe whose soul is a little out of whack. It's a pity that schools usually assign the much slower-paced "Main Street". Read "Main Street" to see what life used to be like. Read "Babbitt" to see how we got to where we are today.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sinclair Lewis and Thomas Hart Benton, the artist, were about the same age, they both focussed on the American Heartland, and as I read Lewis, I see that they both had something else in common. They both had a tendency to draw cartoonish characters. George F. Babbitt is the main character of a satire by the same name; you might even laugh aloud in some places. Lewis is skillful, but at times, heavy-handed. He has portrayed an average Joe of 1920, the pep- and vim-obsessed go-getting businessman who was the bedrock of our industrial age, hypocritical, materialist, crooked, conformist, even proto-fascist. Babbitt is a real estate agent, a family man surrounded by the wealth of material goods provided by thriving industrial capitalism. He belongs enthusiastically and unquestioningly to any organization dedicated to preserving his and his family's ready access to those goods---professional group (realtors association), Boosters, church, and set social circle. He spouts meaningless platitudes on every subject, knows nothing except the price of real estate and methods of collusion, and ignores his feelings, his family, and the rest of the world, all the while believing that his city, state, and country are the best in the world. The first 90-odd pages of BABBITT are pure genius; one of the best character portraits you are likely to find in American literature---but it is a caricature after all. Lewis' choice of names underlines his cartoonish glee in writing this brilliant novel---Vergil Gunch, Professor Pumphrey, Chet Laylock, Matt Penniman, Muriel Frink, Opal Mudge, Carrie Nork, and Miss McGoun---names that could have been annexed years later by MAD magazine ! "Babbitt" has long been a word in American English, signifying a conforming materialist citizen without a mind of his own.Read more ›
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Sinclair Lewis has to be one of the "great" writers of all time. In Babbitt he describes an era using fictional characters to represent the times in which many changes were taking place in the social environment of our country. America was coming out of the rural age and into the age of technical development, and characters reflected the effects of these changes in Lewis' novel. Great reading, and an opportunity to reflect on an important stage in America's development.
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