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Babbit By Sinclair Lewis Essay

1598 words - 6 pages

Babbitt: Conformity

In the Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt, the character of Babbitt is
completely controlled by the power of conformity. Conformity is so
powerful that even after babbitt realizes the stifling nature of the
society in which he lives he is powerless to change his fate as a member of
conformist society.
     George F. Babbitt is a man who is completely controlled by the
conformist society in which he lives. Pressure to conform lies in all
aspects of Babbitt's life. Relationships, family, social life, and
business are all based on his ability to conform to Zenith's preset
standards of thought and action. All of Babbitt's thoughts are controlled
by society. Thoughts that are not those of society are frowned upon.
"What he feels and thinks is what is currently popular to feel and think.
Only once during the two years that we have him under view, does he venture
upon an idea that is remotely original-and that time the heresy almost
ruins him."(Bloom)
At first the reader sees Babbitt as a person more than happy to
conform to the standards set for him by the rest of society. Babbitt goes
about his normal routine praising modern technology, material possessions
and social status as ways to measure the worth of an individual. In fact
the readers first encounter with Babbitt sees him praising modern
technology. "It was the best of nationally advertised and quantitatively
produced alarm-clocks, with all modern attachments, including cathedral
chime, intermittent alarm, and a phosphorescent dial. Babbitt was proud of
being awakened by such a rich device."(Babbitt pg.3) Babbitt praises the
technology of his alarm clock only because it is a symbol of material worth
and therefore social status.
All of Babbitt's actions and thoughts are controlled by the
standards of Zenith. "His every action is related to the phenomena of that
society. It is not what he feels and aspires to that moves him primarily;
it is what the folks around him will think."(Mencken). All of Babbitt's
thoughts are those of society, and thoughts that are not society's are
ridiculed Babbitt works simply to raise his social status by means of
increasing his material worth. Babbitt belongs to many popular clubs, the
purposes of which he does not even completely understand. Why does Babbitt
do these things? Babbitt does these things to perform for the other
members of society. He does everything expected of him even if he does not
expect those things of himself. Babbitt does these things in hope of
improving his social status. This conformist man is exactly who Sinclair
Lewis wanted to show the reader, a man who's life is based on the ideals
and standards of others. "Villages-overgrown towns-three -quarters of a
million people still dressing, eating, building houses, attending church,
to make an impression on their neighbors." (Lewis). This is what Lewis
thought of American society and he used Babbitt to voice his...

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