The Power of Satire in Babbitt and The Simpsons
Sinclair Lewis used his writing to promote the enrichment of American society by attacking the weaknesses he perceived in his era. His most notable work, Babbitt, is a satire on the middle class lifestyle and attitude of the 1920s. Lewis' satirical style and voice is comparable to the modern television series The Simpsons, written by Matt Groening. Babbitt and The Simpsons contain numerous similarities in satirical writing, presentation and commentary. Matt Groening satirizes many modern situations with his style and characterization in The Simpsons that are similar to the conditions in Babbitt. The Simpsons represent the pinnacle of how Lewis' opinions are still alive in today's world.
Lewis uses both the effects of direct and indirect satire. Lewis is a realistic satirist who, like many others, can "...utilize their vast firsthand knowledge of the material they describe and their sensitive ear for dialogue to support the illusion of reality" (Feinburg 61). Lewis' firsthand knowledge is seen through the use of the minister Mike Monday in Babbitt, which is a satirical poke at the minister Billie Sunday of his time which would be unknown to him unless he knew the current events of his era. Lewis first presents an obviously dead end idea through a foolish character, then has it refuted by an outside voice of reason, only to have the original character praise and defend the idea until he likely fails or realizes his blunder (Feinburg 92). This type of interaction can be seen in Babbitt through a conversation between George and Myra. Babbitt begins by defending his new found liberalism and denouncing the Good Citizens League because "(i)t stands for the suppression of free speech and free thought and every thing else!" (Lewis 353). Next, Myra explains to him that people may criticize him, causing his reputation to be ruined. Babbitt comes back with, "Let 'em criticize!" (Lewis 353). Babbitt eventually realizes how much his liberal mindedness is hurting his family and image, and resorts back to being a sound businessman with a mechanized workday.
Sinclair Lewis and Matt Groening use similar satiric writing styles that mock the middle-class lifestyle of their eras. Lewis and Groening use their unique styles of hidden humor to satirize the cruel domination of business, obsessions with status and material possessions, the lack of culture, mechanical thought, religious issues and prohibition to express their feelings of distaste and uneasiness towards their time period's values and compliant lifestyles.
The tyranny of business and all its twisted ethics are very apparent in Babbitt and The Simpsons. In Babbitt, Lewis points out the corrupt nature of business dealings and their effects on other people. An example is the Lyte-Purdy deal where Babbitt gets Lyte to buy some...