Teen Conformity in Babbitt and in Society Today
In society today, people feel the need to belong. They feel as though they have to be a part of something in order to feel special. At times, they will go so far as to lose their individuality and submit themselves into complete ignorance just to be able to know that there is someone or something to which they can always fall back on. Conformity is one of the most common and most apparent forms of Babbittry in the twenty - first century. First, the question must be answered: "What is conformity?" The answer, of course, is very simple. Conformity is a person changing their attitude or behavior on their own in order to fulfill certain social norms (Ferguson). Conforming to social norms can mainly be seen in peer pressure with adolescents. "Peer pressure is the influence that people in your age group exert on you." (Kowalski 6). Every day on television, there are advertisements for cars, beauty products, music, and clothes. Peer pressure can also be seen with drug use, types of music, clothes, and the list goes on. People feel as though if they give into these peer pressures, then all of their problems will simply go away. They will no longer be picked on for listening to the wrong music or wearing the wrong clothes. It is certainly much easier than resistance (Ferguson). This of course would result in confrontation and leads to isolation.
The novel Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis certainly demonstrated the need for an individual to conform to social norms. The main character's son, Theodore Roosevelt Babbitt, or Ted, accurately represents how teenagers conform in order to feel a part of something. Ted often demonstrates the need to be different than his father and to be "up with the times." A perfect example of this in the book is when Ted presents his Father with correspondence courses he would like to attend as opposed to school. This part is a perfect representation of how sometimes teenagers like to conform to being rebellious against their parents and higher institutions. His views are characteristic of the common teenager that school and our elders can't teach us anything. This point is obvious when Ted says (concerning college), "Yuh, but Dad, they just teach a lot of old junk that isn't any practical use - except the manual training and typewriting and basketball and dancing - and in these correspondence courses, gee, you can get all kinds of stuff that would come in handy." (Lewis 77). Ted speaks about how frustrated he is with his Dad being content with simply sitting around the house and doing nothing (Lewis 220). His need to be different and to not go to college is a perfect example of a teenager's need to rebel against their parents. Ted's assumption that his elders are boring is another form of teen conformity. Even today, children wish to do things that they think are better as opposed to what their elder's tell them.