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  • Babbitt: seneca doane

    This lawyer and reformer (whose first name comes from a noble Roman statesman) is perhaps the one person in Babbitt who makes an intelligent, persistent rebellion against the forces of corruption and conformity in Zenith. He runs, unsuccessfully, for mayor; he supports striking workers; he tries to aid a minister condemned for his liberal views. In a way, Doane and Babbitt have switched places in life. When they were in college together, Babbit ...


  • Babbitt: vergil gunch

    Vergil Gunch, coal dealer, president of the Boosters\' Club and potential Exalted Ruler of the Elks, is at the start of Babbitt everything Babbitt himself would like to be. Gunch is Babbitt at his most extreme--loud, full of jokes, financially successful--but he is not plagued by any of the doubts that burden Babbitt. But because those doubts make Babbitt in many ways a sympathetic character, without them Gunch is in many ways a monster. Once B ...


  • Babbitt: tanis judique

    A pretty, elegantly dressed widow of not-quite middle age, Tanis Judique enters Babbitt\'s life when she comes to look for an apartment. Babbitt is immediately attracted to her, but not until he makes an unsuccessful pass at a young manicurist, and fails as a political rebel, does he take the enormous--and in Zenith, dangerous--step of having an affair. Compared to Babbitt, Tanis is cultured and well educated. But in some ways she isn\'t tha ...


  • Babbitt: zilla riesling

    Zilla Riesling, Paul Riesling\'s wife, is another of the unhappy, would-be rebels in Babbitt. An intelligent, witty woman, she sees Zenith for the dull, conformist place it is and isn\'t afraid to say so. Yet just as her husband Paul\'s insight becomes self-pity, Zilla\'s becomes bitterness. She and Paul turn on each other, making their lives more miserable than they already were. Paul first deals with Zilla by having an affair; then, enrage ...


  • Babbitt: paul riesling

    Paul Riesling is Babbitt\'s best--perhaps his only true--friend. In some ways, he\'s the most extreme example of the damage Zenith inflicts on its citizens, of the crippling disappointments they suffer when their personal dreams are sacrificed to Zenith\'s demands for commercial success. Once a promising violinist, Riesling had hoped to study music in Europe. Instead, he\'s a roofing manufacturer, unhappily married, playing his violin only for ...


  • Babbitt: may arnold and others

    BABBITT: MAY ARNOLD May Arnold is a middle-aged widow with whom Paul Riesling is having an affair. Babbitt sees the pair together in Chicago. ^^^^^^^^^^BABBITT: KATHARINE \"TINKA\" BABBITT Tinka is Babbitt\'s ten-year-old daughter. Because she\'s too young to have been spoiled by life in Zenith, she gives Babbitt comfort when the rest of his family irritates him. ^^^^^^^^^^BABBITT: FULTON BEMIS Bemis is a railway clerk; he and Babb ...


  • Babbitt: setting

    Babbitt takes place in Zenith, an imaginary city of 360,000 in the American Midwest. Zenith is more than just the novel\'s setting, though. Because Lewis wanted Babbitt to portray not just one man but an entire society, Zenith is in some ways as important a character as Babbitt himself and is presented in as much satiric detail. And just as Lewis wanted the character Babbitt to stand for many conformist, success-hungry Americans, he wanted Zeni ...


  • Babbitt: style

    Probably no aspect of Babbitt has prompted so many different opinions as has Lewis\'s literary style. At its best, it\'s vivid, fast moving, and funny. One favorite technique is to use overly grand language (often capitalized) to show that Babbitt\'s life isn\'t nearly as heroic as Babbitt thinks it is--as when Lewis tells us that Babbitt feels his underwear represents the God of Progress. Lewis\'s greatest gift, perhaps, is his ability to m ...


  • Babbitt: form and structure

    Babbitt is a loosely structured novel. There is a plot--Babbitt\'s growing discontent with his life in Zenith, and his attempt to change by supporting Seneca Doane and engaging in an affair with Tanis Judique. There are subplots as well: Paul Riesling\'s desperation, which leads to a shooting; Ted Babbitt\'s romance and elopement with Eunice Littlefield; the growth of the Good Citizens\' League. But many critics have noted that Lewis is really ...


  • Babbitt: point of view

    Babbitt is an example of a third-person, omniscient narrative. For the most part we experience the story from Babbitt\'s point of view: We\'re with him as he wakes up, as he drives to his office, as he has lunch with Paul Riesling. But the opening scene of the novel demonstrates that Lewis the narrator is reserving for himself the right to be omniscient, to show us scenes that Babbitt (who is asleep) couldn\'t possibly see: a speeding limousine ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 1

    Babbitt opens with a view of Zenith, the imaginary midwestern city that is the novel\'s setting. It\'s a sweeping, panoramic view--if this were a movie you could imagine the camera gliding from Zenith\'s business district to its suburbs, moving along the highways and railroad tracks, then zooming in on specific locales: a speeding limousine, an immense new factory. This opening scene tells you much about what Lewis hopes to do in his novel, ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 2

    Mrs. Babbitt has been married too long to feel any real sympathy for her husband\'s complaints, Lewis says, but long enough to know she must fake such sympathy. And like the Babbitts\' marriage, the Babbitts\' house is more fake than genuine, designed more to impress than to be lived in. The rooms are acceptably modern, but nothing in them is quite real--the furniture is \"very much like mahogany,\" and Mrs. Babbitt\'s toilet articles are \"alm ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 3

    Babbitt\'s motor car \"was poetry and tragedy, love and heroism.\" Lewis\'s inflated language shows that Babbitt\'s life in fact lacks the poetry and heroism he thinks it possesses. But of course Babbitt isn\'t alone in idolizing his automobile--sixty years later, many Americans still feel the same way. Lewis wants us to see Babbitt for the shallow man he is, but he also wants us to remember that there may be more than a little Babbitt in each ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 4

    \"It was a morning of artistic creation.\" By now we know Lewis is being ironic--this morning\'s \"masterpiece\" is an advertisement for cemetery plots. Babbitt enjoys a similarly ironic moment of \"heroism\" when he discovers a new way of quitting smoking. As you\'ll see, Babbitt is always trying to quit smoking, without ever succeeding. In fact, this pattern of failed good intentions holds true in other ways as well. Babbitt telephones his ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 5

    When Babbitt leaves his office, we get a close-up view of the downtown Zenith we saw earlier at a distance. The city represents Lewis\'s view of the new, modern, industrial America. Everything is standardized, bigness is more important than beauty, and a person\'s worth comes from the material objects he possesses--in Babbitt\'s case, expensive ties and an electric cigar lighter (for the cigars he has given up smoking). Babbitt enters the Ze ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 6

    Babbitt is deeply proud of being modern. As he leads a client through a run-down tenement, he discourses on the wonders of modern technology. But his impressive-sounding talk is just talk--Babbitt has no real understanding of the machines he worships. In his confident ignorance, Babbitt may seem like people you know. How many times have you heard people brag about their stereos or automobiles without having the slightest real knowledge of the e ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 7

    Babbitt\'s living room is decorated to be like every other living room in Floral Heights, and Babbitt\'s conversation with his wife is no more original or inspiring than the room in which it\'s held. Suddenly, though, he does something unexpected: he announces that he\'d like to make a long motor trip. But he hasn\'t worked up the courage to confess he\'d like to make the trip without his wife. His rebellion is still a private one. Lewis tak ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 8

    The first seven chapters of Babbitt described a single day in George F. Babbitt\'s life. (In fact, Lewis\'s original plan was to center the entire novel around a single day, but he changed his mind.) Now the pace accelerates. It\'s sometime later the same spring. The Babbitts are planning a dinner party in celebration of a business deal that we know is slightly crooked. Dinner parties are important status symbols in Zenith, and Babbitt wants th ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 9

    Babbitt\'s restlessness resurfaces as the dinner drags on. It\'s another sign of his growing discontent that--apparently for the first time--he admits to himself that these so-called friends bore him. He longs to escape to Maine. Spiritualism was a popular fad in the 1920s, and Babbitt and his guests indulge in it with a seance, trying to summon the spirits of the dead. Mrs. Jones wants to talk with Dante, the fourteenth-century Italian poet ...


  • Babbitt: chapter 10

    The Babbitts visit Paul Riesling and his wife, Zilla. The Rieslings live in an \"excessively modern\" apartment house, and Zilla Riesling, too, is more \"modern\" than Babbitt and his wife are. Zilla is a witty woman who sees Zenith for the dull place it is and isn\'t afraid to say so. Her wit can turn to bitterness easily, though, when she feels she\'s been ignored by her husband. That\'s what happens now. The Babbitts try to convince Zilla th ...



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