Study Guide

Babbitt Plot Analysis

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Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation)

A Day in the Life

By most books' standards, Babbitt has a loooong exposition section (it takes up the first seven, count 'em, seven chapters). The reason for this lengthy exposition is because at its heart, Babbitt is a satire and Sinclair Lewis wants to take his sweet time making fun of every aspect of respectable middle-class American life before he starts introducing some conflict into it.

The first seven chapters of Babbitt all cover a single day in the life of real estate businessman George F. Babbitt. He's a guy who likes to smoke cigars, slap his buddies on the back, and make as much money as he can. Back home, he bickers with his wife and his kids almost constantly, just to prove how freaking content with his life he is.

All in all, things look pretty good for ol' Georgie, although he still worries sometimes about being a nobody compared to some of the millionaires who live in his city.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

Run Babbitt Run

Every now and then, Babbitt senses that maybe making money and becoming a respected member of his community isn't all it's cracked up to be. These doubts only get worse when his best friend, Paul Riesling, becomes so fed up with respectable life that he shoots his wife Zilla and goes to jail for three years. Facing a world without his best friend, Babbitt wonders if there's any point to life at all. That's true bromance, folks.

Basically, Babbitt undergoes a severe mid-life crisis. He makes Bill Murray from Lost in Translation look like a happy camper. All the signs are there. He tries to go camping to prove how manly he is; he starts drinking more; he flirts with younger women; he even changes his politics and becomes aggressively liberal around all of his staunchly Republican friends. The only reason he doesn't buy a red Porsche convertible is because Porsches didn't exist yet. He has to watch himself, though, because people eventually start to walk away from him, and both his family life and his business start to go downhill.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

Check the Appendix

One night after Babbitt and his wife Myra have had a fight about his recent lifestyle, Myra falls ill with acute appendicitis. She's rushed off to the hospital immediately for an operation. Thinking that she might die, Babbitt suddenly rejects all of his recent rebelliousness and promises to go back to being a good, respectable man

Falling Action

Tamed Babbitt

Babbitt returns to his life of conservative decency, which immediately causes all of his old friends and business associates to come flooding back to him. He's happy to be back in people's favor, though he still fantasizes about becoming truly independent… after he retires, of course.

Resolution (Denouement)

Better Off Ted

At the end of the book, Babbitt's son Ted runs off and gets married to the neighbor's daughter, Eunice Littlefield. Everyone in the neighborhood criticizes the marriage, saying it's too sudden and that the kids are too young. But Babbitt admires Ted's ability to live by his own values rather than the values of the world around him. He congratulates his son and the two of them end the book in a happy moment of father/son bonding.

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