We meet George F. Babbitt, a semi-wealthy real estate manager who has a typical American life in the 'burbs. He's well-liked by his community and by all his friends. He even starts to rise into the upper levels of society once he develops a reputation as a good public speaker. But still, he can never seem to shake the feeling that there's something missing in his life. He often dreams about a sexy "fairy child" that promises to fulfill his every last wish (bow chicka bow bow), but he can never seem to find this fairy child in his real life.
Babbitt's life gets thrown out of whack when his best buddy, Paul Riesling, shoots his wife, Zilla. Yeah, that would stir anyone up. Zilla ends up pulling through and surviving, but Paul gets sent to the state penitentiary for three years for attempted murder.
Losing Paul makes Babbitt realize just how empty his own life is, and he soon starts to rebel against respectable life by endorsing left-wing values, having an affair, and drinking heavily. His actions quickly get him into trouble with his respectable friends, and both his family life and his business start to suffer.
After his wife, Myra, is hospitalized for emergency appendix surgery, Babbitt vows to go back to being a proper middle-class American man. All of his old friends embrace him and he becomes one of the fiercest critics of left-wing beliefs in his entire city. He still likes to think, though, that once he's retired he'll be able to think and do whatever he wants.
At the end of the book, his son Ted runs off and gets married. The whole neighborhood criticizes him for doing such an impulsive thing, but Babbitt is proud of his son for following his heart rather than letting society tell him what to do.