Study Guide

Babbitt Chapter 13

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 13

(Sections I through XI)

  • One day, Babbitt is invited to speak to the State Association of Real Estate Boards. He's happy for the opportunity, since he already considers himself a pretty good public speaker.
  • Babbitt spends much of his week asking people for advice about how to write his speech. He has trouble doing anything more than jotting down a few bullet points.
  • One night, when Myra isn't around the house, Babbitt sits down and bangs out his speech on a typewriter as though he was saying it off the cuff. It turns out really well.
  • Babbitt travels with a group of other dudes from Zenith to go promote Zenith real estate at the state convention. On the train there, they like to talk a big game about how Zenith is the best city in all of the United States.
  • While walking down one of the train cars, Babbitt sees Lucile McKelvey, the wife of a guy he went to school with and who made millions in construction. The woman just stares through him like a nobody, though, and Babbitt realizes that no matter how well he does in his business, there will always be men who are out of his league in wealth. This makes him feel small and insignificant.
  • In order to help his wounded pride, Babbitt starts spending a lot of money on the train, getting his pants pressed and hanging out in a private train compartment.
  • Babbitt attends the convention for a few days, and it's pretty much what he expected. A lot of people talking smack about labor unions and saying that their city is the best city in the world.
  • The time comes for Babbitt to read his paper, and even though he's nervous, he gets a good reception from the audience. After he leaves the stage, strangers pat him on the back for a job well done.
  • The next morning, Babbitt gasps to see a photo of himself in one of the Zenith newspapers. He heads back to the convention for its final day of meetings, and he's stunned to find out that he's been named a board member of an important real estate group. After that, he gets pulled into a group of non-Zenith guys and goes around drinking with them and complaining about going home to his scolding wife.
  • They go to a grillroom and eat dinner together, mucking it up and having a good, hearty time. Eventually, they all decide to go see a live show with pretty dancers in it. They delay their departure, though, because they know how drunk and off-balance they'll be when they get up from their table. They all fight to tip the pretty waitress.
  • When they go to the show, Babbitt gets up and dances drunkenly with one of the girls. Eventually, though, she returns him to his group.
  • The night eventually peters out, with Babbitt arguing with the other men about how great a city Zenith is.

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