Study Guide

Babbitt Chapter 19

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 19

(Sections I through V)

  • The chapter opens with a description of one of Babbitt's real estate deals. In typical Babbitt fashion, Babbitt has bought up a bunch of land that he knows is valuable to a specific company that wants to build car-repair shops in the area. Since he has the foresight to buy up all this land, though, he can pretty much sell it to them for any price he likes. They call him a dishonest jerk, but in the end, they pay what he wants.
  • The only way Babbitt was able to get the money without setting off alarm bells all over town was to get a loan from William Eathorne off the books.
  • While all of this is happening, Babbitt is concerned to discover that one of his salesmen, Stanley Graff, has been dishonest in some of his sales.
  • One day, a red-faced man barges into Babbitt's office, claiming that Stanley Graff gave him a lease to an apartment, then stole the lease back after finding someone who would pay more.
  • Babbitt apologizes to the man and offers to go into Graff's desk to get the lease back. After all, Babbitt wouldn't be able to condone such dishonest behavior, right? Right?
  • Walking through the city, Babbitt stresses about the fact that he'll now have to fire Stanley Graff.
  • That afternoon, Babbitt sits Graff down in his office and tells him he's fired. Graff totally loses his cool and says that he's seen Babbitt do a thousand things more dishonest than anything he (Graff) has ever done.
  • Babbitt still fires him, but it's clear that the guy's accusations have shaken Babbitt. He begins to doubt himself as an honest, upstanding businessman.
  • Soon after this rough day, a company asks Babbitt for another favor on a similar real estate deal in Chicago. Babbitt decides to bring along his son Ted to keep himself cheerful and honest.
  • Babbitt and Ted chat and bond on the train on the way to Chicago. Ted's especially impressed by how his dad deals with a guy who shoots his mouth off about socialism.
  • Once in Chicago, they have a huge fancy dinner together and go to a show and pal around. There really is a sweetness to their bonding.
  • But eventually, Ted has to return home for school, which leaves Babbitt feeling very lonely on his trip. In fact, he even realizes one day that he has nothing to do and there's nothing he even wants to do.
  • While he sits alone in a hotel restaurant one night, Babbitt looks to a nearby table and sees another solitary man who's looking miserable. The man, however, is none other than Sir Gerald Doak, the English aristocrat who stayed with the McKelveys during his last trip to Zenith.
  • Babbitt walks up to him and asks what's up. After a few moments of strained conversation, both of them realize that they're looking for a good time. So they hang out together for the rest of the night and party it up.
  • Back at Gerald Doak's hotel room, he confesses to Babbitt that all he wants to do is talk about business and drink and smoke cigars. But everyone assumes that he should be treated like a fancy aristocrat. When the evening is over, he thanks Babbitt for treating him to the most fun he's had since arriving in America.
  • Lying in bed that night, Babbitt thinks happily about returning to the Zenith Athletic Club and telling everyone there that he spent his time in Chicago hanging out with a big shot like Sir Gerald.
  • When he goes back to the hotel dining room, Babbitt sees his good mood get totally ruined. Why, you ask? Because on the other side of the room, he can see his buddy Paul Riesling having dinner with a woman who isn't his wife. And it doesn't just look like a dinner between friends…
  • Babbitt makes a point of walking over and letting Paul know that he's been caught. When he leaves the two of them together, he promises Paul that he'll go to Paul's hotel and wait for him there.

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