Study Guide

Babbitt Chapter 23

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 23

(Sections I through IV)

  • For several months, Babbitt tries to keep himself from thinking to much, so he buries himself in his work. The days, though, are mostly blank and empty for him.
  • He decides one night that he wants to go out and party with his friends, but he's quickly discouraged by the fact that his buddies are all doing something.
  • After supper, his children go out to a dance and leave Babbitt alone in the house. His wife Myra has gone East to see relatives with their daughter, Tinka. Now he's really bored. He goes up to Verona's bedroom, looking for something good to read.
  • But it's all for naught. He still feels really unhappy with his life in general, especially without Paul Riesling to cheer him up.
  • As he sits thinking, he envisions Paul wearing a prison uniform. Then he sees his pal Chum Frink and imagines him complaining about how he's wasted his entire life on stupid advertisements when he could have been writing real literature.
  • The more he thinks, the more he realizes that he gets no satisfaction whatsoever from making money.
  • He realizes that what he truly wants out of life is the fairy girl from his dreams. But the fairy girl is only a symbol.
  • He wishes that there were a woman he could love and desire the same way he does the fairy girl. He even tries to think of women in his life who might fill this role, like his secretary or the prettiest manicure girl who works in the nail shop in his office building.
  • As he falls asleep on the couch, he realizes that he is breaking away from everything in life that he once considered good and decent.
  • The next morning, Babbitt totally forgets about his rebellious thoughts from the night before. At work, though, he's so frustrated that he does something he never imagined doing before. He leaves work at noon to go see a movie.
  • Someone from the Athletic Club sees him, though, and the next time he goes to lunch, everyone teases him about being a millionaire. This is because only someone with a ton of money could just get up and leave work whenever he wanted.
  • Rather than be a good sport, Babbitt is frustrated with all of the ribbing he gets. He responds by lashing out at them, but they all just assume he's joking.
  • After he finishes dictating a message to his secretary that day, Babbitt asks her to stick around and chat (or in other words, flirt). He tries to ask her about her life, but she just makes up an excuse to get back to work. He's crestfallen over the failure.
  • Later on, Babbitt learns that his neighbors, Eddie and Louetta Swanson, are having a party. Babbitt suddenly realizes how attractive he finds Louetta, and he decides to go to the party. He's also happy that his wife Myra is still away visiting relatives.
  • At the party, Babbitt makes sure to get some time to speak alone with Louetta and to flirt with her. She flirts back, but is never willing to cross the boundaries of respectability. They do dance together, though, and holding her nearly makes Babbitt faint with sexual energy.
  • He even makes sure to get her alone out on the house's patio. There, he tries to seduce her, but she rejects him (albeit reluctantly) and goes back to the party.
  • Once she's gone, Babbitt tries to convince himself that there's no way he would ever do anything immoral with Louetta. For the rest of the party, he makes a point of avoiding her.

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