Study Guide

Babbitt Chapter 26

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

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Chapter 26

(Sections I through III)

  • On the train back to Zenith from Maine, Babbitt looks for a familiar face to talk to. But the only one he sees is Seneca Doane, the radical left-wing lawyer whom Babbitt aggressively campaigned against in the last mayoral election.
  • With no other options for companionship, though, Babbitt says hello to Doane and strikes up a conversation with him. It's clear from the beginning that Doane is mistrustful of Babbitt.
  • As they get into conversation, though, they start to reflect on what they used to be like when they knew one another in college. Doane was the one with aspirations of making a lot of money, and Babbitt was the one who planned on becoming a lawyer and fighting for the common folk.
  • Eventually, Babbitt agrees that it's good that people like Doane exist, because it's always good to have some opposition in a democracy.
  • By the time they're done talking, Doane goes so far as to ask Babbitt for a favor. There's this local preacher named Beecher Ingram who is getting run out of Zenith for apparently preaching about free love.
  • But the truth for Doane is that Ingram is a good person who preaches love between all people all the time. He wants Babbitt to put in a good word for Ingram with the business community whenever he can, since he knows that Babbitt has a reputation as a persuasive guy.
  • When he parts ways with Doane, Babbitt suddenly finds himself feeling sorry for Zilla Riesling, of all people.
  • After he gets home he decides to pay Zilla a visit, thinking that if he forgives her and shows her kindness for treating Paul horribly for so many years, she might drop the charges against him.
  • Zilla, though, isn't as accommodating as Babbitt thought she might be. In fact, she's angrier at Paul than ever, and she hopes he'll die in prison. It turns out that after being shot, she found religion and she considers herself one of the "saved." The rest of the world, she thinks, is full of sinners who are all going to burn in hell.
  • The conversation ends in a blowup between them, with Babbitt storming out.
  • Back home, Babbitt finds out that his daughter Verona has finally gotten engaged to Ken Escott.
  • That September, Ted enters the state university as a freshman. The university, though, is only fifteen miles from Zenith, so Ted comes home most weekends.
  • One weekend, Ted asks his dad if he can transfer to the school of engineering. But Babbitt refuses, telling him to get a more respectable college degree. He lists a number of impressive people who have these degrees and throws Seneca Doane's name into the mix. Ted is surprised, since he thought that Babbitt hated Doane and everything he stood for.
  • Babbitt, though, tells his son that Doane is not so bad as people think.

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