Study Guide

Babbitt Chapter 29

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 29

(Sections I through IV)

  • Now that he knows he has Tanis Judique's support, Babbitt feels like he can be open with his newfound liberalism. At the Athletic Club, he even gets a kick out of bothering people with his views and making them argue until they're red in the face.
  • But even though he likes annoying most people, Babbitt is intimidated by the silent, angry way that Vergil Gunch is constantly staring at him.
  • Meanwhile, Babbitt exults over his newfound connection with Tanis. He thinks of her as the fairy child whom he's been looking for throughout his adult life.
  • He is afraid, though, that Myra will find out about their affair.
  • The more time he spends with Tanis, the less attracted he is to Myra. He is frightened by how old she looks. This, of course, is just a projection of his own fears about aging.
  • That Christmas, he even sneaks away to bring Tanis a silver cigarette box as a present. When he gets home, he just tells his wife he went out for some fresh air.
  • After New Year's, Myra informs Babbitt that she needs to go visit her sick sister for a while. She badly wants him to beg her to stay, but the truth is that he wants her to go away. She can tell he feels this way, and she's devastated by it.
  • Babbitt feels so guilty that afternoon that he swears not to visit Tanis. Then he goes and visits her.
  • Every day after hanging out with Tanis and her friends, Babbitt tends to wake up with a terrible hangover. He says to himself that he's going to quit, but of course never does.
  • The narrator gives us a brief description of Tanis' friend group, whom she affectionately calls "The Bunch." At first, Babbitt finds them all kind of trashy and feels uncomfortable around them. But once the drinks get poured, he's everyone's best friend and he admires the group's freedom. We can only assume that when these nights end, he ends up in Tanis' bed.
  • One night, his neighbor Howard Littlefield invites him over for dinner, but Babbitt refuses. Now that he's used to hanging out with The Bunch, he can't stand all of Littlefield's boring speeches about facts and figures.
  • Moments later, his other neighbor Sam Doppelbrau stops by and invites him over for a party. Since Babbitt likes Sam's alcohol-infused parties, he agrees to come.
  • Partway through the night, the people from the party get into taxis to drive somewhere else. Babbitt ends up in the back of a car with Sam's wife Louetta. This time, he has no modesty with her. He flirts aggressively with her and they ride with her head on his shoulder.
  • Hours later, he comes wobbling back into his own home and tries to avoid being seen by his daughter Verona and her fiancĂ© Ken. Again, he vows to mend his ways and stop being such a drunk.
  • Eventually, even some of the people in The Bunch tell Babbitt he needs to slow down. He can't stand the fact that he has a bunch of nobodies telling him what to do, though. And of course, he doesn't slow down.
  • One day, while driving people from the bunch to go skating, Babbitt sees one of his old friends from The Athletic Club on the sidewalk. He knows that the guy has just seen him hanging out with a bunch of young party animals, but the other guy seems determined not to let on that he's seen. This makes Babbitt nervous about where his life is heading.
  • Babbitt is having lunch at The Athletic Club one day when his friend Vergil Gunch comes up and invites him to join a group called the Good Citizens' League, which is designed to get socialists and communists thrown in jail. Babbitt knows, though, that joining would force him to go after people like Seneca Doane.
  • He tells Vergil that he'll have to think it over, and Vergil walks away unsatisfied with the answer. He says he knows that something weird is going on with Babbitt but he doesn't know what it is. He also mentions that everyone knows about Babbitt's late-night escapades with "The Bunch," which is beginning to cost him his reputation.
  • That night, Babbitt eats dinner alone and promises himself he won't go to Tanis' apartment. And he actually makes it late into the night, but then caves and goes.

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