Study Guide

Ted Babbitt in Babbitt

Ted Babbitt

Babbitt's son Ted is a kid who knows what he wants. He wants to go to engineering school instead of university, but Babbitt won't let him because university has more status (or at least it did in 1922). The book first describes Ted as "Ted—Theodore Roosevelt Babbitt—a decorative boy of seventeen" (22.2). Little Teddie is named after the American president Theodore Roosevelt, so you can tell that his parents have big expectations for him.

Ted, however, is much more interested in concrete, practical skills than he is in anything he'll learn in university or law school. "Oh punk," he says at one point, "I don't see what's the use of law-school—or even finishing high school. I don't want to go to college 'specially" (6.3.21).

Sure, he says weird things like "Oh punk," but we like this dude. He's much more content to pursue his dream of working on cars and inventing his own machines than he is in making sure his resume looks all shiny. But still, his parents want him to go to university. 

Ted is only a minor presence in the earlier parts of the book, but his importance grows as his father Babbitt gets more and more rebellious. Ted, in fact, becomes Babbitt's sole supporter in his rebellion, since Ted agrees that their suburban life is too boring and too conservative. As he says to Babbitt at one point,

"Hot dog! Give 'em fits! Stir 'em up! This old burg is asleep!" (31.5.22)

As far as we can decipher, Ted is saying that the 'burbs suck. 1920's slang was, um, adorable.

By the end of the book, Babbitt has returned to his old ways. But his days of rebellion have brought him much closer to Ted, and he respects his son for being his own man and making his own decisions.