Study Guide

Babbitt Dissatisfaction

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

Dissatisfaction

If you handed Babbitt's protagonist a survey asking him how satisfied he is with his life, you might get a complicated answer. For starters, his answer might depend on what mood you caught him in.

If he were in a good mood, he'd say that life is great and that he enjoys being a success. If you caught him in a dark mood, though, he'd say that life is pointless and that there's nothing he could ever do to give it meaning. In his moments of dissatisfaction, his main source of trouble seems to be the realization that making money and having kids might not be as meaningful as people say they are. In fact, they might not have any meaning at all… apart from the meaning everyone agrees to give them.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. What do you think is the main source of Babbitt's dissatisfaction? Why?
  2. As an outside reader, do you think you have a good idea of how Babbitt should deal with his dissatisfaction? Or are you just as stumped as he is?
  3. What roles do money, greed, and capitalism play in Babbitt's dissatisfaction? Does he really resent these things, or would things be better if he could elevate himself to the highest levels of society?
  4. Does Babbitt's dissatisfaction ring true or familiar to you, or do you have difficulty identifying with it? Why?

Chew on This

In Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis shows us that money can never satisfy humanity's need for a higher purpose in life.

The story of Babbitt reminds us that there's little to be accomplished by constantly worrying about huge questions like "What's the meaning of life?"

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