Study Guide

Vergil Gunch in Babbitt

By Harry Sinclair Lewis

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Vergil Gunch

If Paul Riesling represents dissatisfaction with the conservative American way of life, then Vergil Gunch represents total satisfaction with it. He's a happy camper. The guy is a member of all the same social clubs as Babbitt, and he'll do just about anything he can to defend his Richie Rich way of life.

The narrator first introduces us to Gunch with a fairly long description, saying:

Mr. Gunch was president of the Boosters' Club, a weekly lunch-club, local chapter of a national organization which promoted sound business and friendliness among Regular Fellows. He was also no less an official than Esteemed Leading Knight in the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and it was rumored that at the next election he would be a candidate for Exalted Ruler. (5.3.3)

The language of "Benevolent" and "Exalted Ruler" goes to show how much guys like Gunch like to pat themselves on the back for making money and for being "Regular Fellows." But once Babbitt steps out of line and starts saying left-wing things around the clubs, Vergil is the first to get cheesed:

Vergil Gunch intimidatingly said nothing. He put on sternness like a mask; his jaw was hard, his bristly short hair seemed cruel, his silence was a ferocious thunder. (27.2.18)

The other men might want to think that Babbitt is joking when he defends socialists, but Vergil Gunch is very, very serious about these things.

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