Babbitt as a Subject in terms of the Social Principle of Propriety

Freshman (College 1st year) ・English ・MLA ・1 Sources

From the 1992 novel of Sinclair Lewis, a character Babbitt has been used to show the life in conformist society. All that he did is predominantly based totally on what the society thinks. Zenith, a midsize industrial city, was the home of the enterprising American businessman. This paper discusses some of the characters demonstrated in the novel Babbitt including; the greed of mountain climbing social status, the desire of making money, controlling other people's lives for your advantage. The purpose of this paper is to talk about the interrelationship between Babbitt's choices and his social, economic, and political environment and the influence of his characters on the choices he makes. Forces Influencing Babbitt's Choices Babbitt's behavior was mainly influenced by the social, political, and economic environments. To a small extent, his character free will was also exercised.

Social Forces

Babbitt was largely affected by the social classes of others. He always wanted to be associated with rich people so as to gain a higher social class from his peers and people around. For instance, he derives a sense of accomplishment from close association with the prominent newspaper poet, T. Cholmondeley (Lewis 3). He also joins all civic association which accepts him, for instance, the State Association of Real Estate Board, the Zenith Boosters Club (4). He doesn't get much involved in religion matters and even doesn't join the Anti-Birth Control Union. He always liked to do things based on how they will look to others. He also wants his son, Theodore Roosevelt Babbitt to go to university, even though he confesses he didn't learn anything important in college (7). He wants to be given the prestige of having a son in the state university. Babbitt uses most of his time in Sunday schools at the church not because he is religious, but wants the praise and reputations that come with being involved in the church.

Whenever a chance to mix with the upper class arose, his relationships with the rich became profound. For example, when Sir Gerald Doak of Manchester was in Zenith he didn't notice Babbitt's existence. Due to the long monotonous business trip to Chicago, Doak opted to have fun and drunk with Babbitt. To him, a long life friendship had begun. The way he fantasized to his friends about the time spent with Doak was interesting. He could tell them that Sir Gerald is an old friend and he is planning to move to England to pay him a visit (20). Babbitt was virtuous the way society said he should be (26). He advocated, though he didn't practice it, prohibition of alcohol, praised laws against motor-speeding although he didn't obey (16). Social class is all that Babbitt wanted. He saw himself as a romantic hero. He lived in a closed small world of his own. His house included very expensive materials which don't match with middle-class persons. For instance, his bedroom was decorated with the best conventional designs by a decorator who did the interior of the most speculated buildings in the town (15). Very expensive furniture and mattresses were contained in his house. He did all this for recognition by his friends.

Economic Forces

To Babbitt, business was the sole purpose of living. He desired wealth through all means. Babbitt sees himself as part of the new wave of America. He doesn't want to be the average middle-class man but a very wealthy person recognized in America. He always compares himself with rich people he knew and those he met. His aggressiveness to thrive economically was influenced by the progressive era America was experiencing at that time. There were changes in the country's identity accompanied by rapid urbanization, technological growth, and industrialization (26). This was beyond Babbitt's control and hence had to react to the changes in his economic environment.

Political Forces

Babbitt chooses to rebel the society of conformity, but unfortunately, the means of rebellion were poorly chosen. He changes his political outlook. After that, he joins the Doane’s political movement. He supports workers strike and joins liberal politics. This disappointed his friends in the Boosters club. He even has the courage to voice his criticism about the perspectives of a conservative congressman in the presence of Dr. Dilling, a surgeon, and prominent club member. His bravado attracts the interest of three very prominent individuals, Dr. Dilling, Charles McKelvey, and Colonel Rutherford. They pay him a visit in his office. They invited Babbitt to join the Good Citizens League, but he responded that he was to think about it. They threatened him that his businesses would not prosper if doesn't join, but he refuses to be bullied (35). Later on, his former associate ignores him. He starts to lose business. His employees leave his company to work with rival companies (36).


When Babbitt realizes that the life he lives is confined to the society, he is dissatisfied with this issue and tries to find ways of refreshing himself from this stress. He plans to go on a trip to Maine with his close friend and college roommate, Paul Reisling. Paul is also dissatisfied with his job and family. They had a good time, but their issues with life were not solved. Later on, Babbitt learns that Paul killed his wife and he was sentenced to three years in jail (20). He was now left lonely when Paul was imprisoned. His wife and children went to visit relatives, and Babbitt decides to go back to Maine. He imagines himself a rugged outdoorsman and thinks how it would look like to become a camp guide himself. He is lonelier than ever in his life. He wishes to get some freedom away from the family and opts to have an extramarital affair with an attractive widow, Tanis Judique. He went on various vacations and met Tanis' friends. His wife, Myra, suspected his infidelity. He was also involved in liberal politics, and his friends were turning against him.

How Adoption of Social Principles Affect Determinism

Determinism is a philosophical position meaning, for every event or outcome, there are factors which could cause no other event. Everything which happens is determined by previous action(s). Determinism demands that every event was going on was determined by cause, was taken prior, and could cause no other different event. In the case of Babbitt, every event happening was assumed to be already planned, and one has no control over that. The Presbyterian Church to be specific beliefs that all things are planned by God and you can't change it (16). Due to the conformity based society in Zenith, people did not do what they felt like doing, but to do what the society expects them to. Therefore people in societies that encourage conformity tend to do what the society says but not what they desire or will to do.


In conclusion, Babbitt is a slave to his beliefs about the society. He lives to the expectations of the society but not the way he feels he should be. At the end of the story, Babbitt seems to have realized that his conformity brings his setbacks to the society but not ready for the change. Although he confesses that he has never done anything he wanted in life and gives his son Ted a chance to lead his life, he remains a slave to his society (43). His son seems to understand that he has to make his decisions to determine his tomorrow and takes his path to pursue life.

Work Cited

Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt. New York: Sheba Blake Publishing, 2013. Print.

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