How does the character of George Babbitt begin to change?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Throughout the course of Sinclair Lewis's novel, Babbitt, the character of George Follansbee Babbitt undergoes the only major rebellion of his meaningless and conforming life in Chapter 22.  For, in this chapter, Babbitt acts as an individual and a loyal friend to Paul Riesling.  Having been involved in false acts such as philandering and a venture as an ersatz outdoorsman, Babbitt's insistence upon speaking with Paul in prison and his extension of true friendship is the only authentic act of this character.

This act is authentic since Babbitt risks social condemnation for being on the side of a man charged with attempted murder on his wife.  As he leaves the prison, Babbitt feels that "It seemed somehow wicked to return to the office."  This reflection of Babbitt indicates that he is not conforming to American standards, but is thinking for himself.  When he returns home his wife is excited about the tintillating details of the charges against Paul and readily condemns him, but Babbitt orders,

"I forbid any of you to say a word about Paul! I'll 'tend to all the talking that's going to be necessary, hear me?  There's going to be one house in this scandal-mongering town tonight that's isn't going to spring the holier-than-thou. And throw those filthy evening papers out of the house!" 

Yet, Lewis writes that Babbitt himself reads the papers after dinner.  So, the indication is that Babbitt's efforts to redefine himself will not last and he will return to being a "standardized citizen" as his other efforts at rebellion are meaningless failures and he, again, returns to conformity.

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