Babbitt deploys a series of detailed episodes that critique a whole way of life in a typical American city of its day. The main character, George Babbitt, is depicted as an average middle-aged American, living the good life in the bustling commercial city of Zenith, Ohio. Equipped with a house, car, two children, modern conveniences, modern gadgets, and a healthy bank account, Babbitt finds that the meaning of life has somehow eluded him. Although he is proud of his home and fond of family, he is undergoing a midlife crisis. A successful real estate salesman, he secretly hates himself for using bullying and dishonest tactics in order to make a profit and is stifled by a homogenous group of equally chubby, boisterous businessmen with similar homes and families. The lack of joy and freedom in his life is obvious from the moment he wakes up in his comfortable but somehow soulless household. To all appearances, Babbitt is on top of the world, soon to consolidate his rising business and social status with a speech before the prestigious Real Estate Board. This speech, delivered with bumptious energy and peppered with the folksy slang of the day, is a model of mindless self-congratulation and narrow, know-nothing bigotry. The speech is a resounding success.
Beneath Babbitt’s buoyant, optimistic surface is an emptiness and desolation that is registered at first through the character of his best friend Paul Reisling. Paul, a disaffected roofing...
(The entire section is 441 words.)