The critic David Pugh has suggested that Lewis’s satire is no longer powerful or applicable to young Americans today. Do you agree? Discuss the implications of Babbitt in contemporary American culture. What would Lewis say about today’s government and today’s business world? How would you describe a modern-day Babbitt and how would he or she differ from the original? Which lessons from the novel remain important and which remain poignant?
Babbitt is full of references to the political and cultural life of 1920s America. Do some research on the era and discuss whether the novel is a justified and accurate portrayal of life in medium-sized American cities in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Is the fictional Zenith grounded in research and fact? How much, if any, of the satire is an unfair exaggeration?
Read another of Lewis’s novels from the 1920s, such as Dodsworth or Main Street. How does the novel you have chosen compare with Babbitt? Does Lewis use similar methods to satirize other aspects of American society? Are the plot and the melodrama of the novel more or less effective and engaging?
Writers have approached the business world in many different ways. What makes Babbitt unique? Why has it been so influential? Does its approach have anything in common with other famous works that take American business as their theme, such as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1945) or David Mamet’s Glengary Glen Ross (1984)? How is Babbitt suited to its era?
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