F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) uses techniques associated with European modernism to display the empty and hollow undercurrent in American life in the years following World War I. It is one of the most influential masterpieces of the era.
Main Street (1920), Lewis’s novel written just before Babbitt, is a satirical portrait of smalltown American life based on Lewis’s home town of Sauk Center, Minnesota.
A famous muckraking novel about the working conditions in a slaughterhouse, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) is one of the enduring satires of the early twentieth century. It greatly influenced Lewis’s work.
Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman (1949) centers on the tragedy of Willy Loman, a salesman whose life becomes meaningless except for his love of his sons. It focuses on a very different kind of family. The play employs distinct melodramatic methods in order to examine family and business culture after more than two decades of vast social and economic change, but it sharply resonates with Babbitt’s struggle.
Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854) tells the story of a hardware merchant with firm beliefs in rationality and fact coming into conflict with the world of imagination and culture. The novel, by the famous and influential satirist of English culture, is one of Dickens’s shorter and more readable works.
John Dean’s new biography Warren G. Harding (2004) examines the controversy and scandal behind Harding’s presidency and illustrates the political environment of the early 1920s.
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