Mediocrity In America Essay

1156 words - 5 pages

Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt is a satirical depiction of the mediocrity of business America. Lewis's anger with the mass conformity of the 1920s businessman is portrayed through his middle-class protagonist George F. Babbitt - the embodiment of the materialism, hypocrisy and ignorance by which Lewis is so appalled. Lewis portrays Zenith's middle-class citizens as similarly standard, completely defined by their comfortable, homogenized world. Babbitt recognizes and then seeks to expose the hypocrisy and emptiness of middle class life, but he only succeeds in realizing that he is trapped by his way of life. Lewis uses Babbitt as a vehicle to show the reader America's radical homogenization of lifestyles, activities, and ultimately, views on life and themselves.George Follensbee Babbitt is a 46-year-old real-estate broker who lives in Zenith, a midwestern urban center of which Babbitt is especially fond. Both Zenith and its inhabitants are characterized with a depressing sameness. Lewis never reveals the location of the city, and if "a stranger suddenly dropped into the business-center of Zenith he could not have told whether he was in a city of Oregon or Georgia, Ohio or Maine, Oklahoma or Manitoba" (53.) This ambiguous city is home to Babbitt and his family, who live in a moderately expensive and modern house that is almost identical to every other house lining the groomed streets in their stereotypical neighborhood. Lewis describes that although their house has "the best of taste, the best of inexpensive rugs, a simple and laudable architecture, and the latest conveniences?it {has} nothing to do with the Babbitts, nor anyone else" (15.) Babbitt's desire for his house to be like everyone else's is based on the idea that if his house fits the homogenized mold, then he can never be accused of not having an adequate and luxurious lifestyle. The downfall to Babbitt's strategy is that their house has no personality, no individuality. "It {is} not a home" (15.) This lack of personality is all too apparent in other aspects of Babbitts life, such as how he chooses to occupy his time. Every morning Babbitt wakes up, gets in his mediocre car, and drives through Zenith to the tall building where he works amidst a sea of other Babbitts. He lunches at the Zenith Athletic Club, which Lewis describes as "not athletic, {not} exactly a club, but is Zenith to perfection" (56.) What Lewis means when he says this is that every Babbitt in Zenith belongs to the Club simply for the opportunity to climb another rung on their social ladders. It seems that the members are more mechanized things then social businessmen. From the outside the Club looks like any other building in Zenith; however, the inside is lavishly decorated to increase the members sense of importance. Much like Babbitt's house, the conveniences and luxuries are mostly for show: "at one end of the room {is} a heraldic and hooded stone fireplace which the club's advertising-pamphlet asserts to be not only...

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