I was surprised how much I connected with Sinclair Lewis’ title character, George Babbitt. A middle-aged real estate agent in a middle-sized American city is not exactly how I identify myself. But Babbitt is overcome by a constant feeling of having missed out on something wonderful. Of there being a possibly life that is better and more free than what he has. but he doesn’t know what that would mean or how he would get there. He feels trapped.
I think that many twenty-somethings can understand that sentiment. We don’t have the stability that Babbitt has, with a house and family waiting for him at the end of the night. But we, or at least I, want more than what I have now and I don’t know how to get there.
Many emphasize the satirical aspects of Babbitt. While his actions often leads to absurd and amusing ends, he is a living, breathing person. He could be your neighbor, your parent, your friend. Confused about what is the right thing to do, what he is being told to do by society, and what he wants. In the end, Babbitt’s small rebellion is squashed by responsibilities. I’m not sure what lessons it leaves us. Perhaps the importance of at least trying to pursue our dreams while we still can. That’s what I’m choosing to take away from it.
Available from Bantam Classics, $5.95