'Now you look here! The first thing you got to understand is that all this uplift and flipflop and settlement-work and recreation is nothing in God's world but the entering wedge of socialism. The sooner a man learns he isn't going to be coddled, and he needn't expect a lot of free grub and, uh, all these free classes and flipflop and doodads for his kids unless he earns 'em, why the sooner he'll get on the job and produce - produce - produce! That's what the country needs, and not all this fancy stuff that just enfeebles the will-power of the working man and gives his kids a lot of notions above their class.'
Sinclair Lewis became the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930. One of his primary works, Babbitt, introduces us to George F. Babbitt, a successful realtor and family man, living in the 1920s in the prosperous "Floral Heights" neighbourhood in the fictitious city of Zenith. George has it all. In his late 40s, he has a partnership in a profitable real estate company, a club to go to and meet other gentlemen to discuss current issues and to boost each others' manliness, three children and an appropriately subordinate and meek wife to make him dinner after a hard day's work... He's living the stereotypical post-WW1 American dream.
Yet a series of disturbing events in his life make George realize that he is ultimately unhappy. That he hasn't lived his life like he wanted. That his opinions are not his own, but someone else's. That he and others around him are just hypocrites. Somewhere inside George's well-fed, God-fearing, unimaginative, arrogant, ignorant, capitalist, super-Americanized mind, there lurks a desire to rebel against the rat race of his everyday life.
George F. Babbitt's character became larger than life; so much so that the name passed on to everyday use and a "babbitt" now refers to any self-satisfied, narrow-minded, middle-class man.
Sinclair Lewis: Babbitt. Penguin Books. 1987.
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