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Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

Updated on February 9, 2014

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis, was the satirical novel that folllowed up the wild success of Sinclair Lewis's Main Street and guaranteed that Sinclair Lewis was in the American mainstream to stay.  This satirical novel challenging conformity and "the American Dream" was an excellent work that made a lasting impression on the literary community, and American readers in general.  This lens is on that masterful work, and also includes some of the best places to buy new and used copies (even 1st editions) of this ground breaking work of fiction.

Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt from Amazon

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

Set in the fictional modern Midwestern city of Zenith, Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis tells the story of George Babbitt, a 46- year-old real estate broker, who enjoys all the modern conveniences available someone of his stature but still finds himself unfulfilled with his life.

His life is by most standards a pretty good one, he has nice job, a nice house and a family, married to a devoted wife Myra with whom he had three children, Verona, Ted, and Tinka.

Babbitt's closest friend is Paul Riesling and he is even more dissatisfied with his life than George B is. Paul is also more vocal about it. Paul had dreamed of becoming a professional violinist in his youth but Riesling became caught in the life of the average middle-class businessman as many of his generation were.

His wife, Zilla, is equally unsatisfied with the boring routine of Zenith and takes her frustrations out by constantly nagging at Paul. Riesling has often spoken of divorcing his wife, but he never follows through.

Riesling and Babbitt try to relax and discover some happiness by taking a vacation in Maine together, but their enjoyment at their newfound freedom is short-lived when they have to return to their lives as middle-aged married men. Both men are experiencing a rising need to be rebellious to the expectations of society.

Riesling begins to have an affair and claims to Babbitt that he does not feel guilty for seeking a little comfort in the arms of another woman. Soon thereafter, Riesling and his wife have a huge argument resulting in Riesling snapping and he shoots his wife and is sentenced to prison for three years in the state penitentiary.

Babbitt is depressed by the loss his friend and the steadying presence he had in his life. His own desire for rebellion comes to the surface when the attractive widow, Tanis Judique, enters his life, Babbitt thinks he has found his fantasy girl and begins to have an affair with Tanis.

While his wife Myra is away nursing her sick sister, Babbitt stays out late, drinking and partying with his girlfriend and her friends.

Babbitt's friends are concerned with his behavior and the general direction of his life. Trying to convince him to stop his rebellious lifestyle has not effect and Myra returns she becomes suspicious of Babbitt's activities. When he admits to her that he is having an affair, he convinces her that it is her fault. However, before long Babbitt becomes disillusioned with Tanis when he realizes that in many ways, her life is just as conventional as his.

When his wife falls seriously ill with appendicitis, Babbitt realizes that it is too late to become a rebel, and that he needs to be responsible and take care of his obligations. He recommits himself to his family and his life and once again becomes a devoted husband and deeply regrets the pain he has caused his wife.

Babbitt's friends support him during the crisis and he gratefully accepts the chance to resume his old life and quickly regains his respectable social status.

Meanwhile, when his son Ted shocks everyone by eloping with Eunice Littlefield, Babbitt takes him aside and tries to speak with him man to man. Although he wants Ted to go to college, Babbitt does understand his son's desire to be his own person and not conform to what everyone wants him to do.

George realizes by pressuring his son, he will only push him to the things he did not like about his own life and he does not want to do that to Ted; so he encourages him to follow his heart, not everyone's expectations.

Sinclair Lewis Links

Some great information on Sinclair Lewis and his works.

Babbitt Sinclair Lewis | Babbitt | Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis was a classic novel, and is still in demand as a collectible antique book

Sinclair Lewis antique books have continued to climb in value as demand remains as high as it ever has before. Babbitt was one of Lewis's early novels, and the first one printed after the wildly successful run of Main Street.

A first edition copy of "Babbitt" will be published in 1922 by Harcourt, Brace & Howe: New York. The books should be made of navy blue cloth with orange boxes on both the cover and the spine, with blue lettering inside of both.

There are two printings that are both considered first edition collectibles here.

The first printing has two errors. On page 49, line 4, the line will say "Supposing Purdy and I..."

And on page 49, line 5, the line says " ruin my fellow human..."

In the 2nd printing corrections are made because "Purdy" is changed to "Lyte" and "my" to "any." The first printing had 9,500 copies, the second printing made 243,000 copies.

Without a dust jacket, the first printing is worth about $30, while the second printing is only about $5, or a normal used book. With dust jackets (which are often more valuable to collector's than the book itself), the value is as follows:

1st printing:

Fine Condition: $3,500

Near Fine: $3,000

VF/Very Good +: $1,500

VG+/VG: $750

VG/VG-: $400

Good: $125

2nd printing:

Fine: $2,000

F/NF: $1,750

NF/VG+: $1,250

VG+/VG: $650

VG/VG-: $350

Good: $100

So those are the prices on a first edition "Babbitt" by Sinclair Lewis, with the all important dust jacket.

Sinclair Lewis on Amazon

Babbitt is still relevant and still printed today as one of the great American classics, and one of the first to satirize the darker side of American life.

Babbitt (Bantam Classics)
Babbitt (Bantam Classics)

A modern reprint of the classic novel that shot Sinclair Lewis to fame.

Babbitt (Literary Classics)
Babbitt (Literary Classics)

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, with one of the most famous photos of the Nobel winning author.


Sinclair Lewis on YouTube

Plenty of good stuff on YouTube, including the Babbitt audiobook.

Any thoughts on Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis ? Like this page? Please feel free to leave comments, and check out my other great Sinclair Lewis lenses!

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