By Sinclair Lewis
(Prometheus Books, Paperback, 9781591020233, 408pp.)
Publication Date: November 1, 2002
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In this sardonic portrait of the up-and-coming middle class during America's most prosperous decade before the Great Depression, Sinclair Lewis perfectly captures the sound, the feel, and the attitudes of the generation that created the cult of consumer materialism that we all take for granted today. With a sharp eye for detail and keen powers of observation, Lewis tracks George Babbitt's daily struggles to rise to the top of his profession while maintaining his reputation as an upstanding family man.
But beneath the complacent fatade Lewis also reveals a confused interior Babbitt who is experiencing a rising, nameless discontent. His wife bores him, his children get on his nerves, his cronies at the club suddenly strike him as shallow, and for all of his success he can't shake the feeling that the sum of his life amounts to little more than a hollow shell. These feelings eventually lead Babbitt into risky escapades that threaten his family and his standing in the community.
Though published eighty years ago, this acerbic depiction of majority Americans, obsessed with success, material comfort, and mid-life doubt, still rings true. Lewis's enduring portrait remains a discomfiting reminder that there is a little of George Babbitt in all of us.