Synopses & Reviews
George F. Babbitt, a conniving, prosperous real estate man from Zenith, Ohio, revels in his popularity, his success, and, especially, in the material rewards they bring. He bullies his wife, flirts with other women, and patronizes the less successful. But when his best friend is sent to prison for killing his wife, Babbitt's middle-class complacency is shattered, and he rebels, seeking a more "meaningful" life. His small revolt is quickly defeated, however, by public opinion and his own need for acceptance. Babbitt
captures the flavor of America during the economic boom years of the 1920's, and its protagonist has become the symbol of middle-class mediocrity, his name an enduring part of the American lexicon.
"The equal of any novel written in English in the present century."
Virginia Woolf in The Saturday Review
“It is Babbitt
that is [Sinclair Lewiss] most perfect creation. . . . We have to be thankful for the minor miracle that after almost a century, Babbitt
still speaks to us all.” —Azar Nafisi, in The Republic of Imagination
“Babbitt is now well into its nineties, but George F. Babbitt still lives and breathes and harrumphs. Its impossible, especially during any American election season, to read a newspaper or turn on the television without hearing the echoes of his voice. Babbitt is the original American everyman.” —Nathaniel Rich, from the Foreword
"The equal of any novel written in English in the present century." —Virginia Woolf, The Saturday Review
Sinclair Lewis's barbed portrait of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, shattered the myth of the American Middle West as God's Country and became a symbol of the cultural narrow-mindedness and smug complacency of small towns everywhere. At the center of the novel is Carol Kennicott, the wife of a town doctor, who dreams of initiating social reforms and introducing art and literature to the community. The range of reactions to Main Street when it was published in 1920 was extraordinary, reflecting the ambivalence in the novel itself and Lewis's own mixed feelings about his hometwon of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, the prototype for Gopher Prairie.
About the Author
was born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and graduated from Yale University in 1908. His college career was interrupted by various part-time occupations, including a period working at the Helicon Home Colony, Upton Sinclair’s socialist experiment in New Jersey. He worked for some years as a free lance editor and journalist, during which time he published several minor novels. But with the publication of Main Street
(1920), which sold half a million copies, he achieved wide recognition. This was followed by the two novels considered by many to be his finest, Babbitt
(1922) and Arrowsmith
(1925), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, but declined by Lewis. In 1930, following Elmer Gantry
(1927) and Dodsworth
(1929), Sinclair Lewis became the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for distinction in world literature. This was the apogee of his literary career, and in the period from Ann Vickers
(1933) to the posthumously published World So Wide
(1951) Lewis wrote ten novels that reveal the progressive decline of his creative powers. From Main Street to Stockholm
, a collection of his letters, was published in 1952, and The Man from Main Street
, a collection of essays, in 1953. During his last years Sinclair Lewis wandered extensively in Europe, and after his death in Rome in 1951 his ashes were returned to his birthplace.
Martin Bucco is a professor of English at Colorado State University. He is the author of numerous books, among them The Voluntary Tongue (1957), Frank Waters (1969), Wilbur Daniel Steele (1972), E. W. Howe (1977), René Wellek (1981), Western American Literary Criticism (1984), and Main Street: The Revolt of Carol Kennicott (1993), and the editor of Critical Essays on Sinclair Lewis (1986).