George Babbitt, a middle aged realtor, has all the luxuries of a successful middle-class businessman, but finds himself dissatisfied with life. Throughout the novel, Babbitt becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the social conventions that dictated his choices until then, but realizes it is too late for him to rebel, accepting the quiet dissatisfaction of his ordinary life.
In the bustle of life at Bowdoin, it’s easy to forget the purpose of these stresses and pressures. Sinclair Lewis uses his satirical novel Babbitt to remind us to reflect on what we want from our lives, encouraging us to ignore societal pressures and do what makes us happy.
The abstract, far-off fear of failing is the driving force behind George Babbitt’s life, a fear that all too often drives choices here. Finish a paper or support a friend? Cram for that exam or go on an Outing Club trip? Sinclair Lewis effectively draws the reader’s attention to a dilemma each one of us must face in deciding our path and reminds us to reflect on the true meaning of failure—living a life like George Babbitt: a life of unfulfillment, emptiness, and regret. At the end of the novel, Babbitt urges his son to ignore society’s expectations and do what he truly wants with his life, admitting that he never did anything with his life that he wanted to. His final words to his son are Sinclair Lewis’s final urges to the reader, and a source of inspiration I would like to pass on: “ Go ahead...The world is yours!”