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Babbitt

Sinclair Lewis

Characters

Summary

Chapters 1-2

George F. Babbitt  -  Babbitt is a middle-aged successful real estate broker in Zenith. When the novel opens, he is a typical member of Zenith's hypocritical, ignorant, unthinking, conformist middle class. However, he is vaguely dissatisfied with the monotonous, conventional middle-class lifestyle. After his best friend, Paul Riesling, is sent to jail for shooting his wife in an argument, Babbitt briefly rebels against middle-class values. He has an affair, joins his mistress's Bohemian circle of friends, and voices liberal political opinions. However, his friends and associates quickly crush his rebellion by shunning him socially and refusing to do business with him. When Myra Babbitt falls seriously ill, Babbitt realizes that it is too late for him to rebel. He has too much to lose, and he doesn't want his family to suffer for his unorthodox behavior. He returns to his conventional life to regain his social status and respectability with a new understanding of the hypocritical, ignorant values of his class.
Myra Babbitt  -  Myra Babbitt is George Babbitt's dull but devoted wife. She is also dissatisfied with the monotonous, conventional middle-class lifestyle. She is deeply hurt by Babbitt's affair, but when she falls seriously ill, Babbitt returns to his role as a responsible, family man.
Ted Babbitt -  Ted Babbitt is George and Myra's teenaged son. He doesn't want to go to college because his talents and interests lay in mechanics. Like most middle class boys, he is interested in girls, nice clothing, and expensive cars. At the end of the novel, he drops out of college and elopes with Eunice Littlefield. Because Babbitt now understands that the conventional middle-class lifestyle is extremely repressive, he tells his son to follow his dreams.
Tinka Babbitt -  Tinka Babbitt is Myra and George's youngest child.
Verona Babbitt -  Verona Babbitt is Myra and George's oldest child. She graduated from Bryn Mawr and professes liberal opinions. She wants to have a socially responsible career, but her beliefs and character are still heavily influenced by the materialistic, ignorant values of the middle class. She marries Kenneth Escott, a young reporter for Zenith's local newspaper.
Henry T. Thompson -  Thompson is Babbitt's father-in-law and business partner. Babbitt thinks he is "old-fashioned" and "provincial" because he didn't graduate from college. However, he is just as eager as Babbitt to take advantage of shady business opportunities in Zenith's real estate market.
Paul Riesling  -  Paul Riesling was Babbitt's college classmate and is his closest friend. When he was young, he wanted to become a professional violinist, but like Babbitt, he became mired in the conventional lifestyle of the middle-class businessman. He is harshly critical of the monotonous, hypocritical character of Zenith's middle class. His wife, Zilla, is equally dissatisfied with this life, but she vents her frustration on Riesling by constantly nagging him. One day, Riesling snaps and shoots her during an argument, for which he is sentenced to three years in prison. The loss of his friend devastates Babbitt, and it prompts him to embark on a rebellion against the middle-class lifestyle.
Zilla Riesling -  Zilla Riesling is Paul Riesling's wife. She is bored and embittered with their monotonous, conventional, middle-class lifestyle. She vents her frustration by constantly nagging her husband. During an argument, Riesling snaps and shoots her. After he is sent to prison for three years, Zilla "gets religion," but she uses it to morally justify her resentful desire to see Riesling suffer for shooting her.
May Arnold  -  May Arnold is Riesling's widowed, middle-aged mistress. Babbitt finds out about the affair when he encounters them together in Chicago during a business trip.
"The Bunch"  -  "The Bunch" is Tanis's group of Bohemian friends. They include Minnie Sontag, Carrie Nork, and Fulton Bemis. After Babbitt spends some time with them, he realizes they have their own shallow, rigid standards of conformity.
Dr. Dilling -  Dr. Dilling is a conservative surgeon in Zenith. He helps the other members of the Good Citizen's League in the attempt to coerce Babbitt into conforming to Zenith's middle-class values. He treats Myra when she falls seriously ill.
Sir Gerald Doak -  Sir Gerald Doak is an aristocratic British businessman. He is a guest of Charles Mckelvey when he stays in Zenith. When Babbitt encounters him in Chicago, they become friendly with one another, and Babbitt learns that he is frustrated with the mistaken assumptions that Americans make about him because he is an aristocrat. In fact, he and Babbitt are a lot alike.
Seneca Doane -  Seneca Doane is a radical lawyer who was one of Babbitt's college classmates. He supports the labor rights movement and unsuccessfully runs against Prout in the Zenith mayoral election. He protests the standardized opinions and values of the middle class. When Babbitt engages in a brief rebellion against those values, he voices support for Doane's political opinions, much to the horror and dismay of his friends.
The Doppelbraus  -  The Doppelbraus are Babbitt's neighbors. Babbitt disapproves of their late night parties, loud music, fast driving, and drinking.
Reverend John Jennison Drew -  Drew is the minister at Babbitt's church. He appoints Babbitt to the committee to increase Sunday School attendance. He mixes politics and religion because he preaches against the labor rights movement in Zenith.
William Washington Eathorne -  Eathorne, a banker, is a member of Zenith's oldest, richest family. He and Babbitt work together on a project to increase the attendance at their church's Sunday School. Eathorne gives Babbitt a secret loan to carry out a shady business deal.
Kenneth Escott -  Kenneth Escott is a young reporter for Zenith's local newspaper. He compromises his journalistic integrity when he agrees to become the unofficial press agent for Babbitt's church. He marries Verona Babbitt.
Sidney Finkelstein -  Finkelstein is one of Babbitt's friends and associates in the Zenith business community.
T. Cholmondeley Frink  -  Chum Frink is one of Babbitt's many friends and associates. He is considered a poetic genius, but he really writes clumsy, terrible jingles for advertisements. However, he is secretly unhappy that he never fulfilled his youthful ambitions to be a real poet.
Stanley Graff -  Stanley Graff is a real estate salesman in Babbitt's real estate business. When he becomes engaged, he asks Babbitt for a raise but receives a lecture for his lack of gratitude and business ethics. His low wages force him to cheat some of Babbitt's customers in order to feed himself and his wife. When Babbitt discovers his unethical business practices, he lectures Graff about morals and fires him. Graff points out that Babbitt is in no position to preach morality because he engages in bigger, more unethical practices. He threatens to reveal the details of Babbitt's shady deals if Babbitt tries to prevent him from getting a job in another firm.
Vergil Gunch -  Vergil Gunch is a Zenith coal merchant and one of Babbitt's many friends and associates in the Zenith business community. When Babbitt rebels against the conventional social and political values of Zenith's middle class, Gunch tries to coerce him into conforming by shunning him socially and organizing a boycott of Babbitt's real estate firm through the Good Citizen's League. When Myra falls seriously ill, Gunch once again extends his friendship and support to Babbitt, but it comes with strings attached. Babbitt welcomes the chance to return to the security of conformity.
Healey Hanson -  Hanson is the surly proprietor of a speakeasy in Zenith.
Tanis Judique -  Tanis Judique is an attractive, middle-aged widow who rents an apartment from Babbitt. Babbitt has an affair with her and joins her circle of Bohemian friends. When he realizes that her rebellion against social convention is just as silly and desperate as his, he breaks off their relationship.
Chester Kirby Laylock -  Laylock is a salesman who works for Babbitt's real estate firm.
Eunice Littlefield -  Eunice is Howard Littlefield's movie-crazy daughter. She elopes with Ted at the end of the novel.
Howard Littlefield  -  Howard Littlefield, an executive for the Traction Street Company, is Babbitt's neighbor and friend. Ted Babbitt elopes with Littlefield's daughter, Eunice.
Conrad Lyte -  Lyte is a speculator who frequently colludes with Babbitt on shady real estate deals.
Miss McGoun -  Miss McGoun is Babbit's young unmarried secretary. Babbitt briefly wishes he could have an affair with her. When Babbitt's reputation and business suffers during his brief rebellion against the values of Zenith's middle class, she resigns from her job to work for a rival real estate firm.
The McKelveys  -  The McKelveys are members of Zenith's elite upper class. Charles McKelvey was also one of Babbitt's college classmates, and Lucile McKelvey likes to rub elbows with British aristocrats like Sir Gerald Doak. The Babbitts try to become their friends, but the McKelveys treat them with snobbery and disdain.
Mike Monday -  Mike Monday is an ex-prize fighter who is now an evangelist. He is invited to Zenith to speak because he has a reputation for distracting the working class from concerns about wages and working conditions.
Jake Offutt -  Offutt is a corrupt Zenith politician. He and Thompson carry out shady business deals with Babbitt's help.
The Overbrooks  -  Ed Overbrook was one of Babbitt's college classmates who failed to become a successful businessman. He and his wife want to become friends with the Babbitts in order to climb the social ladder. The Babbitts treat them with the same snobbery and disdain they receive from the more successful McKelveys.
Joe Paradise -  Paradise works as a guide at a wilderness resort in Maine where the Babbitt's vacation every year. Babbitt idealizes him until he learns that Paradise is just as materialistic and ignorant as any Zenith businessman.
Ida Putiak -  Ida Putiak is an ignorant, pretty manicurist. Babbitt tries to have an affair with her, but she rebuffs his romantic overtures after they go on a disastrous dinner date.
Lucas Prout -  Prout is a conservative mattress manufacturer. He defeats Seneca Doane in Zenith's mayoral race. Babbitt fervently campaigns for him by making political speeches. In return for his help, Prout awards him with some insider information about future plans for road development in Zenith.
Joseph K. Pumphrey  -  Pumphrey, one of Babbitt's many friends and associates, is a professor of Business English.
Archibald Purdy -  Archibald Purdy is a grocer in Zenith. He falls victim to the collusion of Conrad Lyte and Babbitt when he needs to purchase a lot to expand his store. Babbitt and Lyte buy the lot, when they hear of his plans, in order to extract an exorbitant price for it.
Cecil Rountree -  Cecil Rountree is the chairman of the program committee for the annual convention of the State Association of Real Estate Boards. At his urging, Babbitt writes a speech to deliver at the convention.
Noel Ryland -  Noel Ryland is a car salesman in Zenith. Babbitt thinks he is an example of taking "civilization too far" because he graduated from Princeton University and reads foreign poetry.
Colonel Rutherford Snow -  Snow owns Zenith's local newspaper. He helps other members of the Good Citizen's League in the attempt to coerce Babbitt into conforming with middle-class Zenith's values.
Eddie Swanson -  Swanson, a salesman, is Babbitt's neighbor
Louetta Swanson -  Louetta is Eddie Swanson's young, pretty wife. Babbitt tries to flirt with her once he admits to himself that he wants his fairy girl in the flesh, but she rebuffs his attentions. After he becomes a member of Tanis's group of Bohemian friends, she returns his flirtatious advances.
Horace Updike -  Horace Updike tries to seduce Lucile McKelvey.
Dr. Kurt Yavitch -  Yavitch is a histologist from Zenith. He hates Zenith because he thinks it has "standardized all the beauty out of life." He is a friend of Seneca Doane.

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