A series of strikes upsets the efficient commercialism of Zenith. Violence erupts as the threat of a general strike seems certain, so the National Guard steps in. Babbitt, formerly a staunch critic of labor unions, is disturbed to hear that some of the workers complain that their wages do not even pay for enough food. Reverend Drew delivers a sermon criticizing the strikers. Babbitt shocks Chum Frink by calling Drew's sermon complete "rot." Babbitt further disturbs his friends by complaining of the National Guard's heavy-handed tactics with the strikers. The strike is quickly squelched, but Babbitt's friends become cooler and more reserved with him.
When Tanis calls about a leak in her apartment, Babbitt hurries to personally inspect it. One thing leads to another, and Babbitt ends up staying with her until dawn, smoking, talking, and drinking tea. Babbitt calls Myra to report that business will keep him out until late. While he continues to see Tanis secretly, Babbitt becomes more vocal with his friends with his new liberal opinions, inciting their disapproval and distrust. He fears that Myra is suspicious of his affair because he has become negligent with her. Fortuitously, Myra's sister falls ill, so she leaves Zenith for a few weeks.
Babbitt becomes caught up with Tanis' bohemian friends. A round of parties and outings begins to consume his time, and he begins to drink quite heavily. He wakes up with hangovers. Several times he resolves to put an end to the rebellious excess of his new life, but every day he finds himself in the company of Tanis and her friends. Whereas he once disdained the Doppelbraus as rowdy, alcoholic bohemians, he is delighted to attend one of their parties, at which he flirts with Louetta with more success than before.
When Pumphrey sees Babbitt driving drunk with Tanis and her friends, Babbitt begins to fear that he is damaging his reputation. After Gunch sees Babbitt having lunch with Tanis in public, he calls on Babbitt to ask him to join a new organization, the Good Citizens League. He states that he has never thought Babbitt's new liberal opinions were actually serious. Babbitt merely replies that he will consider joining the League. Afraid that he has gone too far in his rebellion, Babbitt resolves, and fails, to stay away from Tanis that night.
When Myra returns to Zenith, Babbitt makes an attempt to act like a good husband, but he fails to resist Tanis' draw. Myra protests his habit of going out in the evenings, but Babbitt responds with irritable complaints about the boring routine of his life. She retorts that she has been discontent, as well, and makes him promise to attend a lecture of the American New Thought League. Myra enjoys the lecture, but Babbitt finds it incomprehensible and uninspiring. This leads to a bitter argument that widens the gulf between them.
As Babbitt ponders Myra's virtues, he feels extremely guilty for his cruel treatment of her. He avoids Tanis for several days, but she phones him and writes him a letter. When Babbitt visits her, he is happy to see her at first. However, he suddenly realizes that she is not young and beautiful but a middle- aged woman trying to act much younger than she is. Feeling guilty and foolish, Babbitt breaks off their relationship.