Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt
Some memorable quotations
- I've found it's a mighty nice thing to be able to say you're a B.A.
- ...the strange thing is that the longer one knew the women, the less alike they seemed; while the longer one knew the men, the more alike their bold patterns seemed.
- For many minutes, for many hours, for a bleak eternity, he lay awake, shivering, reduced to primitive terror, comprehending that he had won freedom, and wondering what he could do with anything so unknown and so embarassing as freedom.
- ...Here's our kind of folks! Here's the specifications of the Standardized American Citizen! Here's the new generation of Americans: fellows with hair on their chests and smiles in their eyes and adding machines in their offices. We're not doing any boasting, but we like ourselves first-rate, and if you don't like us, look out—better get under cover before the cyclone hits town...." [Babbitt, in a speech to the Zenith Real Estate Board]
- ...it isn't the books you study in college but the friendships you make that counts ....
- Babbitt loved his mother, and sometimes he rather liked her, but he was annoyed by her Christian Patience, and he was reduced to pulpiness when she discoursed about a quiet mythical hero called 'Your Father'.
- Babbitt's half-brother, Martin . . . was proud of being honest, blunt, ugly, and disagreeable. His favorite remark was 'How muich did you pay for that?'
- ...he beheld ... his way of life as incredibly mechanical. Mechanical business—a brisk selling of badly built houses. Mechanical religion—a dry, hard church, shut off from the real life of the streets, inhumanly respectable as a top-hat. Mechanical golf and dinner parties and bridge and conversation. Save with Paul Riesling, mechanical friendships—back-slapping and jocular, never daring to essay the test of quietness.
- He was thinking. It was coming to him that perhaps all life as he knew it and vigorously practised it was futile; that heaven as portrayed by the Reverend Dr. John Jennison Drew was neither probable nor very interesting.; that he hadn't much pleasure out of making money; that it was of doubtful worth to rear children merely that they might rear children who would rear children. what was it all about? What did he want?
- And as he pondered on the train home something in his own self seemed to have died: a loyal and vigorous faith in the goodness of the world, a fear of public disfavor, a pride in success.
- You were either a courageous friend of Labor, or you were a fearless supporter of the Rights of Property; and in either case you were belligerent, and ready to disown any friend who did not hate the enemy.... And Babbitt chose this time to be publicly liberal.
- Suppose Verg saw me going in there.... Could the fellows think I've gone nutty just because I'm broad minded and liberal? Way Verg looked at me—
- ...Onch went on: 'George, I don't know what's come over you; none of us do; and we've talked a lot about you. For a while we figured out you'd been upset by what happened to poor Riesling, and we forgave you for any fool things you said, but that's old stuff now, George, and we can't make out what's got into you. Personally, I've always defended you, but I must say it's getting too much for me. All the boys at the Athletic Club and the Booster are sore, the way you go on deliberately touting Deane and his bunch of hell-hounds, and talking about being liberal—which means being wishy-washy—and even saying this preacher guy Ingram isn't a professional free-love artist. An then the way you've been carrying on personally! ... George, you've got a position in the community, and the community expects you to live up to it. —Better think over joining the Good Citizens' League. Se you about it later.
- ...'Well, you can't expect the decent citizens to go on aiding you if you intend to side with precisely the people who are trying to undermine us.' Babbitt was frightened, but he had an agonized instinct that if he yielded in this he would yield in everything.
- 'I know what the League stands for! It stands for the suppression of free speech and free thought and everything else! I don't propose to be bullied into joining anything, and it isn't a question of whether it's a good league or a bad league or what the hell kind of a league it is; it's just a question of my refusing to be told I've got to—'
'But dear, if you don't join, people might criticize you.'
- Gray fear loomed always by him now.... ...in imaginary conversations he caught them marvelling, 'Babbitt? Why, say, he's a regular anarchist! You got to admire the fellow for his nerve, the way he turned liberal and, by golly, just absolutely runs his life to suit himself. But say, he's dangerous, that's what he is, and he's got to be shown up.'
- Before long he admitted that he would like to flee back to the security of conformity, provided there was a decent and creditable way to return.
- The independence seeped out of him and he walked the streets alone, afraid of men's cynicall eyes and the incessant hiss of whispering.
- Instantly all the indignities which had been dominating him and the spiritual dramas through which he had struggled became pallid and absurd before the ancient and overwhelming realities, the standard and traditional realities, of sickness and menacing death, the long night, and the thousand steadfast implications of married life.
- He shut the door with haste. It may be that his frightened repentance of the night and morning had not eaten in, but this dehumanizing interment of her who had been so pathetically human shook him utterly, and as he crouched again on the high stool in the laboratory he swore faith to his wife ... to Zenith ... to business efficiency ... to the Boosters' Club ... to every faith of the Clan of the Good Fellows.
- All of them agreed that the working-classes must be kept in their place: and all of them perceived that American Democracy did not imply any equality of wealth, but did demand a wholesome sameness of thought, dress, painting, morals and vocabulary.
- He was conscious that his line of progress seemed confused. He wondered what he would do with his future, still young; was he through with all adventuring? He felt that he had been trapped into the very net from which he had with such fury escaped, and, supremest just of all, been made to rejoice in the trapping.
January 24, 2010 2:38 PM
John Paul Adams, CSUN