Dissatisfaction with life
He is initially unable to articulate why he is so unhappy and this is poignant as he fails to see that he is striving to conform to a mediocrity. He has believed the dominant ideology, which espouses that capitalism and the accumulation of material wealth are important. He has achieved a certain level of economic success, but this still fails to appease him and so he has to search for more and tries to climb higher on the social ladder. He has also tried to conform to the expectations of those around him, but this leaves him feeling in fear of appearing to be different. His rebellion springs from a sense of meaningless after Paul’s imprisonment as well a desire to do as he pleases (rather than continuing to conform to blandness).
The car is also a symbol of the twentieth century, as well as a signifier of status and wealth. The earlier chapters make many references to Babbitt’s reliance on the car and this adds to the modernity of the novel as a whole.
Even before he commits adultery, when he still claims to be virtuous and moral, he has few qualms about performing unethical or immoral business dealings. Morality in this world is characterized by hypocrisy and fear of acting differently from the standardized norm.
Babbitt: Theme Analysis