He who had been a boy very credulous of life was no longer greatly interested in the possible and improbable adventures of each new day.p. 13
This reference to Babbitt in Chapter One encapsulates his state of inertia.
In fact there was but one thing wrong with the Babbitt house: it was not a home.p. 24.
After an extensive description of Babbitt and Myra’s bedroom, which is deemed a ‘very good room in a very good hotel’, this quotation reiterates the sterility and impersonality of the Babbitt house.
He had enormous and poetic admiration, though very little understanding, of all mechanical devices. They were his symbols of truth and beauty.p. 73
This is an ironic perception of the value placed on material objects in the capitalist society that Babbitt inhabits and embraces.
In the city of Zenith, in the barbarous twentieth century, a family’s motor car indicated its social rank precisely. Where Babbitt as a boy had aspired to the presidency, his son Ted aspired to a Packard twin-six and an established position in the motored gentry.
This is another valuable quotation for demonstrating how this novel indicts the Western twentieth-century fixation for material wealth. Considering the date of publication was only 1922, this is also seen to be prophetic in the over-evaluation of such status symbols.
His power was the greater because he was not hindered by scruples, by either the vice or the virtue of the older Puritan tradition.p. 189
This reference alludes to Charles McKelvey, the millionaire, and comes when Babbitt is trying to make McKelvey one of his ‘social conquests’.
Babbitt knew that in this place of death Paul was already dead. 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 disfavour, a pride in success.p. 269
This reference marks a crucial turning point for Babbitt as he begins to distance himself from conformity.
He was hunted by the ancient thought that somewhere must exist the not impossible she who would understand him, value him, and make him happy.p. 281
Here, Babbitt’s reasons for adultery are made explicit.
That afternoon. three men shouldered into Babbitt’s office with the air of a Vigilante committee in frontier days.p.352
These three men are Dr Dilling, Charles McKelvey and Colonel Rutherford and they represent the Good Citizens’ League. They have come to Babbitt’s office to bully him into joining them. The comparison with a vigilante committee is apt, as these men embody the reactionary qualities needed for such work.
Within two weeks no one in the League was more violent regarding the wickedness of Seneca Doane, the crimes of labour unions, the perils of immigration, and the delights of golf, morality and back accounts than was George F. Babbitt.p. 369
This quotation signifies Babbitt’s eventual inclusion back into his society after Gunch coaxes him to join the Good Citizens’ League rather than bullying him. Babbitt’s enthusiasm in this reference for this life that he had turned his back on perhaps belies the changes he has undergone. This change is most evident at the end of the novel when he accepts the marriage between Ted and Eunice.
‘Now, for heaven’s sake, don’t repeat this to your mother, or she’d remove what little hair I’ve got left, but practically, I’ve never done a single thing I’ve wanted to in my whole life! I don’t know’s I’ve accomplished anything except just get along. I figure out I’ve made about a quarter of an inch out of a possible hundred rods. Well, maybe you’ll carry things on further. I don’t know. But I do get a kind of sneaking pleasure out of the fact that you knew what you wanted to do and did it.p. 379-380
This speech at the end of the novel demonstrates Babbitt’s final admiration for his son Ted and his decision to marry Eunice and leave university. It is also poignant as it is a final articulation of Babbitt’s sense of dissatisfaction that has been apparent throughout the course of the novel.
Babbitt: Top Ten Quotes