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In this sardonic portrait of the up-and-coming middle class during the prosperous 1920s, Sinclair Lewis perfectly captures the sound, the feel, and the attitudes of the generation that created the cult of consumerism. With a sharp eye for detail and keen powers of observation, Lewis tracks successful realtor George Babbitt’s daily struggles to rise to the top of his profession while maintaining his reputation as an upstanding family man. On the surface, Babbitt appears to be the quintessential middle-class embodiment of conservative values and enthusiasm for the well-to-do lifestyle of the small entrepreneur. But beneath the complacent facade, he also experiences a rising, nameless discontent. These feelings eventually lead Babbitt into risky escapades that threaten his family and his standing in the community.
The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods. They were neither citadels nor churches, but frankly and beautifully office–buildings.
The mist took pity on the fretted structures of earlier generations: the Post Office with its shingle–tortured mansard, the red brick minarets of hulking old houses, factories with stingy and sooted windows, wooden tenements colored like mud. The city was full of such grotesqueries, but the clean towers were thrusting them from the business center, and on the farther hills were shining new houses, homes—they seemed—for laughter and tranquillity.
Over a concrete bridge fled a limousine of long sleek hood and noiseless engine. These people in evening clothes were returning from an all–night rehearsal of a Little Theater play, an artistic adventure considerably illuminated by champagne. Below the bridge curved a railroad, a maze of green and crimson lights. The New York Flyer boomed past, and twenty lines of polished steel leaped into the glare.