Babbitt

Source: Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), p. 156

Text: At least once a week Mr. and Mrs. Babbitt and Tinka went to the movies. Their favorite motion-picture theater was the Chateau, which held three thousand spectators and had an orchestra of fifty pieces which played Arrangements from the Operas and suites portraying a Day on the Farm, or a Four-alarm Fire. In the stone rotunda, decorated with crown-embroidered velvet chairs and almost medieval tapestries, parrakeets sat on gilded lotos columns.

With exclamations of “Well, by golly!” and “You got to go some to beat this dump!” Babbitt admired the Chateau. As he stared across the thousands of heads, a gray plain in the dimness, as he smelled good clothes and mild perfume and chewing-gum, he felt as when he had first seen a mountain and realized how very, very much earth and rock there was in it.

He liked three kinds of films: pretty bathing girls with bare legs; policemen or cowboys and an industrious shooting of revolvers; and funny fat men who ate spaghetti. He chuckled with immense, moist-eyed sentimentality at interludes portraying puppies, kittens, and chubby babies; and he wept at deathbeds and old mothers being patient in mortgaged cottages. Mrs. Babbitt preferred the pictures in which handsome young women in elaborate frocks moved through sets ticketed as the drawing-rooms of New York millionaires. As for Tinka, she preferred, or was believed to prefer, whatever her parents told her to.

Comments: Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) was an American novelist, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. His novel Babbitt is a satire on American middle-class life. Its central character is the materialistic and socially conformist businessman George Babbitt. It has numerous reference to the movies and movie-going. It was filmed twice in 1924 and 1934.

This entry was posted in 1920s, Fiction, USA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *