Literature Study GuidesBabbittChapters 25 26 Summary

Babbitt | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Babbitt | Chapters 25–26 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25

When Myra Babbitt returns following a long absence, Babbitt accepts her presence but mostly wishes to recreate another getaway for himself in Maine, the rural wilderness where he and Paul Riesling had found peace of mind a year before. He engages a guide, old Joe Paradise, and insists they take a harder, more arduous course to the lake so he can experience more of what he has come for, even if he has only the memory of Paul now for company. He wearies himself in the outdoor experience and returns to Zenith more determined than ever to find excitement in Zenith, which he cannot really leave. To run away he would be going into nowhere "because he could never run away from himself."

Chapter 26

En route back to Zenith, Babbitt has a long conversation with Seneca Doane, his university friend and eventual liberal political figure. Babbitt assumes that the book Doane is reading, The Way of All Flesh (1903), is a religious one, which would be surprising. In fact, Samuel Butler's (1835–1902) novel is an attack on religious hypocrisy. Babbitt and Doane discuss being on opposite political sides most frequently, but they find common ground as well. Doane says he always thought Babbitt was himself more liberal than he would admit, and Babbitt says even if he is usually conservative in his politics, he does heed others' opinions and relies on his visions and ideals in all cases. In the end, he is firm: "Nobody can dictate to me what I think!"

Back in Zenith he goes to see Zilla Riesling, shocked at the changes in her: "like a yellowed wad of old paper crumpled into wrinkles." Zilla is just a shadow of her old self, visibly bearing the scars of the shooting. Then, when Babbitt mentions he would like to have her help in freeing Paul from prison, Zilla explodes yet again in rage. She says she has now found her way to religion and thanks God for Paul's presence in prison where he belongs. She wishes only for his death.

At home Babbitt is pleased that Verona Babbitt and the journalist Kenneth Escott will finally marry, while his son enters the state university. Always mechanically inclined, Ted is drawn to engineering, but his father insists that he prepare for law and political work, going so far as to cite Seneca Doane as an example of broad-mindedness for Ted to emulate.

Analysis

Babbitt reveals himself as more flexible and open-minded than previously shown, perhaps under the influence of his rural reawakening. It seems he's maturing, perhaps without the negative influence of Paul Riesling, whose misery he never could address. He comes to realize that he may find in Zenith something other than the venue he has helped create. His successes there on every front led him to flee it for something else he cannot recognize yet, but he has the awareness that he will face something himself too. It might be "valiant." Whatever he will seek, it may well not fit in with his conservative ideals, so the innate openness of Babbitt toward others may play a role. He listens to what Seneca Doane, whom he formerly scorned, has to say and even feels a sort of "spiritual grandeur" in trying to accept others' opinions without trampling them in his hustling boosterism. Babbitt appears to the reader as something of a work in progress, less sure of himself without the obsessive support he gave Paul Riesling, and more determined to explore outside the secure inner walls of Zenith.

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