Literature Study GuidesBabbittChapters 27 28 Summary

Babbitt | Study Guide

Sinclair Lewis

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Babbitt | Chapters 27–28 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 27

A widespread strike divides opinion in Zenith. Labor is organizing the industries and brings the normal life of the city to a halt. The National Guard is called out, and Babbitt's friends all denounce the strikers and their organizers. At the Presbyterian church the pastor, John Jennison Drew, gives a long sermon entitled "How the Savior Would End Strikes." He concludes that the strikers are a danger to the Christian way of thought, which is based on love of one for all. Babbitt and Chum Frink sit in the upholstered pews, but Babbitt finds he cannot support the pastor. He mutters "Oh, rot!" loud enough for Frink to hear.

When a march is blocked by the National Guard and others congratulate Clarence Drum for leading the men against the strikers, Babbitt surprises people by saying the protesters did not deserve violence. Vergil Gunch above all looks at him with puzzlement and hostility for expressing the opinion. Even apolitical Myra Babbitt says people may think Babbitt is a "regular socialist." He is uneasy that he has the feeling to speak out for the strikers and is being misunderstood on a basic human level.

Chapter 28

At just the moment when Babbitt feels least understood, even after the strike ends with defeat for the labor movement, he is approached again by Tanis Judique. Hoping she may understand him in a way others do not, he visits her in the apartment she has rented from him and looks at some repairs needing to be done. Their previous attraction is rekindled speedily as she languidly receives and entertains him. He expresses what he believes is his reasonable new view promoting a more liberal approach toward others, and she purrs her understanding. They talk about the mutual loneliness in their lives, and Babbitt narrates his own importance in taking a broader view of the strike with his important friends. The talk becomes increasingly personal and ends with Babbitt inviting himself to stay for a dinner he will go and buy. He does not return to Floral Heights that evening at all.

Analysis

In his desire for a different, more fulfilling, life in Zenith, Babbitt finds little understanding from the other men who are all accustomed to the figure they knew before. He allows himself to express questionable views in support of others' opinions and, perhaps most telling, rejects the sermon being given in his own church, where he worked so hard to make the Sunday school program viable and competitive. John Jennison Drew's talk is a vain attempt to link a defense of Christianity with the defense of business interests, consistent with his approach to religion throughout the novel, since he sees it as a practical and profitable undertaking. His reference to "long-haired opponents" to Christianity connects easily in the uninformed mind to labor organizers trying to interfere with the supposedly free nature of labor that does not need control by any outside force "and all that poppycock." Babbitt has had enough of love and Christian religion in labor questions, something he might not have questioned before, and is for the moment unafraid to say that Drew has no idea what he is talking about.

His newfound empathy for the strikers gets him no approval from any of his former allies in the leadership of Zenith, but the humanity in the view prepares the narrative for the start of a serious romantic and sexual relationship with Tanis Judique. With full awareness of what he is doing—and convinced of his need for it—Babbitt is ready to attempt something "valiant" (in his terms) in his search for fulfillment, even under the watchful eyes of family and friends. In doing so he risks possibly all in a stab at freedom from the walls he has built around himself. The former conservative Babbitt with his troubled dreams is replaced by someone taking risky actions. Very little business as such is narrated; the emphasis is on the personal in Babbitt's increasingly unsettled life.

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