Character Analysis in Babbitt
George F. Babbitt: George F. Babbitt is a middle-aged realtor and father who lives in the fictional Midwestern town of Zenith, Winnepac. Babbitt’s career is thriving, his family picture-perfect, his community involvement admirable. As the novel begins, however, it is clear that Babbitt is deeply restless and unhappy. He has played by the rules through the first half of his life and is miserable as a result. Babbitt’s deepest desire is for freedom; he wishes desperately to escape his roles and responsibilities. The success of the novel brought the name “Babbitt” into common parlance; the word describes anyone who, like George Babbitt, conforms blandly to expectation.
Myra Babbitt: Myra is George Babbitt’s wife. As was conventional for women in her culture, she is a homemaker. As the novel develops, George Babbitt’s unfolding midlife crisis takes center stage. There are moments, however, in which Myra Babbitt’s suffering reveals itself. Myra keeps house, looks after the children, and otherwise contains her desires and personality. Not only do her efforts go unrecognized, her routines are unendingly boring. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that George’s depression receives our attention while Myra’s remains in the shadows.
Ted Babbitt: Ted is the teenage son of George and Myra. Ted navigates the typical shoals of conformity in his own manner. George wants Ted to attend college, go to law school, and become a lawyer. Ted would rather be a mechanic and engineer. As the novel progresses, Ted increasingly steers according to his own course, dropping out of college, eloping with his girlfriend, and pursuing his dream. The final scene of the novel features a reconciliation between George and Ted.
Paul Riesling: Paul is George’s closest friend and former college roommate. Like George, Paul is a married, middle-aged, middle-class businessman in Zenith. In his youth Paul had wanted to be a violinist, and so the current shape of his life—his job selling roofing-tar, his difficult marriage—brings him great grief. At the novel’s beginning, George contents himself by comparing his suffering to Paul’s seemingly greater suffering. After Paul is sent to prison for assaulting his wife, George’s illusions collapse. Without Paul, George descends into a chaos of questioning and rebellion.
Vergil Gunch: Vergil is a coal merchant in Zenith who participates with George in a number of community clubs and business groups. Among the characters in Babbitt, Vergil represents the most conservative end of the spectrum. Vergil values financial success, personal reputation, and community standards. Vergil is depicted as highly logical and calculating, with little capacity for creativity and emotional nuance. During George’s period of rebellion and soul-searching, Vergil attempts to bring George back into line.
Character Analysis Examples in Babbitt:
"Myra Babbitt—Mrs. George F. Babbitt—was definitely mature...." See in text (Chapter I)
"All right for a woman, that stays around the house all the time, but when a fellow's worked like the dickens all day, he doesn't want to go and hustle his head off getting into the soup-and-fish for a lot of folks that he's seen in just reg'lar ordinary clothes that same day..." See in text (Chapter I)
"that is, it was perfection, and made him also perfect...." See in text (Chapter I)
"He looked regretfully at the blanket—forever a suggestion to him of freedom and heroism. He had bought it for a camping trip which had never come off. It symbolized gorgeous loafing, gorgeous cursing, virile flannel shirts...." See in text (Chapter I)
"He escaped from reality till the alarm-clock rang, at seven-twenty...." See in text (Chapter I)
"He seemed prosperous, extremely married and unromantic; and altogether unromantic appeared this sleeping-porch, which looked on one sizable elm, two respectable grass-plots, a cement driveway, and a corrugated iron garage...." See in text (Chapter I)
""Don't they, though! They just say the same things over and over," said Vergil Gunch...." See in text (Chapter VIII)
""Just the same, you don't want to forget prohibition is a mighty good thing for the working-classes. Keeps 'em from wasting their money and lowering their productiveness," ..." See in text (Chapter VIII)
"You have the chance to get all sorts of culture and everything, and I just stay home—..." See in text (Chapter XXX)
""Don't you suppose I ever get tired of fussing? I get so bored with ordering three meals a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, and ruining my eyes over that horrid sewing-machine..." See in text (Chapter XXX)
"As he began to drift away he also began to see her as a human being, to like and dislike her instead of accepting her as a comparatively movable part of the furniture,..." See in text (Chapter XXX)
"In matrimonial geography the distance between the first mute recognition of a break and the admission thereof is as great as the distance between the first naive faith and the first doubting...." See in text (Chapter XXX)
"Old! He noted how the soft flesh was creasing into webby folds beneath her chin, below her eyes, at the base of her wrists. A patch of her throat had a minute roughness like the crumbs from a rubber eraser...." See in text (Chapter XXXI)
"She writes a swell hand. Nice-looking stationery. Plain. Refined...." See in text (Chapter XXXI)
"Stir 'em up! This old burg is asleep!" Eunice plumped down on Babbitt's lap, kissed him,..." See in text (Chapter XXXII)
"Then he heard that Miss McGoun had, a week after leaving him, gone over to his dangerous competitors, Sanders, Torrey and Wing...." See in text (Chapter XXXII)
"at the thought of their forcing him he felt a stirring of anger against even these princes of commerce...." See in text (Chapter XXXII)
""Four-flusher! Bunch of hot air! And what's the matter with the immigrants? Gosh, they aren't all ignorant, and I got a hunch we're all descended from immigrants ourselves."..." See in text (Chapter XXXII)
"With true masculine wiles he not only convinced himself that she had injured him but, by the loudness of his voice and the brutality of his attack, he convinced her also, and presently he had her apologizing for his having spent the evening with Tanis. He went up to bed well pleased, not only the master but the martyr of the household...." See in text (Chapter XXXII)
"We have some corking times together, and we need your advice."..." See in text (Chapter XXXIII)
"He'd have no more wild evenings, he realized. He admitted that he would regret them. A little grimly he perceived that this had been his last despairing fling before the paralyzed contentment of middle-age...." See in text (Chapter XXXIII)
"As she drowsed away in the tropic languor of morphia, he sat on the edge of her bed, holding her hand, and for the first time in many weeks her hand abode trustfully in his...." See in text (Chapter XXXIII)
""O Lord, thou seest our brother here, who has been led astray by manifold temptations. O Heavenly Father, make his heart to be pure, as pure as a little child's. Oh, let him know again the joy of a manly courage to abstain from evil—"..." See in text (Chapter XXXIV)
"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...." See in text (Chapter XXXIV)
"Tinka Babbitt, who was the only pleased member of the inquisition...." See in text (Chapter XXXIV)