Historical Context in Babbitt
Roaring Twenties: Many writers of the so-called Roaring Twenties depicted the time to be one of growing disillusionment with social class and material culture. With his critique of middle-class small-town 1920s United States, Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt most certainly aligns with these notions. Lewis biting satire provides a poignant political commentary on the commercialization, industrialization, consumerism and conformity of the time.
Prohibition: Conservative social values and religious pressure paved the way for the prohibition laws of the 1920s. Prohibition, the illegalization of alcohol, appears at various moments throughout the narrative. In Chapter 8, Babbitt and his middle-class peers drink the gin that Babbitt has procured from a speakeasy and proclaim that while prohibition is appropriate for the working classes, middle-class men such as themselves should be permitted such freedom. In this way, Lewis uses the context of 1920s to further comment on the stark class divisions prevalent in small-town American society.
Historical Context Examples in Babbitt:
"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)
"he believed that the earth is flat, that the English are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, and that the United States is a democracy...." See in text (Chapter VII)