Irony in Babbitt

Irony Examples in Babbitt:

Chapter III 1

"his motor car was poetry and tragedy, love and heroism...."   (Chapter III)

The automobile has traditionally been a major symbol of modernity. The over-the-top language used to describe both his office as his “pirate ship” and his car as “poetry and tragedy, love and heroism” take this sentiment into the absurd. As with many moments throughout his narrative, Lewis uses hyperbolic language to poke fun at Zenith’s middle-class capitalist values.

"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...."   (Chapter VII)

This sentence is a tongue-in-cheek comment on the state of the political system in the United States. While the United States does classify as a democracy, the narrator associates this idea with two debunked, disproven theories.This suggests that perhaps Lewis sees the way the United States’s political system works as not as democratic as it claims to be.

""Don't they, though! They just say the same things over and over," said Vergil Gunch...."   (Chapter VIII)

Readers should notice that this statement is highly ironic: these men have been consistently repeating themselves throughout this conversation. This irony demonstrates the group’s complete lack of self-awareness and is an amusing moment for the reader.

"the barrenness of Bellevue—blocks of wooden houses, garages, little shops, weedy lots...."   (Chapter XXVIII)

The French word bellevue translates to “beautiful view.” It’s ironic, then, that Bellevue’s skyline is barren and unpleasant to behold. That Babbitt believes that Tanis could improve Bellevue simply through her presences shows how he still ascribes too much importance to looks and sophistication.

"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...."   (Chapter XXXII)

Lewis satirizes Babbitt’s perceived masculine dominance in this passage. It’s absurd for Myra to take responsibility for Babbitt’s affair, but he bullies her loudly enough that she concedes that she has somehow wronged him anyway. Readers will note that Myra, not Babbitt, is the true long-suffering martyr of the family, and that Babbitt’s mastery is achieved through unsavory means.