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MonkeyNotes-Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
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Chapter 5

Winding up the matters in the office, Babbitt gets ready to keep his appointment with his friend. As he drives down to the club, he stops to buy an expensive cigarette lighter. Reaching the exclusive Zenith Athletic club, he converses with a group of friends before joining Paul Riesling. Both Babbitt and Paul are happy to meet one another. They sit together, apart from the group, in order to talk. Paul is upset over his wife Zilla's constant nagging and the fact that his career is not flourishing. He shares his increasing depression and unhappiness with Babbitt. Babbitt cheers him up by suggesting that they each leave early for their family vacations in Maine and spend the time together.


Notes

Babbitt and Paul are extremely close, so naturally their conversations deal with their innermost feelings and conflicts. In this chapter, is strikingly clear that neither Babbitt nor Riesling are happy or satisfied with family or job. Both seek escape from their families with a secret pre-vacation. Both are able to confess to the other their fantasies and problems. Both want something more than what they have. In many respects, the two men are perfect foils for one another. In this chapter, though, Babbitt acts as mentor and leader. He offers Paul some useless platitudes and generic advice, tokens which seem to impress the other man. He barely recognizes how his own discontent is similar to the other man's.

This chapter also touches once again on Babbitt's inexplicably hapless attitude toward life. Just hours after deciding to quit smoking, he decides to buy a fancy and expensive cigarette lighter. And at dinner, he swears to diet and proceeds to order a heavy lunch full of fat. Once again, he is characterized as ineffectual and overly concerned with what others think of him.

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