I am currently reading the classic Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. I thought it was a light-hearted humorous piece about a pompous real estate salesman who prided himself on having it all together. He lives in the perfect part of the town; belongs to all of the right clubs; teaches Sunday School at a respectable church and is a devoted family man.
But something happens to George Babbitt which shakes him to the core and he begins to see life in a different way. He suddenly becomes more compassionate towards the union strikers, who his club members see as thugs. He has an affair which he had never done before and he falls in with a seedy group of people. Babbitt becomes a smoker and regular drinker. Those around him are highly disturbed and his wife decides to go away to her sister’s for a while.
I have not finished the book, but this Nobel Prize for Literature author has me thinking. I was more than halfway into the book before all of the shocking events unfolded. I thought I would simply muddle through this satire, but now, Babbitt is questioning himself and his once neatly ordered life.
Babbitt was simply growing. And, that is what happens when we outgrow former things and people as we evolve. We no longer fit in with the old circles and, as in Babbitt’s case, people are generally outraged. His associates felt that he was acting strangely. His behavior became a topic of conversation because people don’t like it when we no longer fit into the old molds. It makes them uncomfortable and it may force them to take a hard look at some of their own life choices.
Just this morning, I looked at a plant that I planted at least five years ago with a group of second graders from my former school. I could not believe how it had grown! In fact, I did not know that it had the capability to grow that large! In my old residence, it merely survived; but now in a new environment, it has taken on a life of its own and is growing out of its pot.
Before Babbitt’s metamorphosis, his views on life were quite narrow. But events that involved Paul, his close friend, upset the status quo and he was forced to widen his outlook. The blinders were removed and he was saw people’s situations from more varying points of view.
He tried to rub shoulders with those in higher echelons and they looked down on him and his station. Ultimately, it made him more tolerant of those who had less than he had acquired in his life. And that is what true growth does. It opens or eyes and ears and gives us the patience to let others have their say and yield out of their way. We simply observe, perceive what is happening and adjust our lenses to emit more light for a greater understanding.
Lynn M. August 28, 2015