Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1)

babbitt

At least once a week Mr. and Mrs. Babbitt and Tinka went to the movies. Their favorite motion-picture theater was the Chateau, which held three thousand spectators and had an orchestra of fifty pieces which played Arrangements from the Operas and suites portraying a Day on the Farm, or a Four-alarm Fire. In the stone rotunda, decorated with crown-embroidered velvet chairs and almost medieval tapestries, parakeets sat on gilded lotos columns.

With exclamations of “Well, by golly!” and “You got to go some to beat this dump!” Babbitt admired the Chateau. As he stared across the thousands of heads, a gray plain in the dimness, as he smelled good clothes and mild perfume and chewing-gum, he felt as when he had first seen a mountain and realized how very, very much earth and rock there was in it.

He liked three kinds of films: pretty bathing girls with bare legs; policement or cowboys and an industrious soothing of revolvers; and funny fat men who ate spaghetti. He chuckled with immense, moist-eyed sentimentality at interludes portraying puppies, kittens, and chubby babies; and he went at deathbeds and old mothers being patient in mortgaged cottages. Mrs Babbitt preferred the pictures in which handsome young women in elaborate frocks moved through sets ticketed as the drawing-rooms of New York millionaires. As for Tinka, she preferred, or was believed to prefer, whatever her parents told her to.

All his relaxations – baseball, golf, movies, bridge, motoring, long talks with Paul at the Athletic Club, or at the Good Red Beef and Old English Chop House – were necessary to Babbitt, for he was entering a year of such activity as he had never known.


Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1922

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