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MonkeyNotes-Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
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Chapter 18

Babbitt becomes so involved in his activities that he loses touch with things in his home. At once, he becomes acutely aware of several things: Ted's growing friendship with Eunice Littlefield, his increasing apathy for school, and his bohemian group of friends. Typically, however, he feels helpless to change anything. To add to his distress, he is in such demand he hardly has time to rest. His in-laws move out of their old house into a hotel and invite the Babbitts every Sunday evening to dine with them. Then his mother arrives home on a three-week holiday and imposes herself on him. To add salt to the injury, his half-brother Martin visits them for two days and disturbs his peace. So when he falls sick in February, he feels relieved of his responsibilities.


Notes

This chapter is a study in contrast to the previous one. In the last chapter, Babbitt was busy working outside the home and earning laurels for himself. His work was appreciated and he was in high spirits. In this chapter, Babbitt feels smothered by his family problems and responsibilities. He looks disturbed and his morale is low. Involved in outside activities, he has failed to notice the situation at home till it is overwhelming. Ted's casual attitude and his familiarity with his girlfriend bother Babbitt. On the other hand, the formal attitude between Verona and Escheat, the young journalist, irritates him. Instead of being romantic like a couple in love, they converse for long periods of time on general topics. Babbitt thus feels like a "swimmer, bored by struggling through the perpetual surf of family life." He is easily exhausted by the problems at home.

His life is made more miserable when his guest-relatives intrude on his privacy. His father-in-law and mother-in-law shift to a hotel and insist on being visited every Sunday. Then his mother arrives at Floral Heights and stays on for three weeks. In the words of the author, "Babbitt loved his mother, and sometimes he rather liked her, but he was annoyed by her Christian patience, and he was reduced to pulpiness when she discoursed about a quiet mythical hero called 'Your Father.' The old lady's talking about her husband and Babbitt's discomfort at hearing it, is revealed humorously in these few lines. As if his mother's presence was not enough, his half-brother, Martin visits them with his family for two days. His brother's rustic behavior and crude remarks disgust Babbitt and he feels imprisoned in his own house. So when he falls sick, he considers it a blessing in disguise. In bed, he gets the peace he has been denied by his relatives.

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