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Comparisons and Contrasts
One of the aspects of Lewis' writing that clearly defines him is his tendency to use parallels and foils for certain characters and situations. In Babbitt, there are numerous parallels. Paul and Babbitt are clearly set up as foils. Both are dissatisfied. Both have affairs and both blame their wives. Some scenes between the men and their wives are eerily similar. The similarities are used, however, to illustrate an important thematic idea. Paul is unable to accept his conventionality. He loses his spirit and falls into a bottomless depression. Babbitt, who is so similar to Paul in so many ways, follows a different course. After trying his hand at rebellion, he resigns himself. His salvation is dependent on the very thing Paul could not bring himself to do: submit.
As a result of the obvious parallel of the two men, their wives are also compared. Myra submits to her husbands mood swings and rankings. Zilla does not. In the end, Myra survives and keeps her home, her family, her husband. She is able to continue as she always had. She even seems happy. Zilla, who could never accept the sad state of her life, is shot. She becomes destitute and bitter. Like Paul, her failure to submit to the state of her life is her tragic downfall.
The situation between the Babbitts and the McKelveys and the Babbitts and the Overbrooks is another painfully real parallel. The Babbitts long to increase their standing in society by attracting the friendship of the McKelveys, who do not seem to want such an alliance. In return, the Babbitts are sought by the Overbrooks, and act identically as the McKelveys. The viciousness of social climbing and a stinging damnation of society are at the heart of this parallel.