Summary and Analysis
One night Babbitt lies awake, bemoaning his fate. He chastises himself for having lost Tanis; he is sorry that his relationship with his wife is such a poor one. He recognizes that he and Myra have no chance for reconciliation unless he ends his rebellion against conformity, but his pride will not allow him to be bullied into changing his views.
About three o'clock that morning, Babbitt discovers that his wife is ill. He tries to help her, but Myra's abdominal pains continue to increase. Terrified, Babbitt calls the doctor. When he arrives, the physician gives Myra a sedative and promises to return the following day. Babbitt sits at his wife's bedside all night, holding her hand and frantically hoping for her recovery.
In the morning, the doctor returns, accompanied by a specialist. After a brief examination, they announce that the patient has acute appendicitis and that an immediate operation is required. Myra has an old-fashioned fear of hospitals and becomes very upset. Babbitt stays with her in the ambulance and in her room, cheering her up, pleading for her forgiveness and affirming that he loves her. To his great joy, the operation is a success. Afterwards, Babbitt determines to return to a normal way of life. He visits Myra every day at the hospital, and, together, they review all their past mistakes and make plans for the future.
To Babbitt's surprise, the Gunches and the Littlefields, as well as other old friends, are concerned about Myra and visit her at the hospital. They behave in a friendly manner toward Babbitt also. People on the street and the Athletic Club often ask about her, and he begins to appreciate the warm and genuine human values of the world he was fighting against. When Gunch casually asks him to join the League, Babbitt eagerly accepts.
Within a few weeks, Babbitt has regained his old position in the community. Once more, he is an active and vocal spokesman of the red-blooded middle-class way of life; once more, he is a vocal opponent of Seneca Doane, labor unions, immigrants, and immorality. Meanwhile, the Good Citizens' League spreads throughout the country, making inroads into other commercial cities similar to Zenith. All the prosperous citizens and business leaders become members, devoting themselves to the establishment of solid, middle-class American life. In Zenith, Babbitt takes an active part in all these activities, and, not surprisingly, he soon regains the esteem of his old friends. He returns to his church, even though he is never completely convinced of the wisdom of Dr. Drew. Most of all, Babbitt takes pleasure once more in attending all the meetings and social affairs of the Elks, the Boosters, and the Athletic Club.
Everything returns to normal. Verona and Escott are married, and the Street Traction Company allows Babbitt to handle its next crooked real-estate deal.
During a vacation weekend, Ted and Eunice are secretly married, and Ted make plans to leave the university in order to take a better-paying factory job. When the two families involved learn about the wedding, they are shocked and irate. Everyone vehemently opposes the actions of the two rash young people. Babbitt speaks to Ted privately, however, and promises to support the boy's decision. He does not approve of having Ted's incomplete education or of his early marriage, but, Babbitt says, at least Ted is doing what he really wants to do. The most important thing, Babbitt says, is to be unafraid of the conventions and influences of the outside world and to do what one sees as the right course for himself. Babbitt says that he is sorry that he learned this lesson so late in his own life.
Ironically, it is whiny old Myra and her appendicitis operation that cause Babbitt's restoration. Myra, the woman whom Babbitt felt to be old and unlovely, changes into an invalid, absolutely dependent on Babbitt. A part of Babbitt, wedded to him for more than 20 years, Myra has been injured inside by an unseen something. She is afraid; she is no longer the nagging mother figure Babbitt battled every day; now she is a frightened-eyed child, needing Babbitt's love and reassurance.
Myra Babbitt, brought down mysteriously, is George Babbitt's salvation, and like the Prodigal Son, Babbitt is warmly greeted back into the conservative fold by Verg Gunch and the members of Babbitt's old gang as they visit Myra in the hospital. Babbitt's shoulder is patted in sympathy, and old differences disappear. Babbitt returns to the solid citizen mold and he finally becomes a solid member of the Good Citizens' League.
Accordingly, big money returns to the coffers of Babbitt's real-estate business, and so the cycle of Babbitt's security, his loss of security, and his security regained comes full circle. From being one of the club, to one of Tanis' Bunch, Babbitt returns to being one of the club again.
Restored to membership in Zenith's moneymaking fraternity, Babbitt rotely endorses the notion that America's world-famous equality means absolute conformity — conformity in thought and dress and manners. Conformity is solid gospel to Zenith's bank presidents, landowners, corporation lawyers, fashionable doctors, and realtors. In other words, America's "equality" has nothing to do with equal opportunities or equal education.
As a final satirical touch, Lewis creates a ceremonial scene honoring George F. Babbitt's restoration. Babbitt's peers, the Zenith Boosters, give him their greatest honor: good-naturedly and with mock seriousness, they make fun of him. They tease him about his middle name Follansbee. There is much hooting about the name being prissy but, by such inverse humor, Babbitt is sure that once again he is considered to be a man — one of the boys. He no longer will have to desperately say to himself that he is "free" or that he is "going to run his own life". Now he can say that he is going to run things to "suit himself." "Suiting himself," of course, means conforming to the middle-class lifestyle and to the values of men like himself. Babbitt has whimpered his last; he has accepted old age, old Myra, old friends, and all the old conservative platitudes of Zenith's men's clubs.
As for young Ted's eloping with Eunice Littlefield, Myra and Verona and the Littlefields are "properly shocked" by the young people's daring. Yet it is Babbitt who silences their protests. He ushers Ted into the dining room and confesses that he doesn't really approve of early marriage, but that he does approve of Eunice. Thus, Babbitt bequeaths his dream to Ted — to become whatever he sets out to become. If Ted's ambition lies in mechanics, then Babbitt, disappointed but proud, will support his son's determination. So far, Ted has grabbed the girl he wanted without ceremony. There seems to be some hope that Ted will be more independent than his father was independent of a good neighborhood, the right friends, and deadening conformity.