Summary and Analysis Chapter 21



Babbitt is an active member of the Zenith Boosters' Club, the local chapter of a businessman's organization with thousands of branches in the United States and several foreign countries. At the second weekly club luncheon in March, the annual election of officers is held. To Babbitt's great surprise and joy, he is elected vice-president.

That same day, he receives horrifying news. Paul has shot Zilla; he is in jail and she is in the hospital.


This is our first look at the workings of the Boosters' Club that we have heard so much about, but Lewis does not linger unduly over its inanities. He has more important matters to investigate, and he uses the Boosters' Club scene primarily to show us the greatest moment (thus far) in Babbitt's life: Babbitt's being elected vice-president of the organization. Certainly, Babbitt is not being honored without cause. If anyone were entitled to the office, it would seem to be George F. Babbitt. He exudes optimism, ready pleasantries, and good business sense. People like his store of positive-thinking platitudes, the platitudes he has used for years to insulate himself from unhappy reflection. In fact, Babbitt has encased himself in so many layers of these banal platitudes that he has almost successfully protected himself from all anxiety and despondency.

Meanwhile, Chum Frink is using his high-pressure tactics on the club, selling them on the financial, rather than the aesthetic advantages of forming a symphony orchestra. Babbitt is being nominated, seconded, and declared vice president, when — suddenly — Paul Riesling shoots his wife. While Babbitt is reveling at the peak of his professional success, his best friend commits an act that is unoptimistic, unmanly, unpleasant, and not good for business.