Summary and Analysis Chapter 32



On his return home, Babbitt finds Myra waiting for him. An argument ensues, during which Babbitt boldly announces that he has been seeing another woman — drinking and doing all sorts of forbidden things. He justifies his actions by accusing Myra and all the other respectable people around him of being unimaginative bores. Myra admits that she may be partly at fault and she ends up apologizing to him for her deficiencies. Babbitt feels greatly relieved and satisfied at this development.

At the Boosters' Club luncheon that week, a reactionary senator delivers a speech about his recent trip to Europe. Many of his statements are ignorant and bigoted. Babbitt criticizes his opinion on immigration and other matters, to the disgust of many of the other members. Later that day, a committee from the Good Citizens' League, made up of Charlie McKelvey and two other influential businessmen, calls on Babbitt. They deliver an ultimatum: either Babbitt join the League at once and support its policies or he will suffer the consequences. Babbitt tries to make them understand that his political and economic ideas are in accord with theirs, but he is not convincing. The League representatives demand that he join, but some perverse instinct will not allow Babbitt to agree to join. He feels that he must assert himself at all costs. He rejects their offer even though he is terribly frightened of what may happen.

Babbitt soon learns the consequences of his refusal to join the Good Citizens' League; all of Zenith's responsible and influential people stop talking to him. He is cold-shouldered even by old friends like Vergil Gunch and Eathorne. At home, Myra suggests that perhaps he should join the League, but Babbitt refuses. He is not at peace, however, with his decision.

In the next few days, Babbitt begins to lose customers, and some of his most faithful employees resign. The Street Traction Company, for which he has done profitable work, gives its most current business to a rival realtor. Wherever Babbitt goes, people whisper about him or watch him silently, and still no one speaks to him. The strain on him is unbearable; he longs to return to the path of respectability and conformity. He is even willing to join the League — but only if he can do so with dignity.

In his confusion, Babbitt tries to see Tanis, but she too is cold and unfriendly. His wife does not fully understand the situation and cannot help him. He has no one else to turn to. Babbitt's only support comes from Ted, who is home on a visit, and Eunice Littlefield. The two young people praise Babbitt for being so courageous and such a troublemaker, but they view his behavior as a kind of prank, not as a serious assertion of principle.


Babbitt's confrontation with Myra concerning Tanis is quiet. She knew about the affair and, no doubt, rehearsed a scene of furious revelation; when the blow-up came, however, she was too tired and too relieved to quarrel. Instead of quarreling about Tanis, they argue about Babbitt's being an old "stick-in-the-mud." The scene is brief, and both Myra and Babbitt go to bed pleased. Again a scene ends with Babbitt making a promise to himself; this time, he promises to run his own life.

Next day, Babbitt cannot remember his reasons for not wanting to join the Good Citizens' League when he is approached by three members of the committee. But Babbitt refuses to join the League and, for a short while, he does "run his own life." Babbitt's resolve is literally bankrupted when money begins to flow out of Babbitt's real estate business and into those of his competitors. He walks in fear; he feels like an outcast. His pride binds him; he wants the League to make an overture to him. He wants an honorable peace with it. Ted and Eunice are the only people who admire Babbitt's backing Seneca Doane; to them, Babbitt is a much-needed voice of reason and compassion in prejudiced, conservative Zenith. The two young people make Babbitt feel more secure, but out on the street, in broad daylight, he feels fearfully alone. He feels the glare of critical eyes and hears whispered, conspiratorial voices.