Summary and Analysis
When Myra returns home, Babbitt tries his best to be attentive and warm. He finds it difficult, however, to restrain his impatience and irritability when he is in Myra's company. He is torn between wanting to be a good husband and also wanting to continue his relationship with Tanis and her friends.
Babbitt reassesses his wife in the light of all that has happened, and he discovers, to his surprise, that she too is an individual and a worthwhile human being. This realization, though, does not ease the situation. The Babbitts have frequent disagreements. One Sunday afternoon, Myra induces him to come to a meeting of the American New Thought League. Babbitt attends, but is far less inspired than she anticipated. After the meeting, they quarrel violently. Myra accuses him of having become callous and inconsiderate. Babbitt guiltily denies the charge, and he pities her bewilderment. He begins to wonder whether his new way of life has any real value, and to what end it will lead him. Thus, he apologizes to Myra and silently vows not to see Tanis anymore.
During the next few days, Babbitt strictly adheres to his decision. Tanis telephones him at the office, but his responses are brusque and vague. She writes him a letter and asks him to pay her a visit. Babbitt does not want to go, but he finally keeps the appointment.
At Tanis' apartment, she asks Babbitt's forgiveness for anything she may have done to offend him, but it is too late. Babbitt sees her now as a foolish middle-aged woman who no longer attracts him. He does not dislike her, but sees no point in continuing their relationship. Despite her pleas, Babbitt bids Tanis farewell and leaves.
Babbitt wonders if it might be easier to keep his vows, to stay home and behave himself if Myra were not at her sister's. Clearly, Babbitt is still confused; he would like to "play around . . . yet not make a fool" of himself. Alternatives seem to be either black or white; either he's a good citizen — law-abiding and spotless — or else he's a libertine. Babbitt is struggling for a life that is comfortable and available between these extremes. This need to transcend pigeon-holed categories and create a gray area for his existence is painfully revolutionary for Babbitt.
Likewise, Myra reveals a new dimension of herself, one which we have never seen before. For whatever reason, Myra rebels: She is tired of planning meals, tired of cooking and sewing, tired of being Babbitt's wife and Ted and Verona's mother, and tired of trying to save pennies day after day after day.
Babbitt feels guilty when he argues with Myra, but he feels proud that he has not seen Tanis for ten days. His pride does not last long; he flees to Tanis because of business worries, Myra's whining, and the children's troubles. He comes "home" to Tanis — only to be confronted with Tanis' own barrage of troubles. Eventually, he is able to escape from Tanis and breathe the sweet air of freedom. Ironically, Babbitt is far from free. Tanis has her claim on him — as do Myra, Ted, Verona, and the Zenith Athletic Club. Babbitt used to be the same man to all of them: he was George F. Babbitt, solid citizen and Booster. Now he is a stranger to them and to himself.