Society’s Influence on the American Dream

"Do as most do, and men will speak well of thee."

[Thomas Fuller (1654-1734):Gnomologia]

Men have a dream to improve their lives and better their social status but each man does not realize that he pursues this dream in hopes of pleasing others and not for his own well being. Fuller’s quotation demonstrates that people find success and social mobility if they act and do what others want them to do. The American dream of success and happiness can not be reached independently because people need to feel accepted to achieve satisfaction. Each man strives to improve his place in the community oblivious to the hypocrisy around him. Everyone works to impress others rather than pleasing himself. Paralleling Fullers quotation, Sinclair Lewis’ Babbit is a satirical portrayal of a man in search of himself enveloped by a society of hypocrisy . George F. Babbit, a middle class man, struggles to find social mobility and beatitude. Babbit overlooks the essential items of life and concentrates his attention towards material goals and impressing the upper class. Due to the loss of his best friend, Babbit realizes his life has no meaning and rebels against society’s conformity destroying his reputation. Lacking the courage to be independent, Babbit’s dream of true ecstasy crumbles when he succumbs to hypocritical lifestyle realizing that he needs conformity. Strongly influenced by a sanctimonious society, Babbit, a man in search for himself, realizes that he needs conformity to live.
Babbit dreams of improving his status in the community, not realizing that hypocrisy is influencing every decision or action he makes. Babbit concentrates his time and energies towards activities and events that impress the upper class. His life revolves around material items and goals. Mr. and Mrs. Babbit host a dinner party, only inviting the utmost respectable couples. They plan a "highbrow affair…with evening clothes required" in hopes of impressing their prosperous guests. The evening is filled with meaningless conversation and the men tell crude and unsophisticated jokes. Everyone seems to be having a wonderful time even though there is no real meaning in the evening. Shortly afterwards Babbits "name and face" become noticed throughout the city. In another attempt to impress the upper class, Babbit delivers a stirring speech and suddenly finds that he has become one of the most "popular and well-known figures" at the convention. Babbit’s dream of improving his position is coming true, although Babbit is oblivious to society’s hypocrisy. From a solid citizen, Babbit becomes an important citizen and volunteers his services as an orator for a political campaign. Babbits spirits rise because he "visualizes himself entering Zenith’s most fashionable circles." In addition to his involvement in politics, Babbit gets involved with the church because he feels it is a "highly respectable activity to engage in." Babbit concentrates on the improvements the church makes in his business life when he should be concentrating on important elements such as religion. Babbits soul concerns are not for the well-being of the church but rather to make sure that "prospective customers see that he is an active church member." Babbit becomes enveloped by hypocrisy in society and focuses his attention on materialistic goals rather than thinking about his friends and family.
Although an active member of Zenith society, many incidents increase Babbits discontent with life and he revolts against conformity. After the imprisonment of his best friend Paul, Babbit realizes that his life has no meaning. His dream of acceptance becomes irrelevant so he engages in a short period of rebellion from everyday society. Not having the relationship of a good wife or a best friend, Babbit drinks and parties excessively hoping to end his frustrations but his anxiety’s remains. He realizes that besides material comfort a man needs "someone to easily talk to…and someone who appreciates him" so he has an affair with a local woman. Nothing positive evolves from the temporary relationship and Babbit is not able to truly feel joy. Although Babbit recognizes that a change has occurred he also notices that "nothing has been gained by his rebellion" and is unsatisfied with his new situation. Even though unhappy, Babbit "asserts his new independence [and]…refuses to join" a new respected organization formed in Zenith. This takes much courage and Babbit prides