Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

By Sinclair Lewis

Within the fall of 1920, Sinclair Lewis begun a singular set in a fast-growing urban with the guts and brain of a small city. For the heart of his slicing satire of yankee enterprise he created the bustling, shallow, and myopic George F. Babbitt, the epitome of middle-class mediocrity. the radical cemented Lewis's prominence as a social commentator.

Babbitt basks in his pedestrian luck and the recognition it has introduced him. He calls for excessive ethical criteria from these round him whereas flirting with girls, and he yearns to have wealthy associates whereas shunning these much less lucky than he. yet Babbitt's safe complacency is shattered while his ally is shipped to felony, and he struggles to discover that means in his hole existence. He revolts, yet reveals that his former regimen isn't so simply thrown over.

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In one of the Marx Brothers' films a man, thinking he is about to take a woman in his arms, ends up with a cow which moos. And through a combination of circumstances too long to relate, at that moment that same moo assumes an intellectual dignity equal to a woman's cry. If such a situation is possible in films, it is no less possible in theatre as it stands, and it would take very little; for example the cow might be replaced by an animated puppet, a kind of monster gifted with speech, or a man disguised as an animalto redii;cover the secret of the objective poetry underlying all humour, which theatre has given up, leaving it for Music-Hall, while the cinema later turned it to good account.

For me obvious ideas, in theatre as in all else, are dead and finished. The idea of a play built right on stage, encountering production and performance obstacles, demands the discovery of active language, both active and anarchic, where the usual limits of feelings and words are transcended. In any event, and I hasten to say so at once, theatre which submits staging and production, that is to say everything about it that is specifically theatrical, to the lines, is mad, crazy, perverted, rhetorical, philistine, antipoetic and Positivist-that is to say, Western theatre.

In the Balinese Theatre one senses a state prior to language, able to select its own language; music, gestures, moves and words. * We can be sure this aspect of pure theatre, this natural philosophy of total gesture, an idea in itself, transforming the mind's persuasions in order to be discerned through the fibrous maze and tangle of matter, gives us a new idea of whatever properly belongs to the field of form and visible matter. Anyone who succeeds in imparting a mystical meaning to the simple outline of a gown, not simply content with placing man beside his Double, but ascribing to each costumed person their costumed double-those who run these phantasmal clothes, these second clothes, through with a sword, giving them the look of huge butterflies pinned in the air, these people have a far more inborn sense than us of nature's total, occult symbolism, teaching us a lesson which we can be only too sure our theatre technicians would be incapable of using.

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Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
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