What has interested you the most in this class? Is it a particular writing? An image? A conversation we’ve had in class? Take inspiration from the thing that has interested you the most and do something unique with it in your writing. There are many approaches you can follow or invent: write a straightforward essay about why you are interested in the thing, write a personal reflection, write a play, write poems, write a short story – write creatively. Use your imagination. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – fear kills good writing and makes everything boring and the same. The method of good writing is to love what you write – and love and fear are opposites, aren’t they? Keep in mind that writing is a form of communication: a real person will read what you write so you want to make yourself understood, but more than that, you might want to give pleasure to your reader. Because hopefully one thing you’ve learned in this class is that reading can be pleasurable. If you enjoy yourself while you write, chances are the reader will also feel it. If instead you’re in excruciating agony, pumped full of stimulants, bitter, paranoid and unhappy – it will show, and it won’t be fun for anyone. Maybe you’ve been rewarded in school for torturing yourself while you write, but all that comes of that is a hatred for writing. How strange! – to hate a form of expression because you don’t feel free to express yourself in it. In this class writing can be what you want it to be, what it already is – yours. Pleasure and thinking, pleasure and writing – that’s the key to creating beautiful things.BABBITT    
Passages  of  Chapter  6  
Sinclair  Lewis.  Washington,  D.  C.,  1922.  
George  Babbitt  and  his  wife  speak  with  their  teenage  son,  Ted,  about  education.  
In  the  living-­‐room,  in  a  corner  of  the  davenport,  Ted  settled  down  to  his  Home  Study;  plain  
geometry,  Cicero,  and  the  agonizing  metaphors  of  Comus.  
“I  don’t  see  why  they  give  us  this  old-­‐fashioned  junk  by  Milton  and  Shakespeare  and  
Wordsworth  and  all  these  has-­‐beens,”  he  protested.    “Oh,  I  guess  I  could  stand  it  to  see  a  
show  by  Shakespeare,  if  they  had  swell  scenery  and  put  on  a  lot  of  dog,  but  to  sit  down  in  
cold  blood  and  READ  ’em  –  These  teachers  –  how  do  they  get  that  way?”  
Mrs.  Babbitt,  darning  socks,  speculated,  “Yes,  I  wonder  why.    Of  course  I  don’t  want  to  fly  in  
the  face  of  the  professors  and  everybody,  but  I  do  think  there’s  things  in  Shakespeare  –  not  
that  I  read  him  much,  but  when  I  was  young  the  girls  used  to  show  me  passages  that  
weren’t,  really,  they  weren’t  at  all  nice.”  
Babbitt  looked  up  irritably  from  the  comic  strips  in  the  Evening  Advocate.    They  composed  
his  favorite  literature  and  art,  these  illustrated  chronicles  in  which  Mr.  Mutt  hit  Mr.  Jeff  with  
a  rotten  egg,  and  Mother  corrected  Father’s  vulgarisms  by  means  of  a  rolling-­‐pin.    With  the  
solemn  face  of  a  devotee,  breathing  heavily  through  his  open  mouth,  he  plodded  nightly  
through  every  picture,  and  during  the  rite  he  detested  interruptions.    Furthermore,  he  felt  
that  on  the  subject  of  Shakespeare  he  wasn’t  really  an  authority.    Neither  the  Advocate-­‐
Times,  the  Evening  Advocate,  nor  the  Bulletin  of  the  Zenith  Chamber  of  Commerce  had  ever  
had  an  editorial  on  the  matter,  and  until  one  of  them  had  spoken  he  found  it  hard  to  form  
an  original  opinion.    But  even  at  risk  of  floundering  in  strange  bogs,  he  could  not  keep  out  
of  an  open  controversy.  
“I’ll  tell  you  why  you  have  to  study  Shakespeare  and  those.    It’s  because  they’re  required  for  
college  entrance,  and  that’s  all  there  is  to  it!    Personally,  I  don’t  see  myself  why  they  stuck  
’em  into  an  up-­‐to-­‐date  high-­‐school  system  like  we  have  in  this  state.    Be  a  good  deal  better  
if  you  took  Business  English,  and  learned  how  to  write  an  ad,  or  letters  that  would  pull.    But  
there  it  is,  and  there’s  no  tall,  argument,  or  discussion  about  it!    Trouble  with  you,  Ted,  is  
you  always  want  to  do  something  different!    If  you’re  going  to  law-­‐school  –  and  you  are!  –  I  
never  had  a  chance  to,  but  I’ll  see  that  you  do  –  why,  you’ll  want  to  lay  in  all  the  English  and  
Latin  you  can  get.”  
“Oh  punk.    I  don’t  see  what’s  the  use  of  law-­‐school  –  or  even  finishing  high  school.    I  don’t  
want  to  go  to  college  ’specially.    Honest,  there’s  lot  of  fellows  that  have  graduated  from  
colleges  that  don’t  begin  to  make  as  much  money  as  fellows  that  went  to  work  early.    Old  
Shimmy  Peters,  that  teaches  Latin  in  the  High,  he’s  a  what-­‐is-­‐it  from  Columbia  and  he  sits  
up  all  night  reading  a  lot  of  greasy  books  and  he’s  always  spieling  about  the  ‘value  of  
languages,’  and  the  poor  soak  doesn’t  make  but  eighteen  hundred  a  year,  and  no  traveling  
salesman  would  think  of  working  for  that.    I  know  what  I’d  like  to  do.    I’d  like  to  be  an  
aviator,  or  own  a  corking  big  garage,  or  else  –  a  fellow  was  telling  me  about  it  yesterday  –  
I’d  like  to  be  one  of  these  fellows  that  the  Standard  Oil  Company  sends  out  to  China,  and  
you  live  in  a  compound  and  don’t  have  to  do  any  work,  and  you  get  to  see  the  world  and  
pagodas  and  the  ocean  and  everything!    And  then  I  could  take  up  correspondence-­‐courses.    
That’s  the  real  stuff!    You  don’t  have  to  recite  to  some  frosty-­‐faced  old  dame  that’s  trying  to  
show  off  to  the  principal,  and  you  can  study  any  subject  you  want  to.    Just  listen  to  these!    I  
clipped  out  the  ads  of  some  swell  courses.”  
He  snatched  from  the  back  of  his  geometry  half  a  hundred  advertisements  of  those  home-­‐
study  courses  which  the  energy  and  foresight  of  American  commerce  have  contributed  to  
the  science  of  education.    The  first  displayed  the  portrait  of  a  young  man  with  a  pure  brow,  
an  iron  jaw,  silk  socks,  and  hair  like  patent  leather.    Standing  with  one  hand  in  his  trousers-­‐
pocket  and  the  other  extended  with  chiding  forefinger,  he  was  bewitching  an  audience  of  
men  with  gray  beards,  paunches,  bald  heads,  and  every  other  sign  of  wisdom  and  
prosperity.    Above  the  picture  was  an  inspiring  educational  symbol  –  no  antiquated  lamp  or  
torch  or  owl  of  Minerva,  but  a  row  of  dollar  signs.    The  text  ran:  
$      $      $      $      $      $      $      $      $            
A  Yarn  Told  at  the  Club    
Who  do  you  think  I  ran  into  the  other  evening  at  the  De  Luxe  Restaurant?    
Why,  old  Freddy  Durkee,  that  used  to  be  a  dead  or-­‐alive  shipping  clerk  in  my  
old  place  –  Mr.  Mouse-­‐Man  we  used  to  laughingly  call  the  dear  fellow.    One  
time  he  was  so  timid  he  was  plumb  scared  of  the  Super,  and  never  got  credit  
for  the  dandy  work  he  did.    Him  at  the  De  Luxe!    And  if  he  wasn’t  ordering  a  
tony  feed  with  all  the  “fixings”  from  celery  to  nuts!    And  instead  of  being  
embarrassed  by  the  waiters,  like  he  used  to  be  at  the  little  dump  where  we  
lunched  in  Old  Lang  Syne,  he  was  bossing  them  around  like  he  was  a  
I  cautiously  asked  him  what  he  was  doing.  Freddy  laughed  and  said,  “Say,  old  
chum,  I  guess  you’re  wondering  what’s  come  over  me.    You’ll  be  glad  to  know  
I’m  now  Assistant  Super  at  the  old  shop,  and  right  on  the  High  Road  to  
Prosperity  and  Domination,  and  I  look  forward  with  confidence  to  a  twelve-­‐
cylinder  car,  and  the  wife  is  making  things  hum  in  the  best  society  and  the  
kiddies  getting  a  first-­‐class  education.”  
How  to  address  your  lodge.  
How  to  give  toasts.  
How  to  tell  dialect  stories.  
How  to  propose  to  a  lady.  
How  to  entertain  banquets.  
How  to  make  convincing  selling-­‐talks.  
How  to  build  big  vocabulary.  
How  to  create  a  strong  personality.  
How  to  become  a  rational,  powerful  and  original  thinker.  
How  to  be  a  MASTER  MAN!  
PROF.  W.  F.  PEET  
Desk  WA  Sandpit,  Iowa  
Babbitt  was  again  without  a  canon  which  would  enable  him  to  speak  with  authority.  
Nothing  in  motoring  or  real  estate  had  indicated  what  a  Solid  Citizen  and  Regular  Fellow  
ought  to  think  about  culture  by  mail.    He  began  with  hesitation:  
“Well  –  sounds  as  if  it  covered  the  ground.    It  certainly  is  a  fine  thing  to  be  able  to  orate.    
I’ve  sometimes  thought  I  had  a  little  talent  that  way  myself,  and  I  know  darn  well  that  one  
reason  why  a  fourflushing  old  back-­‐number  like  Chan  Mott  can  get  away  with  it  in  real  
estate  is  just  because  he  can  make  a  good  talk,  even  when  he  hasn’t  got  a  doggone  thing  to  
say!    And  it  certainly  is  pretty  cute  the  way  they  get  out  all  these  courses  on  various  topics  
and  subjects  nowadays.    I’ll  tell  you,  though:  No  need  to  blow  in  a  lot  of  good  money  on  this  
stuff  when  you  can  get  a  first-­‐rate  course  in  eloquence  and  English  and  all  that  right  in  your  
own  school  –  and  one  of  the  biggest  school  buildings  in  the  entire  country!”  
“That’s  so,”  said  Mrs.  Babbitt  comfortably,  while  Ted  complained:  
“Yuh,  but  Dad,  they  just  teach  a  lot  of  old  junk  that  isn’t  any  practical  use  –  except  the  
manual  training  and  typewriting  and  basketball  and  dancing  –  and  in  these  
correspondence-­‐courses,  gee,  you  can  get  all  kinds  of  stuff  that  would  come  in  handy.    Say,  
listen  to  this  one:  
If  you  are  walking  with  your  mother,  sister  or  best  girl  and  some  one  passes  a  
slighting  remark  or  uses  improper  language,  won’t  you  be  ashamed  if  you  
can’t  take  her  part?    Well,  can  you?  
We  teach  boxing  and  self-­‐defense  by  mail.    Many  pupils  have  written  saying  
that  after  a  few  lessons  they’ve  outboxed  bigger  and  heavier  opponents.    The  
lessons  start  with  simple  movements  practised  before  your  mirror  –  holding  
out  your  hand  for  a  coin,  the  breaststroke  in  swimming,  etc.    Before  you  
realize  it  you  are  striking  scientifically,  ducking,  guarding  and  feinting,  just  as  
if  you  had  a  real  opponent  before  you.  […]  
The  advertisements  were  truly  philanthropic.    One  of  them  bore  the  rousing  headline:  
“Money!  Money!!  Money!!!”    The  second  announced  that  “Mr.  P.  R.,  formerly  making  only  
eighteen  a  week  in  a  barber  shop,  writes  to  us  that  since  taking  our  course  he  is  now  
pulling  down  $5,000  as  an  Osteo-­‐vitalic  Physician;”  and  the  third  that  “Miss  J.  L.,  recently  a  
wrapper  in  a  store,  is  now  getting  Ten  Real  Dollars  a  day  teaching  our  Hindu  System  of  
Vibratory  Breathing  and  Mental  Control.”  
Ted  had  collected  fifty  or  sixty  announcements,  from  annual  reference-­‐books,  from  Sunday  
School  periodicals,  fiction-­‐magazines,  and  journals  of  discussion.    One  benefactor  implored,  
“Don’t  be  a  Wallflower  –  Be  More  Popular  and  Make  More  Money  –  YOU  Can  Ukulele  or  Sing  
Yourself  into  Society!    By  the  secret  principles  of  a  Newly  Discovered  System  of  Music  
Teaching,  any  one  –  man,  lady  or  child  –  can,  without  tiresome  exercises,  special  training  or  
long  drawn  out  study,  and  without  waste  of  time,  money  or  energy,  learn  to  play  by  note,  
piano,  banjo,  cornet,  clarinet,  saxophone,  violin  or  drum,  and  learn  sight-­‐singing.”  
The  next,  under  the  wistful  appeal  “Finger  Print  Detectives  Wanted  –  Big  Incomes!”  
confided:  “YOU  red-­‐blooded  men  and  women  –  this  is  the  PROFESSION  you  have  been  
looking  for.    There’s  MONEY  in  it,  BIG  money,  and  that  rapid  change  of  scene,  that  
entrancing  and  compelling  interest  and  fascination,  which  your  active  mind  and  
adventurous  spirit  crave.    Think  of  being  the  chief  figure  and  directing  factor  in  solving  
strange  mysteries  and  baffling  crimes.    This  wonderful  profession  brings  you  into  contact  
with  influential  men  on  the  basis  of  equality,  and  often  calls  upon  you  to  travel  everywhere,  
maybe  to  distant  lands  –  all  expenses  paid.    NO  SPECIAL  EDUCATION  REQUIRED.”  
“Oh,  boy!    I  guess  that  wins  the  fire-­‐brick  necklace!    Wouldn’t  it  be  swell  to  travel  
everywhere  and  nab  some  famous  crook!”  whooped  Ted.  
“Well,  I  don’t  think  much  of  that.    Doggone  likely  to  get  hurt.    Still,  that  music-­‐study  stunt  
might  be  pretty  fair,  though.    There’s  no  reason  why,  if  efficiency-­‐experts  put  their  minds  to  
it  the  way  they  have  to  routing  products  in  a  factory,  they  couldn’t  figure  out  some  scheme  
so  a  person  wouldn’t  have  to  monkey  with  all  this  practising  and  exercises  that  you  get  in  
music.”    Babbitt  was  impressed,  and  he  had  a  delightful  parental  feeling  that  they  two,  the  
men  of  the  family,  understood  each  other.  
He  listened  to  the  notices  of  mail-­‐box  universities  which  taught  Short-­‐story  Writing  and  
Improving  the  Memory,  Motion-­‐picture-­‐acting  and  Developing  the  Soul-­‐power,  Banking  
and  Spanish,  Chiropody  and  Photography,  Electrical  Engineering  and  Window-­‐trimming,  
Poultry-­‐raising  and  Chemistry.  
“Well  –  well  –”  Babbitt  sought  for  adequate  expression  of  his  admiration.    “I’m  a  son  of  a  
gun!    I  knew  this  correspondence-­‐school  business  had  become  a  mighty  profitable  game  –  
makes  suburban  real-­‐estate  look  like  two  cents!  –  but  I  didn’t  realize  it’d  got  to  be  such  a  
reg’lar  key-­‐industry!    Must  rank  right  up  with  groceries  and  movies.    Always  figured  
somebody’d  come  along  with  the  brains  to  not  leave  education  to  a  lot  of  bookworms  and  
impractical  theorists  but  make  a  big  thing  out  of  it.    Yes,  I  can  see  how  a  lot  of  these  courses  
might  interest  you.    I  must  ask  the  fellows  at  the  Athletic  if  they  ever  realized  –  But  same  
time,  Ted,  you  know  how  advertisers,  I  means  some  advertisers,  exaggerate.    I  don’t  know  
as  they’d  be  able  to  jam  you  through  these  courses  as  fast  as  they  claim  they  can.”  
“Oh  sure,  Dad;  of  course.”    Ted  had  the  immense  and  joyful  maturity  of  a  boy  who  is  
respectfully  listened  to  by  his  elders.    Babbitt  concentrated  on  him  with  grateful  affection:  
“I  can  see  what  an  influence  these  courses  might  have  on  the  whole  educational  works.    
Course  I’d  never  admit  it  publicly  –  fellow  like  myself,  a  State  U.  graduate,  it’s  only  decent  
and  patriotic  for  him  to  blow  his  horn  and  boost  the  Alma  Mater  –  but  smatter  of  fact,  
there’s  a  whole  lot  of  valuable  time  lost  even  at  the  U.,  studying  poetry  and  French  and  
subjects  that  never  brought  in  anybody  a  cent.    I  don’t  know  but  what  maybe  these  
correspondence-­‐courses  might  prove  to  be  one  of  the  most  important  American  inventions.  
“Trouble  with  a  lot  of  folks  is:  they’re  so  blame  material;  they  don’t  see  the  spiritual  and  
mental  side  of  American  supremacy;  they  think  that  inventions  like  the  telephone  and  the  
areoplane  and  wireless  –  no,  that  was  a  Wop  invention,  but  anyway:  they  think  these  
mechanical  improvements  are  all  that  we  stand  for;  whereas  to  a  real  thinker,  he  sees  that  
spiritual  and,  uh,  dominating  movements  like  Efficiency,  and  Rotarianism,  and  Prohibition,  
and  Democracy  are  what  compose  our  deepest  and  truest  wealth.    And  maybe  this  new  
principle  in  education-­‐at-­‐home  may  be  another  -­‐  may  be  another  factor.    I  tell  you,  Ted,  
we’ve  got  to  have  Vision  –”  
“I  think  those  correspondence-­‐courses  are  terrible!”  
The  philosophers  gasped.    It  was  Mrs.  Babbitt  who  had  made  this  discord  in  their  spiritual  
harmony,  and  one  of  Mrs.  Babbitt’s  virtues  was  that,  except  during  dinner-­‐parties,  when  
she  was  transformed  into  a  raging  hostess,  she  took  care  of  the  house  and  didn’t  bother  the  
males  by  thinking.    She  went  on  firmly:  
“It  sounds  awful  to  me,  the  way  they  coax  those  poor  young  folks  to  think  they’re  learning  
something,  and  nobody  ’round  to  help  them  and  –  You  two  learn  so  quick,  but  me,  I  always  
was  slow.    But  just  the  same  –”  
Babbitt  attended  to  her:  “Nonsense!    Get  just  as  much,  studying  at  home.    You  don’t  think  a  
fellow  learns  any  more  because  he  blows  in  his  father’s  hard-­‐earned  money  and  sits  around  
in  Morris  chairs  in  a  swell  Harvard  dormitory  with  pictures  and  shields  and  table-­‐covers  
and  those  doodads,  do  you?    I  tell  you,  I’m  a  college  man  –  I  KNOW!    There  is  one  objection  
you  might  make  though.    I  certainly  do  protest  against  any  effort  to  get  a  lot  of  fellows  out  
of  barbershops  and  factories  into  the  professions.    They’re  too  crowded  already,  and  what’ll  
we  do  for  workmen  if  all  those  fellows  go  and  get  educated?”  
Ted  was  leaning  back,  smoking  a  cigarette  without  reproof.    He  was,  for  the  moment,  
sharing  the  high  thin  air  of  Babbitt’s  speculation  as  though  he  were  Paul  Riesling  or  even  
Dr.  Howard  Littlefield.    He  hinted:  
“Well,  what  do  you  think  then,  Dad?    Wouldn’t  it  be  a  good  idea  if  I  could  go  off  to  China  or  
some  peppy  place,  and  study  engineering  or  something  by  mail?”  
“No,  and  I’ll  tell  you  why,  son.    I’ve  found  out  it’s  a  mighty  nice  thing  to  be  able  to  say  you’re  
a  B.A.    Some  client  that  doesn’t  know  what  you  are  and  thinks  you’re  just  a  plug  business  
man,  he  gets  to  shooting  off  his  mouth  about  economics  or  literature  or  foreign  trade  
conditions,  and  you  just  ease  in  something  like,  ‘When  I  was  in  college  –  course  I  got  my  
B.A.  in  sociology  and  all  that  junk  –’  Oh,  it  puts  an  awful  crimp  in  their  style!    But  there  
wouldn’t  be  any  class  to  saying  ‘I  got  the  degree  of  Stamp-­‐licker  from  the  Bezuzus  Mail-­‐
order  University!’    You  see  –  My  dad  was  a  pretty  good  old  coot,  but  he  never  had  much  
style  to  him,  and  I  had  to  work  darn  hard  to  earn  my  way  through  college.    Well,  it’s  been  
worth  it,  to  be  able  to  associate  with  the  finest  gentlemen  in  Zenith,  at  the  clubs  and  so  on,  
and  I  wouldn’t  want  you  to  drop  out  of  the  gentlemen  class  –  the  class  that  are  just  as  red-­‐
blooded  as  the  Common  People  but  still  have  power  and  personality.    It  would  kind  of  hurt  
me  if  you  did  that,  old  man!”  
“I  know,  Dad!    Sure!    All  right.    I’ll  stick  to  it.    Say!    Gosh!    Gee  whiz!    I  forgot  all  about  those  
kids  I  was  going  to  take  to  the  chorus  rehearsal.    I’ll  have  to  duck!”  
“But  you  haven’t  done  all  your  home-­‐work.”  
“Do  it  first  thing  in  the  morning.”  
“Well  –”  
Six  times  in  the  past  sixty  days  Babbitt  had  stormed,  “You  will  not  ‘do  it  first  thing  in  the  
morning’!    You’ll  do  it  right  now!”  but  to-­‐night  he  said,  “Well,  better  hustle,”  and  his  smile  
was  the  rare  shy  radiance  he  kept  for  Paul  Riesling.  

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