The Influence of Henry David Thoreau on Sinclair Lewis .
It would be easy to assume that author Sinclair Lewis shared nothing in common with Henry David Thoreau. At first glance, Lewis's popular satirical novel Babbitt would appear to be a completely different work from Thoreau's philosophical classic Walden, uninspired by and possibly even disputing Thoreauvian principles. Upon closer inspection, however, it can be seen that both touch upon the same ideas. The two writers express concern over various secular issues, speaking about the life of the individual and that person's place in society. Should he conform or rebel? Should he live simply or under the rule of material wealth? Through these conflicting issues, the links between American writers Lewis and Thoreau are even clearer. Even though offering opposing ideas on the various aspects of earthly life, the two literary classics visibly share a common concern for the functions of society, and it is evident that Sinclair Lewis, in his satirical voice, actually viewed the work of Thoreau with the utmost respect. .
Lewis's character of George Babbitt and Henry David Thoreau actually represent opposite extremes of an individual living in American society. Babbitt, in the pre-Depression 1920s, is conformity in every aspect. He cannot form his own opinions without relying on the views of others and decides to emphasize the material aspects of life. He is an aspiring socialite and lives his life to impress others. In almost all respects, he is the polar opposite of Thoreau. Thoreau, of the antebellum 1840s, instead lives simplistically and in solitude. He wishes to leave society for a time and pursue mental clarity in his hand-built cabin among the woods around Walden Pond. During the course of their respective situations, these men touch upon the same subjects, often presenting completely different opinions, with occasional agreement.