Although Lewis sought to portray the middle-aged American in Babbitt, he includes tidbits of his character's youthful dreams and ideals. Babbitt often reflects on his failed goal of becoming a lawyer. In college he dreamed of defending the poor against the "Unjust Rich," and possibly even running for governor. He began practicing real estate in college to earn money for living expenses, but settled into real estate permanently shortly after marriage. Babbitt's best friend, Paul, is similarly haunted by unfulfilled dreams. A talented violinist, he had hoped when younger to study in Europe. When he and Babbitt leave for their trip to Maine, they stop off in New York, where Paul looks longingly at ocean liners set to cross the Atlantic. Paul still plays the violin on occasion; when he does "even Zilla was silent as the lonely man who lost his way ... spun out his dark soul in music." Despite having abandoned his former goals and ideals, Babbitt still dreams of a "fairy child": an imaginary woman full of life and gaiety who sees him not as a stodgy old businessman but as a "gallant youth." He imagines various women as his fairy child, including his secretary, a manicurist, his son's girlfriend, and finally Tanis Judique.
Having failed in his aspirations to become a lawyer himself, Babbitt hopes his son, Ted, will go to law school. Ted, however, is hardly interested in finishing high school. Rather than focusing on college, Ted clips advertisements for correspondence courses and money-making schemes. In the novel's dramatic final scene Ted announces that he has eloped with his girlfriend, Eunice Littlefield, and intends to forgo college to become an engineer. Eunice is described as "movie crazy" and very modern in appearance, wearing her hair in a short bob and skirts that show off her knees.
Babbitt's hopes for his elder daughter, Verona, consist mostly of her making a good marriage. Babbitt is concerned about her socialist-leaning political views. The books she reads, including poetry by Vachel Lindsay and essays by H. L. Mencken, particularly disturb him as threatening to the virtues of solid citizenship. Babbitt's younger daughter, Tinka, only ten at the start of the book, is doted upon and admired.