|Author||F. Scott Fitzgerald|
|Published in||The Saturday Evening Post|
"Babylon Revisited" is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald written in 1930. It first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post on February 21, 1931.
Charlie Wales, 35, the story’s protagonist, has come to Paris from Prague to regain custody of his daughter, Honoria, from his sister-in-law.
Charlie’s dead wife and mother of Honoria. Helen and Charlie shared a drinking problem during the course of their relationship. She passed away due to heart troubles because of a dreadful situation that happened with Charlie. She suffered with pneumonia when Charlie locked her out in a snowstorm, and inevitably died shortly afterwards.
Honoria is the daughter of Charlie Wales and his deceased wife, Helen. She is also one of the three children that live in the Peters' house.
Marion is a tall woman with worried eyes. She is the sister-in-law to Charlie Wales and sister to the deceased, Helen. She is the antagonist who stands in the way of Charlie getting his daughter back, who she has full custody over.
Lincoln is married to Marion Wales and shares custody of Honoria. He is sympathetic for Charlie wants him to be able to have custody of Honoria.
Lorraine, “a lovely, pale blonde of thirty,” is a friend of Charlie’s from his past. She likely had an affair with Charlie.
She's a big part of Charlie's "bad habits."
Duncan is a friend of Charlie's from college. His friendship with Charlie affected Charlie's situation with family members.
“Babylon Revisited” is about Charlie Wales attempting to correct his past and regain custody of his daughter. He has to overcome his drinking addiction and try to regain his wealth. He returns to Paris from Prague to try and convince his sister-in-law, who has custody of his daughter, that he had changed so that she would sign over custody of his daughter to him. Charlie has to stay from the bar and liquor to prove that he has changed. "The story shows that self motivation can take you a long way where you're on the road to recovery."
One theme of this story is Charlie's struggle to prove to everyone that he has overcome his drinking and partying habit. Some passages in the story indicate that he may not be over his drinking because when he comes back to town he goes straight back to the bar. "Charlie's charter seems to have an up and down roller coster effect."
Another theme of the story is guilt and innocence. Throughout the story Charlie struggle with his sense of guilt over his wife's death, losing his daughter custody and spend years by drinking alcohol. He punish himself. "I spoiled this city for myself. I didn't realize it, but the days came along one after another, and then two years were gone, and everything was gone and I was gone."(25)
Comparisons To The Author's Life
In 1920 Fitzgerald married Zelda Sayre and they began a lifestyle of decadence. While he tried to gain credibility in the literary world, he was seen as too much the party boy. The couple had their first and only child, affectionately known as Scottie, in 1921. His drinking quickly escalated to the point of alcoholism. His wife also drank, but was not seen as an alcoholic. The couple fought quite often, being in a hostile state that was brought on by drinking. During their years together the couple spent their money too extravagantly, putting them in debt. The family went to France in early 1924, where he wrote The Great Gatsby. While there Zelda’s partying ways went too far: she had an affair. Though they stayed together, the marriage was irreparably damaged. She later suffered mental breakdowns and ended up spending her life in and out of asylums. Fitzgerald eventually moved out of his family’s home and rented a house for himself. He was not providing a good enough environment for his 14 year old daughter so she was sent to a boarding school. Another family, the Obers, took over caring for her. Fitzgerald kept up writing to her and kept a hand over her education. Fitzgerald died in a girlfriend’s apartment in 1940. Zelda died in a fire at a sanitarium in 1948.
The parallels are quite obvious between the protagonist’s life and that of the author -- spending beyond his means, drinking to excess, and losing his child to another family. Though Fitzgerald’s wife died years after his own death, it could be argued that the parallel between his life and the death of Charlie Wales’s wife comes when Zelda had her affair. While the guilt he may have felt over his wife straying is not known, it is known that after that affair the marriage had essentially ended. It suffered a metaphoric death.
- Fitzgerald 2002, p. 7.
- Bruccoli, Matthew J. “A Brief Life of Fitzgerald” F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Scribners, 1994. University of South Carolina F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary. 4 Dec. 2003 <http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/biography.html>
- Fitzgerald, F. Scott (2002). "Babylon Revisited". In Sipiora, Phillip (ed.). Reading and Writing about Literature. Upper Saddle Creek, NJ: Prentice Hall. pp. 6–18.