Babylon Revisited Theme Essay Example

Themes Of "Babylon Revisited" Essay

In general, human beings have the tendancy to make mistakes, but they must remember that no matter how far below they have gone, they can always find help when looking back to good morals and what is really important in life. For example, a criminal who has just served a ten- year sentence can seek farther to find decency and virtue and amend his past actions. Montag, a character from Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451, makes up for his terrible past of book burning by becoming a book himself, memorizing one word for word to share with others. Just as Bradbury has done with Montag, Fitzgerald is able to make his character Charlie, in "Babylon Revisited, demonstrate to the reader the importance of making up for past mistakes.

In "Babylon Revisited" Fitzgerald is able to display the character Charlie Wales, the protagonist in the story, as having an overall good heart. He shows weakness in his reminiscent and regretful personality while he shows strength in his amenable and determined personality. He does this through Charlie's thoughts, his actions, and his words to others.

One of Charlie's lines that Fitzgerald uses to show how Charlie misses the old is when Charlie says, "Remember the night of George Hardt's bachelor dinner here? By the way, what' become of Claude Fessenden?" (Babylon Revisited and Other Short Stories, 210). What the author is doing here is showing the reader that Charlie still needs closure on his past. He was a reckless man a few years back and feels like he needs to be reminded of those crazy times he had. For some reason, Charlie has an underlying desire to go back to those old times before his recklessness caused his life to take a turn for the worse.

There comes a time in the story when Charlie does not want to be reminded of some of the regretful actions he had committed. When "Charlie gripped the sides of the chair"( Babylon Revisited and Other Short Stories, 215 ) after another character brought up how Charlie locked his wife out of the apartment one night, he is showing his regret. Fitzgerald writes, "This was more difficult than he expected, he wanted to launch out into a long expostulation and explanation but he only said, "˜The night I locked her out ---.'" (Babylon Revisited and Other Short Stories, 215 ). This shows the reader that yes, Charlie feels terrible for doing that, but shows that he has a strength for being able to control his at one time very short temper. William J. Brondell, a critic of Fitzgerald's work , identifies with this when he called to attention, "Clearly every contact with the past seems to dampen...

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"Babylon Revisited" F. Scott Fitzgerald

The following entry presents criticism of Fitzgerald's short story "Babylon Revisited." See also, F. Scott Fitzgerald Criticism.

"Babylon Revisited" is Fitzgerald's most anthologized short story and is considered by many to be his best. First published in 1931 in the Saturday Evening Post, it reappeared with revisions in the 1935 collection Taps at Reveille. Fitzgerald wrote "Babylon Revisited" during a time of emotional and economic crisis. Like most of his work, the story reflects his own personal experience and his relationship with his wife Zelda; its tone is thoughtful and retrospective, and it is sadder than earlier stories he had written for the Post.

Plot and Major Characters

"Babylon Revisited" is set against the backdrop of expatriate Europe during the 1930s and recounts the story of Charlie Wales, a onetime wealthy playboy of 1920s Paris whose excesses contributed to the death of his wife, Helen, and led to his stay in a sanitarium for alcoholism. During Charlie's recovery, his daughter Honoria was placed under the custodianship of his sister-in-law and her husband—Marion and Lincoln Peters. Since then, Charlie has reestablished himself as a successful businessman in Prague. As the story opens, he has returned to Paris to reclaim his daughter but must first prove to Marion that he has reformed. The Peterses have never been as wealthy as Charlie and Helen were, and Marion is envious and resentful of Charlie's past extravagances. This, coupled with her bitterness at Charlie's part in her sister's death, makes Marion suspicious of Charlie's reformation, and she agrees only reluctantly to return Honoria to him. Her suspicions are apparently confirmed when Lorraine and Duncan, two unrepentant friends from Charlie's past, drunkenly descend upon Charlie while he is at the Peterses' house. Marion is shocked, and changes her mind about relinquishing Honoria. The story ends as Charlie resolves to try later to regain his daughter, believing that "they couldn't make him pay forever," and that "Helen wouldn't have wanted him to be so alone."

Major Themes

Critics have identified several major themes in "Babylon Revisited," some of which are centered upon time and its shaping of individual destiny. Joan Turner, for example, has asserted that one of the story's themes is that "the past cannot be escaped." Similarly, Carlos Baker has remarked that no matter how sincere Charlie is in his attempt at reformation, he is "defeated by a past that he can never shed." Ronald J. Gervais viewed the story as a lament for the past and its pleasures, as well as regret for mistakes made. Numerous critics have focused on guilt in the story: James M. Harrison and Seymour L. Gross, for example, have debated whether Charlie genuinely wants to change his ways or is still attracted to his former life. Finally, while Rose Adrienne Gallo considered guilt and retribution as significant concerns in the story, she also described the pernicious influence of money as an important theme—both in its ability to waste lives, as it has with Charlie, and to foster envy and resentment, as it has in Marion Peters.

Critical Reception

"Babylon Revisited" has been generally well-received since its publication and is now considered a masterpiece. Nevertheless, critics have pointed out inconsistencies in the plot—for example, the apparently illogical route that Charlie takes from the Ritz Bar to the Peterses, and several inaccurate references to the passage of time. For all its inconsistencies, however, most critics agree that this wistful story displays Fitzgerald's writing at its best, with its close attention to imagery and sensitive choice of words.

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