‘Babylon Revisited’ is a short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in this story, Fitzgerald employs symbolism very in an unconventional narrative structure to bring forth and enforce his main theme, which revolves around the economic depression which followed the 1029 stock market crash (ExampleEssays). This economic crisis at the time was a consequence of the extravagance and carelessness of wealthy Americans living in Paris. Through the main character, Charlie Wales, Fitzgerald reveals and explores the emptiness that came as a result of this extravagance (ExampleEssays).
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Part of that symbolism is reflected in the story’s title, ‘Babylon’ which is borrowed from the Bible, specifically from the book of Revelation (ExampleEssays). The choice of the story’s name is very fitting since it gives insight into the life that thrived in Fitzgerald’s Paris (ExampleEssays). Indeed, Babylon, as described in the Bible, is a city of extreme extravagance, sin, and debauchery, Paris is therefore characterized as a city of power, wealth, and sin. By ‘revisiting’ Paris, Charlie Wales is revisiting Babylon, including not just the place, but also his former life, the entire lifestyle that’s gone with the fall (Shmoop University Inc).
Of significance in this story is its relevance to the biblical happenings; the Bible foretells that Babylon will be destroyed for its sins. The crash of the stock market that results in economic depression is a result of the sinful extravagance of the wealthy and can be related to this prophecy. Now, Charlie lives through the destruction of his former world, and he is paying the price on his own part like everyone else in it and wonders how long it will take him to finish paying for his old sins (Shmoop University Inc). Ultimately, Paris/Babylon is gone now and will never be restored.
The hopelessness expressed in the word ‘Babylon’ reflects the main theme of the story. That is, how an individual shapes his own destiny; Joan Turner says that the theme is that one cannot escape his past, and Carlos Baker argues that in spite of Charlie’s sincere effort to reform, “he cannot shed his past” (eNotes). We also see guilt being explored in this story (eNotes).
Charlie Wales, the story’s protagonist, is a thirty-three-year-old heartbroken man; at the beginning of the story we see him return to Paris (eNotes). Only two years earlier he was a wealthy, carefree and extravagant married man. But now his wife is dead, his fortune is gone with the economic crash and his daughter, Honoria, has been snatched from him because of his alcoholism and unreliability and now lives with his mean and distrustful step-sister (eNotes).
Upon his return, Charlie is out to straighten his life and have his nine year-old daughter back so he can start rebuilding his family all over again (eNotes). Her name, Honorai, as we can deduce represents Charlie’s honor (Shmoop University Inc), and so by retaking Honorai, he not only hopes to have his daughter back but also to regain his lost honor to himself and that of his wife’s relatives.
Charlie is not responsible for his wife’s death although he blames himself for it, true, he once locked her out in a snowy weather but she recovered from the resultant pneumonia. Only years later did she develop and die of a heart attack, unfortunately her relatives always believed that it is Charlie who was responsible for her death. Thus, he is ashamed and consumed by guilt because he feels he had a part to play in her death somehow (eNotes).
But Charlie still faces old temptations especially drinking in the pub where he and his friends used to drink; he has one drink a day and refuses the second cup twice by the end of the story (eNotes). This is seen as his attempt to fight from sinking back into his habitual drinking history, but even then there is doubt if he can actually manage to completely stop as he would wish, since ultimately he continues to drinks. There is some hope that Charlie will rise above his present predicament. But that hope, unfortunately, remains haunted by the possibility of him taking that second cup in the third asking.
eNotes. “Babylon Revisited: Criticism.” 2011. Web.
Shmoop University Inc. “Babylon Revisited.” 2011. Web.
Examplessays. “Analysis of ‘Babylon Revisited’.” 2011. Web.