An Analysis of Babylon Revisited: Creating a Relationship Between Narrator and Character

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This is the most anthologized short story that Scott Fitzgerald had wrote through his writing career. It is considered by many to be his best work. Also, it is possible to compare the background material of the story according to his own biography in order to better understand Babylon Revisited. The whole purpose of the story is to recognize all the elements from Fitzgerald’s life that appeared to have the most direct impact in the plot of Babylon Revisited, without overloading into those general biographical aspects that have been treated into depth comprehension. It was first published in 1931 in the Saturday Evening Post, it reappeared with revisions in the 1935 collection Taps at Reveille. 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. Actually, Babylon Revisited is a story based on a man whose defeat to understand the tyranny of his time and the unconventional properties of having bunch of money can result in a tragic failure. The story’s main character is Charlie Wales, who tries to get back to the once American Dream he used to have before the passed away of his former wife, in between with the stock market of 1929, and a difficult struggle with alcoholism, parties and other craziness.

Before getting deep into the whole analysis of the story, it is good to recount all over again throughout the plot. First, there is the initial situation where Charlie Wales is back in Paris, according to the setting, it is possible to say that it was in 1931. It is known is revisiting Paris, after his troubled past, and he is stopping by his old haunts while he is in there. As he talks with the barman, at Ritz bar, a well-known bar by him, we get a lot of hints of his past but the central conflict it is about the be introduced. Then comes the Conflict, where Charlie wants his daughter back. This is one of the most classic plot as it gets. Because the main character wants something and it is not going to be easy to get it. There will other characters or antagonist that will be there to hinder his purpose, and other obstacles standing in his way. And this is how Charlie fight against those problems in order to achieve his goal. But here it comes the complication, because while he tries to get his daughter, in the meantime his disastrous past is calling him. And leaving him awful letter at his hotel. The story does get complicated by another number of things, such as his old past friends, Duncan and Lorraine or even because of Charlie’s past that stills calls him in some other ways. Sometimes in the vague sense of nostalgia that he can get from his reminiscences. And how it is totally uncertain if he had recovered completely or partially from his former alcoholism, which complicates the understanding of how much he is involved in getting back the custody of his daughter.

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The Climax moment comes when Lorrain and Duncan crash in the non-party where they did not got an invitation for. In terms of the story, this is the crutial moment were the writer was trying to lead us all, since Charlie left his brother’s-in-law’s address at the hotel. It is more than clearly that this dramatic climax of the story is where the emotions run high as Charlie himself tries to hide his anger while dealing with the anxiety that the situation put him into and at the same time placate the horror Marion is having. And here it comes the real horror, because it would be possible for Charlie to get Honoria back or he will lose her again because of a big misunderstanding? The final decision has not been made yet when Charlie leaves the Peter’s house, but there is a subtler sense of what is going to happen. The real suspense is the uncertainty that causes the wonder if Charlie will succumb to drink again after he loses his daughter.

The outcome turns out in the way that has been settled from the beginning, Charlie has lost Honoria. Since he left that address, all the events lead to a catastrophic disaster. But the surprising thing is that in spite of the losing, he did not take a second drink at the Ritz, where the final scene happens. He actually sticks to his one drink per day as the emblem of his new future. And the question here is why he did not do it, it seems like a tricky situation. In the end, they cannot make him pay forever. Charlie for sure will be tormented by this for a long time and can wonder for how long this will be going on. In reality, what Fitzgerald wanted with this story was to ask for how long he and his generation will have to pay for their extravagance in the 1920’s. And it is seem to be, the worst is just yet to come. Now, getting into the setting, the whole story happens in Paris, 1930. The Ritz Bar, among other places. Even though the date is never clarified, it is thought that happened around the 30’s because of the “The Crash” which is a constant reference throughout the conversation between the characters. Babylon Revisited is very much a product of its own times, it is seen that the 1920’ where a decade that flourish all types of parties, drinking and jazz. This story tries to recount how Fitzgerald’s it is one of the seals of this so called Jazz Age and the lifestyle that characterizes the extravagance of the American generation in those ages. The “Crash” brought down the big party and put it to an end but with a beginning into the Great Depression.

Of course, Charlie Wales was living this extravagant lifestyle in Paris. But when he returned to Paris in the very sobering early 1930’s, he could look back at his mischiefs with sober new eyes. Similar to his, the Americans of the time also looked back at their own wasteful lifestyles, because Babylon Revisited ir isn’t only a story about a Charlie Wales and his loss in life, it is a story about a whole generation who was paying the price for their irresponsible behavior. Actually, to take a clear example of how complicated this issue was for the Americans at the time, the Ritz Bar represents an example of the historical roots found in the story, because this bar has always been an American hang out for expatriates in Paris, but never as much as in the 20’s. This bar plays an important role, it frames the story opening and closing scenes, meaning that it “is in the heart of Charlie’s old Paris” (Shmoop Editorial Team) This does mean that the Ritz bar is a symbol. Everything Charlie says about the Ritz bar is applicable to Paris as whole thing, because when Charlie says “the stillness in the Ritz was strange and portentous” it is understandable that Paris was quiet at the time he came back and that made him uncomfortable for him. “It was not an American bar anymore- he felt polite in it and not as if he owned it” (1.9)

Another important thing in the story is who it is narrated, in a very close third person. This means that the things the writer wants the reader to see is all through Charlie’s eyes, and are essential to his thoughts and observations. It is more common to hear that the close third person brings the reader closer to the protagonist, because in that way it may feel more connected to his passions, emotions, senses and may gain sympathy for the main character. It is really brilliant how Fitzgerald permits some important space between the narrator and Charlie. This calls out when the narrator and the reader are knowing things that Charlie does not. It seems like is a guessing game, where the main character is clueless about everything happening around him and the reader with the narrator’s help leads Charlie throughout the story. But, the most important thing is that Charlie left his address to Duncan in order for him to reach Charlie, at the beginning of the text and then forgot about it somewhere between the Ritz and the Peter’s house. Charlie doesn't remember this detail; he's left in confusion as to just how Duncan 'ferreted out the Peters' address' (4.26). This one detail opens up the stage for Charlie's tragic loss of Honoria at the end of the story.

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