Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Title: Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896-1940) is best-known for the Jazz Age classic, The Great Gatsby.
The title of  “Babylon Revisited” references the Paris of the 1920’s, just prior to the depression. Charlie Wales, a wealthy American, was living in Paris at the time and like most of his class, lived a carefree lifestyle.

photo of Francis Scott Fitzgerald

June 4, 1937 photo by Carl van Vechten

The story is set years later with Charlie’s attempts to mend his ways. We learn from the dialogue that he was a drinker, and from his interest in the “snow bird” (1205), he might have been an addict too.

Charlie’s actions led to his wife’s distrust and her catching pneumonia (after being shut out by him), from which she eventually died. These actions led to the financially strapped in-laws, Lincoln and his wife, Mabel (Charlie’s embittered sister-in-law), taking over the child.

There are two threads of conflicts here I think, both themes in a way. There is ‘the unfairness of the depression on the upright and fiscal’ and ‘the prodigal children of the 20’s sobering during the depression’. Marion and Lincoln represent the former; good, probably hard-working people who have a child foisted on them (unfairly so) when they already had children of their own, just because Charlie lives irresponsibly. Now, he’s sober and he wants her back. Why should they be pressed upon to adjust their lives yet again for Charlie’s whims?

On the latter half, Charlie represents the prodigal. In a way, he is Paris. He was alive and gay and now, he’s trying to find his identity as a father even as his past tries to lay a claim on him — as Lorraine and Duncan try to do, attempting to get Charlie to go to dinner with them or to the vaudeville (1210).

Source Reading:  The American Tradition in Literature,  11th ed. Ed. George Perkins and Barbara Perkins. Columbus: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 1205-1210.


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