The History About Babylon Revisited English Literature Essay

Francis Scott key Fitzgerald was born in September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota in The United States. He studied in Princeton University but never finished, instead he joined the army to fight in the final days of World War I. When he was working in advertising in New York, he published his first novel The side of paradise [1920]. He earned some money so he could convince her girlfriend, Zelda Sayre, to marry him and soon they had a daughter. They moved a lot until they finally settled in Europe. They led a nomadic, expensive, bohemian lifestyle, full of alcohol, wastage and debts. In 1930 Zelda started having nervous breakdowns and she was committed a mental-health clinic in Switzerland, while their nine-year-old daughter Scottie remained in Paris with a nanny. Fitzgerald was travelling from one side to another to see their family and writing short stories (as "Babylon revisited") in order to get money for sustaining them. He was also fighting with Zelda’s sister for the child’s custody. After some years lost to alcohol and depression he died of a heart attack on December, 1940 at the age of 44.

Fitzgerald wrote almost all of his more successful works as Great Gatsby [1925], The Beautiful and the Damned [1922], "Babylon Revisited" and "Tales of the jazz age" by taking his life as an inspiration. The author was in his twenties when America entered the ’20s. This period, after World War I, when economies were recovered, it’s called the "Happy ’20s" or "The age of jazz". It’s related to the years of tango, Charleston, sports, cinema, night-clubs and cabarets ("the most expensive orgy in history" said Fitzgerald) and it is clearly represented in his books. Also, his writing was influenced by the Great Depression in 1929 ("the spectacular death "of jazz age, wrote Fitzgerald) when stocks had fallen leaving thousands of businesses incomplete and thousands of people unemployed, and when the "elites" had become as poor as the poorest families in The United States.

Sources:

Alison Booth, J. Paul Hunter, Kelly J. Mays (2005), The Norton Introduction to Literature; Ninth Edition, W.W. Norton Company, New York [1973].

http://www.lecturalia.com/autor/2453/francis-scott-fitzgerald-España 20/04/13

http://www.biography.com/people/f-scott-fitzgerald 20/04/13

http://www.artehistoria.comjcyl.es/vz/contextos/3152.htm 20/04/13

Story Context

Babylon Revisited takes place in Paris on the late 20s. At this time there had been many social issues which defined the lifestyle of many people in the United States and France. These circumstances are shown by the narrator, and one good example of this is when he mentions the cocottes, cabarettes, casinos, bars, bistros, among other places where luxury, excessiveness and a marked style of music feature the distinctive atmosphere of night life in Paris.

In the Paris of this time there is a clear-cut division between the two sides of the Senie River and between the social movements of the city. Around the right bank there is everything that could make people feel enjoyment regardless of whether they are good or bad.

Theme

The theme of this story is redemption. Charlie has done some terrible things in the past but now is looking for redemption; like all of us, he wants to change for the better and give an step forward into the light.

By redemption we mean, he is looking for forgiveness to make amends with himself and the rest of his world. He needs to prove that in order to get back his little child, Honoria, he is a good person and he has really changed.

Title

"Babylon Revisited" is named after an actual but ancient city which is located in what nowadays is Iraq. But maybe what's more important than the city itself is the way it is depicted in biblical accounts.

In the bible, Babylon is regarded as a city of indulgence, extravagance, and sin which is in many ways quite similar to the Paris where our main character lived in an out-of-control, irresponsibly fashion.

The "revisited" part of the title is an allusion to Charlie's coming back to Paris after having settled down in Prague.

Source

http://www.shmoop.com/babylon-revisited/title.html 20/04/13

Structure

Babylon Revisited is divided into five sections where Fitzgerald relates different facts at different times.

The story begins in the 1st chapter describing Paris and a number of events in which Charlie transits and mentions details about the life of this character. In the 2nd chapter Fitzgerald focuses on Charlie and Honoria’s lunch and the love between them. Then, in the 3rd chapter a moment of climax is recognise when the author relates the discussion between Charlie, Marion and Lincoln and Charlie’s desire to regain Honoria. Following with the climax in the 4th chapter, we find Charlie desperate for a series of events. Finally, the outcome is concentrated in the 5th chapter where Charlie can not stand the idea of losing Honoria once again.

Characters

Charlie Wales:

Despite his many flaws, Charlie is a man whom almost everyone can’t help but like. It’s surprising that Charlie’s so likeable considering his wild past of uncontrollable alcoholism, his possible complicity in his wife’s death, and the fact that he essentially abandoned his child. He seems so earnest in his efforts to reverse the situation. We also note that he rejects his former friends and he merely takes only one drink per day. Fitzgerald also conveys Charlie’s great personal charm. Charlie is a physically attractive man, a quality that clearly affects Lorraine and possibly even Marion. He is also a winning, persuasive speaker, able to manipulate listeners without seeming to try.

On the other hand, throughout history, we can not avoid suspecting him. His justification for taking one drink per day makes sense when he explains it—Charlie implies that he doesn't want to give alcohol power over him—but seems nonsensical later. We wonder if he'll slip back into drinking heavily. When Charlie rejects his former friends, we think back to the beginning of the story when he gives Lincoln and Marion’s address to Alix, knowing that it’ll land in Duncan Schaeffer’s hands. As a result, we wonder whether some part of him actually wants to return to the old days.

Marion Peters

Marion acts both as a stand-in for the reader. On the one hand, we likely share all her reservations about Charlie. On the other hand, her unpleasant attitudes set us against her. We want to dismiss her reservations, even if we know we shouldn’t, which puts us even more firmly in Charlie’s camp. Marion is the mirror image of Charlie: although logic demands that we approve of her actions, her difficult personality masks her essential goodness and makes her difficult to like. Marion is unhappy with her own life and focuses her frustrations on Charlie, but there’s no doubt that she is a good woman. She has taken Honoria in, treated her as her own child, and brought her up to be a happy, self-sufficient girl. She also loves her husband. Her marriage to him is the most successful romantic adult relationship in the story, a stark contrast to Charlie’s disastrous marriage, which ended in a bad way. Nevertheless, Marion’s judgmental tone and slight air of irrationality make her an unsympathetic character, because we see Marion from Charlie’s perspective, we focus only on her frustrations rather than her good motivations.

Lincoln Peters

Marion’s husband and Charlie’s brother-in-law. Lincoln doesn’t have the same ability for businesses than Charlie, but he is a solid, responsible father and husband. He is quieter than his wife and more sympathetic to Charlie’s desire to live with Honoria. Still, his primary loyalty is to Marion, whom he truly loves. He takes Marion’s side whenever he believes that Charlie’s actions are hurting her.

Helen

Charlie’s deceased wife. Helen passed away many years before and appears in the story only as a figure in Charlie’s dream. She and Charlie loved each other deeply, and it seems they destroyed their relationship for no real reason. Even though their marriage ended badly, they did love each other, which is why Helen appears encouraging and loving in Charlie’s dream.

Lorraine Quarrles

A thirty-year-old blonde American woman. Lorraine is a figure from Charlie’s debauched past. She too has lost her fortune but hasn’t stopped trying to live the way she did when she had money. Now a sad, almost pathetic figure, she chases after Charlie, whose newfound sobriety both amuses her and makes her jealous.

Duncan Schaeffer

Lorraine’s companion and an American who attended college with Charlie. Duncan, who doesn’t say much, amplifies Lorraine’s recklessness. He accompanies Lorraine wherever she goes, drinks when she drinks, and unexpectedly arrives at Marion and Lincoln’s house with her.

Elsie and Richard Peters

Marion and Lincoln’s children. Elsie and Richard are about Honoria’s age, well behaved, but don’t perform as well in school as Honoria.

Paul

A bartender at the Ritz. In the days of great wealth, he drove a fancy car to work.

Alix

A bartender at the Ritz. Alix gives Charlie updates on the Americans who used to live in Paris.

Source:

http://www.sparknotes.com/short-stories/babylon-revisited/characters.html 20/04/13

Setting

Time

We don't know for certain when exactly the plot of "Babylon Revisited" takes place because it is never specified in the storyline. However, if we have some knowledge about the historical context in which Fitzgerald wrote this short-story we can assume that the events are set some time after the "market crash" of 1929 in the United States.

We might as well figure out the time frame of the story through the characters, especially when they refer to these economic issues as "the crash" or when early in the story they talk about the stocks rising and falling. Considering that it had been 3 years in which Charlie had been sober and that 1929 was the ending point of his fast-paced life, we can come to the conclusion that the story is set some time around late 1932 and early 1933.

Having said that, present isn't the only recurrent time line throughout "Babylon Revisited". Past plays an important role as well. Charlie is constantly looking back at the indulgent life which led him into so much trouble. The past which is relevant to the plot endures 1 year and a half, starting when Charlie becomes wealthy and ending 3 years before present time when the story develops.

Place

In a large scale this story takes place in Paris, where there are two major, significant places to the plot. On the one hand, we have Charlie’s in-law's house where his daughter Honoria lives, and where the climax occurs. On the other hand, Ritz Bar is a place where Americans hang out. It represents Charlie's former life of expenditure, indulgence, partying, etc. In addition, it is in this place where the story takes shape from the beginning and also where it ends.

Source:

http://www.shmoop.com/babylon-revisited/setting.html

http://www.sparknotes.com/short-stories/babylon-revisited/context.html

http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-babylonrevisited/hist.html

Symbols and Allusions

Symbols

Babylon:

It was an ancient city known for the sinful behavior of the citizens, materialistic life. The revisit of this city means, for the author, going back to the origin of the past and his mistakes in order to solve and fix all he’d done.

Ritz bar:

It is the bar where he has his friends who are a barman waiter (Alix) and the head barman (Paul). This is where he feels belonging, the place where he starts the story and the place where he will be coming back at the end of it. For him, it is a place for thinking, reflection and, of course, having a few drinks.

Dignified black dinner dress:

This is a hint that shows what is coming next in the story. An anticipation of Marione about Charlie and his strong desire of taking Honoria with him.

Allusions

Stock Market Crash:

Also known as the Black Tuesday. This event took place in October 29, 1929 in the USA. A sudden fall of stock prices shocked the whole country, setting the people into poorness and fear. This was the highest economic crash in USA, though there were many more events as the one mentioned, but not as hard as the Black Tuesday for society.

The Seine:

It is a river that delimits 2 sides in northern France, Paris. The left Bank and the right Bank. On the right side is where he used to go to the Ritz bar with his friends having drinks, hanging out. The fact that he now is sober enables him to perceive another reality of what he sees and feels in Paris about his past. In the other hand, the left bank, the provincialism is meant to refer low-income and traditionalist people.

Second Empire:

It was founded and named by Louis- Napoleón Bonaparte after he declared himself Emperor Napoleón III during the Second French Republic since 2 December 1852 till 4 September 1870.

La Plus que Lent:

Classical piece of music composed by the French pianist Claude Debussy. He’s well known for avoiding a crisp style. This record is the proof of his unique and simple style.

Josephine Baker:

After her second divorced she kept her husband’s surname Baker. Famous for being an original dancer and jazz singer, surprising people at her shows for her beauty. She became famous after her performance in a jazz show La Revue Negre in Paris.

Summary

Chapter One

35-year-old Charlie asks for familiar names, and after hearing Mr. Schaeffer is the only one staying in Paris he writes his brother-in-law’s address so it can be given to Mr. Schaeffer. In the Ritz bar, he refuses to have another drink claiming he is "going slow" these days, and chats about some acquaintances of his. Then, he goes to his in-law’s house in order to visit his daughter. After that, he goes to Bricktop and remembers his past behavior and what he did there. He later returns to the hotel.

Chapter Two

With the depression of the night before gone, he has lunch with his daughter, Honoria, as an attempt to become closer only to be interrupted by his former friends, Lorraine and Duncan, who still have a wild lifestyle. They are surprised for his soberness and later interrupt them again at The Empire. While chatting, Honoria tells Charlie she wants to live with him. A few moments later, he takes her back to his in-law’s house.

Chapter Three

At his in-law’s, he talks to Marion and Lincoln about having Honoria’s custody because he’s no longer as irresponsible nor as much of a drunk as he was before. Marion discusses with him about how his marriage crumbled down and blames him for his wife’s death. In an outburst, Marion tells him to do as he pleases as regards Honoria and goes to bed feeling sick. Lincoln apologizes and goes to check on her. Charlie leaves remembering Helen and finds himself "talking" to her again. She tells him she is glad he is doing well and wants Honoria to be with him. A few seconds later, she disappears.

Chapter Four

Charlie called Lincoln asking if he could take Honoria to Prague with him. Lincoln agrees but tells him that Marion would like to retain the legal guardianship for maybe a year more. Later, they have lunch together. Back at the hotel, he receives a letter from Lorraine where she asks him to spend more time together. He goes to his in-law’s house and notices an excited Honoria at the idea of moving out with him. While talking with Marion about taking Honoria with him, they receive a sudden intrusion from Duncan and Lorraine. These two insist on going out with Charlie but after he refuses to do so they leave. Because of this, Marion furiously storms out of the room. They call off the dinner.

Chapter Five

An angered Charlie goes to The Ritz bar and has a drink. Lincoln calls him to tell him that he will have to wait to talk to Marion about taking Honoria with him because Marion is not feeling well. He’s convinced he deserves being with her. He’ll try again.

Climax

We can say that climax of the story is the result of these events:

Only when Charlie arrives to Paris, he discorvers how lonely he was. He talks to Honoria and finds that she wants to live with him, and as he also wants, he decides to talk to Marion and Lincoln about these. After talking, they agree to let Honoria live with him.

After all these, we found climax in the night when all of them have dinner in the Peter's house, and suddenly, Duncan and Lorraine knock on the door and walk into the house. That is the moment when the tension grews and we, as readers, want to know what will happen.

Finally, climax falls when Lorraine and Duncan leave the house and Marion shows her anger to Charlie. As a result of these, Marion and Lincoln decide not to let Charlie take Honoria with him.