Babylon Revisited

Babylon Revisited

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In life, one must realize that it is impossible to be perfect and so there are always going to be things that one will regret. Modernist author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his short story, "Babylon Revisited", tells the story of a man who has made many mistakes in his life and is living with these regrets and trying desperately to bring his life back together. In the story, Fitzgerald draws heavily upon the current events of the world he is living in and uses the present to depict the past.

The 1920s were a time of leisure and carelessness. The Great War had ended in 1918 and everyone was eager to return to some semblance of normalcy. The end of the war and the horrors and atrocities that it resulted in now faced millions of people. This caused a backlash against traditional values and morals as people began to denounce the complex for a return to simplicity and minimalism. Easily obtainable credit and rapidly rising stock prices prompted many to invest, resulting in big payoffs and newfound wealth for many. However, overproduction and inflated stock prices increased by corrupt industrialists culminated until the inevitable collapse of the stock market in 1929.

In "Babylon Revisited," Fitzgerald uses these troubled times as a background for his story. The main character is someone many Americans of the day could sympathize with. His rise from mediocrity to a life of wealth and leisure and then his tragic fall appealed to the broken and world-weary masses subjugated by the demoralizing affects of the depression.

Fitzgerald never relates the history of Charlie's circumstances out right. It is inferred through his present situation and through his interaction with those around him. The reader enters the story seemingly in the middle of a conversation between Charlie and a Parisian bartender. From his thoughts and conversation one is able to infer that he is returning to Paris after a long period of absence. He states, "He was not really disappointed to find Paris was so empty. But the stillness in the Ritz bar was strange and portentous. It was not an American bar anymore he felt polite in it, and not as if he owned it." We then see that he is returning to a Paris very different from the one he had known. We also see that he himself has changed. He is no longer the same hedonistic individual that he apparently once was even refusing a second drink when it was offered.

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Still Charlie's past haunts him as he is unable to help those around him differentiate between his past and his present self. His old friends try unsuccessful to entice him back into their world not seeing the change that circumstance has brought. When Lorraine and Duncan try to visit Charlie in the home of his brother and sister in-law, their inability to distinguish between the Charlie they thought they knew and the man he really was proved disastrous. Marion, already hesitant of the idea of allowing Charlie's young daughter to return to live with him, becomes convinced that he truly has not changed. Fitzgerald uses Marion's character as a stark contrast to the blithe and self-gratifying attitude of Charlie's former friends. She represents the staunchly determined moral attitude still held by many of the period.

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