It's no secret that F. Scott Fitzgerald was a heavy drinker, or that his wife Zelda blamed his drinking for the problems in their marriage and her eventual psychological problems. Fitzgerald explores the consequences of excessive drinking in his story "Babylon Revisited." Main character Charlie Wales is supposedly a recovered alcoholic, but the reader can't help but doubt his claim of reformation. Doubt is cast because he's still drinking (one drink a day, he explains, so that the idea of alcohol doesn't get too big in his mind). In "Babylon Revisited," drinking goes hand in hand with the partying, spending, waste, and self-destruction that, in Fitzgerald's mind, characterized the extravagant 1920s.
Questions About Drugs and Alcohol
- At the end of "Babylon Revisited," when he has lost Honoria, Charlie goes to the Ritz bar looking for Duncan and Lorraine. Why does he want to find them? Is there perhaps a subconscious motive here?
- Do you believe Charlie's claim that he drinks once a day only so that "the idea of alcohol won't get too big in [his] imagination" (3.6)? Or does this sound like an alcoholic rationalizing his decision to continue drinking?
- Does Charlie really have his drinking under control, as he claims? Or do you doubt his self-restraint?
- After hearing the bad news from Lincoln on the phone, Charlie goes back to his table and refuses a second drink from Alix. Why? If he isn't going to get Honoria back anyway, why not go back to his old ways?
Chew on This
Charlie continues to flirt with his old life of destruction and extravagance throughout "Babylon Revisited."
Charlie's character is intentionally ambiguous; we are not meant to know whether or not he has his drinking under control.