Babylon Revisited Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"And where is the Snow Bird?" "He was in here last week. Anyway, his friend, Mr. Schaeffer, is in Paris." Two familiar names from the long list of a year and a half ago. (1.5-7)
Notice how Fitzgerald opens his story by rooting it in the past. We know from the title and from this opening conversation that this is a story about returning to another time.
Outside, the fire-red, gas-blue, ghost-green signs shone smokily through the tranquil rain. It was late afternoon and the streets were in movement; the bistros gleamed. At the corner of the Boulevard des Capucines he took a taxi. The Place de la Concorde moved by in pink majesty; they crossed the logical Seine, and Charlie felt the sudden provincial quality of the Left Bank. Charlie directed his taxi to the Avenue de l'Opera, which was out of his way. But he wanted to see the blue hour spread over the magnificent façade, and imagine that the cab horns, playing endlessly the first few bars of La Plus que Lente, were the trumpets of the Second Empire. (1.26-27)
Look at how romanticized Charlie's vision of Paris is. This is a great passage, because it is here that we so palpably feel Charlie's sense of longing – though repressed – for his old life. It's not as simple as a man who is disgusted with his past. Rather, he is simultaneously repulsed by and attracted to it. This veneer of color-drunk beauty still, in Charlie's mind, lies over the city.
"But it was nice while it lasted," Charlie said. "We were a sort of royalty, almost infallible, with a sort of magic around us." (1.44)
Look at the words Charlie uses to describe his past life in Paris. "Royalty," "infallible," "magic" – do these sound like the words a man who is truly reformed would use? The fact is that part of Charlie's past still appeals to him strongly. Perhaps Marion detects this mood when she responds, rather pointedly, that she thought Charlie had had enough of bars.