"Babylon Revisited" is a story of atoning for past mistakes. Main character Charlie Wales visits Paris, the site of his former extravagant and self-destructive lifestyle, with newly sobered eyes, and is appalled at his former behavior. As the story progresses, the story of Charlie's past is slowly uncovered – revealing a troubled marriage, his wife's death, and Charlie's own alcohol-related breakdown almost two years earlier. Through the text, Fitzgerald asks whether a man can really change, whether it is really possible to atone for the past, and if so, how long will such atonement take.
Questions About Memory and the Past
- Is Marion's claim that Charlie is at fault for his wife's death reasonable? What exactly does it mean for Charlie to be "responsible," anyway? He may not have directly caused it, but we get the feeling that's not what Marion is talking about.
- It's clear from the title that Fitzgerald is imposing a religious backdrop onto his story. What other passages in "Babylon Revisited" support this religious scaffolding?
- How does Fitzgerald reveal Charlie's past to his readers? At what point in the text are we at least clear on everything that happened between Charlie, his wife, and his daughter? Why keep us in the dark for so long?
Chew on This
Charlie's character is driven by guilt from the past, not by hope for the future.
Charlie's character is driven by hope for the future, not by guilt from the past.