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Themes

Though "Babylon Revisited" is set in Paris, it is very much an American story. The plot revolves around American expatriate Charlie Wales who, after the stock market crash of 1929, looks back with disgust at his extravagant behavior abroad in the booming 1920s. Now sober and sorry, Charlie is paying the price for his irresponsible behavior of the previous decade. In writing this story, Fitzgerald implicates a generation in the fallout of the Jazz Age (or Roaring Twenties). He accuses the entire generation of extravagances that led to the Great Depression. "Babylon Revisited" is not just the story of Charlie Wales, but also the story of Fitzgerald himself and the generation who shared what he saw as irresponsible behavior in the 1920s. Just as Charlie Wales ends the story wondering how long he'll have to pay for his personal mistakes, so we hear Fitzgerald question: how long will Americans have to pay for their wasteful behavior?

Questions About Visions of America

  1. How does Charlie's downfall parallel the financial crisis going on in the world at the time?
  2. What does Charlie mean by the word "dissipate"? What different kinds of dissipation do we see in "Babylon Revisited," on both a personal and global scale?
  3. Charlie muses that "the snow of twenty-nine wasn't real snow. If you didn't want it to be snow, you just paid some money" (5.9). What is he talking about here?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"Babylon Revisited" is a moralistic tale condemning the actions of Americans in the 1920s.

"Babylon Revisited" suggests that the greatest losses in the crash of 1929 were not financial.

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