Study Guide

Babylon Revisited Wealth

By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wealth

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 any more – he felt polite in it, and not as if he owned it. It had gone back into France. (1.9)

In many ways, we see that Charlie is in exile. He's in exile from America because he's now living abroad. He's in exile from the world of wealth and extravagance to which he belonged in the 1920s. He's in exile form his daughter, and from the other members of his family. And even in France he feels like a stranger; he's in exile from Paris as well. He can't even feel at home in his own bar because he's not really a drinker anymore.

He looked at her, startled. With each remark the force of her dislike became more and more apparent. She had built up all her fear of life into one wall and faced it toward him. (3.35)

How much of this comment is objective, and how much of it is the narrator's rendering of Charlie's own thoughts?

"Do what you like!" she cried, springing up from her chair. "She's your child. I'm not the person to stand in your way. I think if it were my child I'd rather see her – " She managed to check herself. (3.48)

Does anyone else think that Marion was about to say that she'd rather see Honoria dead than with Charlie? It's lines like this one that shift the reader toward Charlie's side and away from Marion's.

At five he took a taxi and bought presents for all the Peters – a piquant cloth doll, a box of Roman soldiers, flowers for Marion, big linen handkerchiefs for Lincoln. (4.15)

Charlie just had a conversation with Lincoln about how resentful Marion was of his wealth, since she and Lincoln have always lived (relatively) frugal lives. Why, then, does he choose to flaunt his money this way?

"I heard that you lost a lot in the crash."

"I did," and he added grimly, "but I lost everything I wanted in the boom." (5.4-5)

This quote raises the question of the different kinds of wealth we see in "Babylon Revisited" and the different losses that follow. Charlie lost his financial wealth in the crash, but he lost his emotional wealth in the boom, in the sense that he destroyed his marriage and his relationship with his daughter.

"Marion's sick," Lincoln answered shortly. "I know this thing isn't altogether your fault, but I can't have her go to pieces about it. I'm afraid we'll have to let it slide for six months; I can't take the chance of working her up to this state again."

"I see."

"I'm sorry, Charlie." (5.12-14)

We might see Charlie's estrangement from Honoria as payment for his past sins. By not getting his daughter back, he might have fully atoned for his sins.

He went back to his table. His whisky glass was empty, but he shook his head when Alix looked at it questioningly. (5.15)

It would have been very easy for Fitzgerald to let Charlie go back to drinking at this point. This is, after all, what we expect from him. But Fitzgerald upends our expectations – he keeps the story rich and surprising, and he keeps Charlie's character complicated and enigmatic.

He went back to his table. His whisky glass was empty, but he shook his head when Alix looked at it questioningly. There wasn't much he could do now except send Honoria some things; he would send her a lot of things tomorrow. He thought rather angrily that this was just money – he had given so many people money… (5.15)

Has Charlie come to an understanding of the limitations of money by the end of this story? If so, then why is he still intent on sending things to Honoria? Does he recognize the futility of such an action, but decide to do it anyway? Or is he still over-valuing money?

"No, no more," he said to another waiter. "What do I owe you?" (5.16)

This is the largely relevant question at the end of "Babylon Revisited" – what does Charlie still owe? He muses in the next line that they can't make him pay forever, but here we have to ask what he's paying for and how much longer it will take for him to pay it back.

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