"Babylon Revisited" takes place in 1930, just after the devastating stock market crash of 1929. Fitzgerald looks back with disgust (and, in one reading of "Babylon Revisited," not without a bit of nostalgia) for the wasteful and extravagant days of the 1920s. But the story is careful to remind us that the loss here is more than financial. In the story's famous conclusion, once-wealthy Charlie Wales insists that he may have lost a lot in the crash, but he lost everything he wanted in the boom (i.e., his wife, his daughter). In this way, money is corrosive in "Babylon Revisited"; excessive wealth leads to waste, self-destruction, and irresponsibility.
Questions About Wealth
When Charlie is talking with Paul at the end of the story, Paul suggests that Charlie lost his money in the stock market by short selling. Short selling is a risky stock market move in which the buyer sells a stock before he buys it. Charlie responds that indeed, it was "something like that." Assuming that Charlie is speaking metaphorically, what exactly did he "short sell"?
What different kinds of "wealth" do we see in "Babylon Revisited," and what is the relationship between them?
What specific words does Charlie use to describe his past life in Paris? Which of these are destructive, and which are glorifying? How does this help – or confuse – the reader's attempt to understand Charlie's perspective on his past?
Chew on This
"Babylon Revisited" argues that money brings disaster.
"Babylon Revisited" is a largely personal tale for Fitzgerald, rooted in his own experiences.