Babylon Revisited Summary

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Babylon Revisited

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Babylon Revisited Summary

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“Babylon Revisited,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a short story. The story was published in 1931 in the Saturday Evening Post. The deeply personal short story mirrors events that happened in Fitzgerald’s life before and after the stock market crash in 1929. In 1954, the story was adapted into a film called The Last Time I Saw Paris.

“Babylon Revisited”is a short story in five parts. First, we meet the protagonist, Charlie Wales, at the Ritz Bar in Paris. He is an American expatriate who used to live in Paris. During the Roaring Twenties, Charlie lived an extravagant lifestyle filled with parties and alcohol, and without worries. At the bar, he speaks with his acquaintance Alix, the bartender, about old friends with whom he used to party during the Jazz Age.

Charlie Wales’ worldview has changed following the Great Crash. He is a man who has lost everything and is trying to rebuild his life. He no longer lives an extravagant lifestyle.

In the heyday before the stock market crash, a drunken Charlie and his wife Helen get in a fight. Helen gets back at him by kissing another man. Charlie storms home in a rage, without his wife. He leaves Helen out in the snow. Shortly after Helen arrives home, she dies suddenly. The cause of her death is unclear. It may be due to an issue with her heart or from suffering in a toxic relationship with her alcoholic husband.

Helen’s death causes Charlie to have a nervous breakdown. While he is institutionalized for his mental health, the stock market crashes. Charlie loses all his money. He also loses his daughter, Honoria, who goes to live with his late wife’s sister, Marion, and her husband, Lincoln Peters. Marion had been jealous of the extravagant life that Charlie and her sister led while she and her husband struggled to get by, and she blames Charlie for Helen’s death.

The story begins three years after Charlie’s breakdown. He has pulled many parts of his wrecked life back together. He is sober. He now only allows himself one drink a day. He has become financially successful. He is back in Paris to try to get his daughter back and to reclaim his rights as her father. He worries that daughter’s beliefs about him will have been negatively influenced by his sister-in-law, Marion.

To prove to Marion that he is a changed man, Charlie visits the Peters’ home regularly for lunches with his daughter. His goal is to have Honoria live with him in Prague. Charlie successfully changes Marion’s mind.

However, Marion rescinds her offer a few hours later. Drunken old friends of Charlie’s show up on the Peters’ doorstep. Alix, from the Ritz, had told them where to find Charlie. Duncan and Lorraine insist several times that Charlie join them for dinner. Despite his refusals, Marion no longer believes that Charlie is no longer an alcoholic.

Fitzgerald begins and ends the story in the same location: a devastated Charlie returns to the bar at the Ritz hoping to find Duncan and Lorraine. Charlie does not find closure at the bar, however. Duncan and Lorraine are not there. He runs into another bartender he knows well, and the two men reminisce about good and bad times.

Charlie calls his brother-in-law, Lincoln. He begs for another chance to take Honoria with him to Prague. Lincoln recommends that Charlie try again in six months, as Marion is too upset by the events of the day.

The upset Charlie returns to the bar to ponder where he went wrong. Will Marion ever forgive him for his previous drunk and careless days? Charlie has learned that is not possible to recover what has been wasted. Charlie believes that Helen would want their daughter to be with her father. The novel ends with Charlie still suffering from his sense of loss and his own role in it.

  1. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was an important twentieth-century American author who wrote short stories and novels. The Great Gatsby is his best-known novel. After graduating from Princeton University and serving in World War I, he published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, which made him famous. He married novelist and painter Zelda Sayre and the couple lived in New York, Paris, and the French Riviera. He died of a heart attack at the age of 44.

Like that of his character Charlie Wales, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life crashed. His wife Zelda was put into psychiatric hospitals after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. At the same time, Fitzgerald suffered from both alcoholism and depression. Fitzgerald cared for his young daughter, Scottie, and tried to fund his wife’s medical care. His sister-in-law and her husband inspired the characters of Marion and Lincoln Peters. Fitzgerald’s sister-in-law, Rosalind, blamed him for Zelda’s mental state and did not want him to raise his daughter.