Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Character Analysis
In the story “Babylon Revisited” the main discussion is about Charlie, who is giving his best effort to bring his daughter Honoria to the city where he is currently living – Prague. During this hard process, it seems that Charlie is doing all the things right and the only reason why he is not getting his daughter back at the end of this short story seems to be the fact he gets unlucky at the end when his old ‘drinking buddies’ come to Marion’s house. When I first read the story, I fall into the same ‘trap’. I did not pay close attention to the little details who shaped the result of the story. These little details are really important and, in my opinion, it is crucial to understand them on the right way and recognize the bigger picture they are making through the flow of the story. One drink that Charlie is drinking every day and the letter he left at the bar for Mr. Duncan definitely represent the two most important details which mold the end of this short, modernist story. One of the key words that has to be considered is temptation and in what extent we are able to control them. Temptation is providing that one drink per day and the promise that Charlie will stop there. Also, temptation is hiding behind the letter that Charlie leaves for Mr. Duncan. Although Charlie is importing a lot of effort to create order in his life, temptation is standing between him and the wish to live with his daughter in Prague. A little sparkle of past experience can cause any person to come back to his old habits and this forms a bigger picture where temptation is playing the main role between wrong old habits and the hope for better future.
Firstly, let’s discuss what kind of order Charlie is trying to gain back into his life and why is that so important to him. Charlie was a successful businessman back in the days, but he lost a lot of his fortune during the stock market crash in 1929. However, he moves to Prague and manages to earn dissent amount of money. Therefore, we can say that he restores the life he used to have before the stock market crash and that he returns to his old lifestyle of spending money easily and without stress. Charlie highlighted, “My income last year was bigger than it was when I had money” (677). In this way, our main character restores the order in his life. It feels good to have money again, but he is also trying to accomplish something more important – to get his daughter back. With decent amount of money in his pocket, along with ‘controlling’ bad old habits, he is now feeling that he is ready to get the custody for Honoria. He feels that he is missing something in his life and Honoria is that missing part which will fulfill the ‘hole’. Family is considered to be the most sacred thing in the life of every individual and it represents the priority. Therefore, family is ranked as a number one priority in the human eyes. However, Charlie is missing that order in life because he does not have his family around. It is perfectly normal for the middle-age man like him to think about family because this is probably the last moment for him to try to get his daughter back. In a few years, it will be too late because he will be too old to take proper care of his daughter.
Secondly, Charlie’s bad habits and his old lifestyle created the main obstacle for him to get Honoria back. I can say that the main conflict in this story is Charlie against himself. If it is true that you are what you repeatedly do, then Charlie used to be an alcoholic and his lifestyle was uncurbed. It is hard for him to prove that he changed his habits and that he is a new man. It is tough to believe him because he is still dragging some of the ‘tails’ from the previous, licentious, life – one drink per day and the fact he is keeping in touch with his ‘drinking buddies’. Talking about Marion, Charlie mentioned, “… I think she can have entire confidence in me. I had a good record up to three years ago. Of course, it’s within human possibilities I might go wrong any time. But if we wait much longer I’ll lose Honoria’s childhood and my chance for a home” (683). His personality shows some signs of weaknesses and a tendency to flirt with old vices. Although there is a sense that he really changed over time, these tails represent uncertainty for the people who can decide whether or not Honoria can go back with him to Prague, and in this case that is Marion. She has questions like, “How long are you going to stay sober, Charlie? (682)”. She is not sure if Charlie really changed because the only thing she sees are the tails from the past.
Thirdly, Charlie has continuous temptation which can lead towards old habit of drinking. Take an example of smoking. If a person who used to smoke a lot before now taking one cigarette per day, is he really in control of the situation? That one cigarette is like a trigger which can be pulled any time, like a time bomb. The same thing can be applied for alcoholism and that one drink Charlie is taking every day. Charlie is trying to explain this to Marion, “As I told you, I haven’t had more than a drink a day for over a year, and I take that drink deliberately, so that the idea of alcohol won’t get too big in my imagination. You see the idea?” (682). He is fooling himself that he is in the control, or it is better to say that he is in the control only at some extent. Temptation is dictating the tempo of the game. Especially at the end of the story where Charlie is definitely not coming back with his daughter to Prague, temptation can rise to its peak, probably forcing our main character to go back to his old habits. It is in human nature to do so, even Oscar Wilde once noticed, “I can resist everything except temptation.” Therefore, the only successful way of destroying the temptation is to completely stop with any type of vice before it is too late.
Finally, the division between the honest desire to change and an individual’s ability to do so is the main concern in the flow of “Babylon Revisited”. As I mentioned before, temptation is dictating the tempo and the pace of the story and it is illusion that Charlie is in the control. The only right way to deal with vices is to completely cut any connection with them, and Charlie fails to apply this rule. Better future cannot be built on the foundations of old vices.
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