"Babylon Revisited" Context
''Babylon Revisited'' is widely considered to be the apex of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories, of which there are more than a hundred. Like many of his works, ''Babylon Revisited'' was loosely based on Fitzgerald’s own life.
Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896 in Saint Paul Minnesota. He was named Francis Scott Key, after a distant relative, and the writer of the American national anthem. Fitzgerald spent his childhood years in the United States—Buffalo, New York, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Hackensack, New Jersey. In 1913, he entered Princeton University, although his performance by all accounts was mediocre. In 1917, he dropped out of school in order to enlist in the United States Army, which had recently entered World War I. While in officer training in Alabama, Fitzgerald wrote his first novel. Soon after, Fitzgerald met Zelda Sayre, a flamboyant flapper and the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court justice. The two quickly became engaged, but in 1919 Zelda broke their engagement due to concerns about her future husband’s ability to support her financially. This spurred Fitzgerald to advance his writing career and revise the novel he wrote while in the Army, which was accepted for publication and resulted in the resumption of his engagement with Zelda.
The two were married in March of 1920 in New York City soon after the publication of This Side of Paradise, and they quickly emerged as the poster children of the wild, extravagant lifestyle that defines much of the 1920’s. The couple had their first and only child in October, 1921, Frances ''Scottie'' Fitzgerald, a daughter. Parenthood did little to slow the Fitzgerald’s tumultuous lifestyle, or their drinking. Fitzgerald and his family spent much of the 1920’s in Europe, primarily in Paris, during which time Fitzgerald wrote what may be his most acclaimed work, The Great Gatsby as well as dozens of short stories for magazines. Simultaneously, Zelda pursued her interest in ballet, developing what many considered to be an unhealthy obsession. In addition to the literary fame that Fitzgerald experienced, the 1920’s were also filled with periods of financial instability for the Fitzgerald household, and the deterioration of Zelda’s mental health.
Fitzgerald was a member of the ''lost generation,'' a term that Gertrude Stein used to describe the group of American authors, including Fitzgerald, that lived in Paris during the 1920’s and early 1930’s. The era, which Fitzgerald called the ''jazz age,'' was known for debauchery and excess and largely ended with the stock market crash of 1929. In 1930, Zelda Fitzgerald was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she suffered the first of many mental breakdowns. This, in conjunction with his own depression and numerous financial problems, marked a particularly low point in Fitzgerald’s life, and was when he wrote ''Babylon Revisited.'' The story was published in the Saturday Evening Post on February 21, 1931, and had many parallels to Fitzgerald’s own life, both personal and historical. Like Charlie Wales in ''Babylon Revisited,'' both Fitzgerald and his wife struggled with alcohol abuse, and he was a binge-drinker and an alcoholic. At the time, Fitzgerald, like his protagonist, was the father of a 9-year-old girl, and struggling to cope with the dissipation and waste of the 1920’s boom.
The 1930’s saw the decline of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1932, Zelda had another breakdown, and was subsequently hospitalized for her schizophrenia. Although she later became an author in her own right, Zelda remained confined to institutions for the rest of her life. In 1934 Fitzgerald published his novel Tender is the Night. The next year, when his daughter Scottie was fourteen, Fitzgerald sent her to boarding school. In a significant parallel to Charlie Wales’ daughter Honoria in ''Babylon Revisited,'' the functionally motherless Scottie found a surrogate family in the home of Fitzgerald’s...
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