"Babylon Revisited" by F Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald is known as the spokesman of the "Lost Generation" of Americans in the 1920s. The phrase, "Lost Generation," was coined by Gertrude Stein "to describe the young men who had served in World War I and were forced to grow up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken" (Charters 489). Fitzgerald exemplified the generation that Stein defined. His family, with help from an aunt, put him through preparatory school and then through Princeton University (Charters 489). Fitzgerald’s family hoped that he would stop "wasting his time scribbling" and would be serious about his studies (Charters 489). However, he left college before graduating and accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Regular Army during World War I (Charters 489). During his military service, he spent most of his time writing his first novel, This Side of Paradise (Charters 489). The peak of Fitzgerald’s fame as a writer came with the publication of The Great Gatsby, in 1925 (Charters 489). Fitzgerald, writing in the third person, reflected back fondly on the Jazz Age because "it bore him up, flattered him, and gave him more money than he had dreamed of, simply for telling people that he felt as they did, that something had to be done with all the nervous energy stored up and unexpended in the War" (Charters 489).
In the years of the 1930s and the Great Depression, Fitzgerald saw his own physical and emotional world collapse with the decline of his literary reputation and the failure of his marriage. Fitzgerald’s last years as a writer "were truly lost . . . writing Hollywood screenplays and struggling to finish his novel The Last Tycoon" (Charters 489). Fitzgerald wrote approximately 160 stories during his career (Charters 489). "Babylon Revisited," written in 1931, is one of his later works. It is considered "more complicated emotionally" than his earlier works because he shows "less regret for the past and more dignity in the face of real sorrow" (Charters 489).
"Babylon Revisited" focuses on Charlie Wales, a man who returns to Paris to retrieve his daughter and begin his life anew as a family with her. The title is appropriate because Charlie returns to Paris where, before the Depression hit, he and his wife lived a life of endless partying and spending of money, where everything had a price that he could afford to pay. Charlie begins his "revisit to Babylon" by stopping at the Ritz bar that he used to frequent. Before too many details are given, Charlie gives the bartender the address of his in-laws in case any of his old friends happen to stop in and wish to locate him. This act proves to destroy his plans for family by the end of the story. As he begins to look around his old stomping grounds, he finds that now, every thing seems dark, alienated, and alone – similar to how he feels. Walking through the bar, Charlie hears "a single, bored voice" (Fitzgerald 490). When asked if he would like a drink, Charlie states he is "going slow these days" (Fitzgerald 490). While the bartender continues his friendly discussion, Charlie states that he now lives in Prague because "they don’t know about me down there" (Fitzgerald 490). Charlie initially escaped Paris to start life over and has become lonely and feels alienated. When he returns to the establishment of his "good ol’ days," he hopes to find the old friendly faces he remembers, but even this world has become a slow, lonely existence. Upon leaving the bar, Charlie walks down the street and hears the song "La Plus que Lente – Slower than Slow" being played (Fitzgerald 491). Having revisited his old haunts, Charlie goes to his in-law’s house to see his daughter and begin the necessary proceedings to bring her home with him – to start his new life.
Charlie tells the reader how "he believed in character; [how] he wanted to jump back a whole generation and trust in character again as the eternally valuable element"...
Cited: Cengage, Gale. "Babylon Revisited F. Scott Fitzgerald- Introduction." Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna Sheets Nesbitt. Vol. 31. 1999. Web. 2006. 27 Jan, 2011.
Charters, Ann. "F. Scott Fitzgerald." The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction.5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 1999. 489.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "Babylon Revisited." Charters 490-505.
Magill, Frank N. Short Story Writers. Vol. 1. Pasadena, Calif. u.a.: Salem, 1997. Print
May, Charles E. Masterplots II. Vol. 1. Pasadena, CA: Salem, 2004. Print.
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