The Sympathetic Character
We all make mistakes in our lives and we all deserve a second chance, but sometimes our past comes back to hurt to us. The short story “Babylon Revisited” is by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Charlie is the main protagonist who is a rich alcoholic partygoer, until he loses all of his money in the stock market crash and loses important people in his life. Charlie is back in Paris to get back an important person he lost. Charlie Wales is a sympathetic character which is made evident as he confronts the conflicts of getting custody of his daughter, his past, and his alcoholism.
A conflict of Charlie is showing he is a changed man for the better, but is challenged by his past to which Charlie shows he is considerate and conscientious. While Charlie is eating in a restaurant with his daughter Honoria, old friends of Charlie from the glorious rich days come over to his table to talk and invite him for a drink. Charlie politely refuses them saying “’I’m not free. Give me your address and let me call you’” (Fitzgerald 164). These friends invited Charlie to a drink and kept pestering him to hang out. Charlie shows he is a changed man by politely refusing the invitation and the drink. Charlie instead is conscientious and chooses to be a responsible father to Honoria and spend his time with her. Charlie could have chosen to accept his friend’s invitation and relive some old memories of days past, but being the changed man he is, he refuses the invitation. In the following quote, his past friends follow him to Marion’s 2
house. Charlie is now in the home of Marion, to which it seems he has all but convinced Marion for custody of Honoria when his friends from the restaurant find his location and suddenly barge in uninvited. His friends come in drunkenly, loud, and rude leaving Marion, Charlie, and Lincoln flabbergasted. His friends want to stay and have a drink, pestering him about going out, but Charlie says “’sorry, but I can’t. Tell me where you’ll be and I’ll phone you in half an hour’” (173). Again, Charlie is politely refusing even after they barged in uninvited. He is kindly refusing the offer, but is very annoyed by the intrusion. He would rather spend his time with Honoria. By refusing his friend’s invitation, Charlie is saying no to his past and the lifestyle he used to live. Unfortunately, Marion doesn’t see it as that and right there and then she refuses to see Charlie as a changed man. In an earlier time in the story while at the house of Monoria for the second time, Charlie is reassuring Lincoln and Marion that things have changed and “’changed radically with me, and I want to ask you to reconsider the matter. It would be silly for me to deny that about three years ago I was acting badly, but all that’s over’” (165). Charlie is talking about how he knows he has sinned, done badly, and he can’t deny it, but he is reassuring them that his past is behind him and he has changed. Charlie is a changed man and for the better, but the past has hurt his image.
Charlie has a conflict with alcoholism, but battles temptation to stay sober showing he is determined and strong-willed. Charlie is having dinner with his sister-in-law Marion and her husband Lincoln when Lincoln asks Charlie if he will have a cocktail for dinner to which Charlie replies with ‘“I take only one drink every afternoon, and I’ve had that’” (160). Charlie shows his restraint of drinking alcohol by politely refusing Lincoln’s invitation to a drink. Charlie also explains his rule that helps combat his alcoholism which is only one drink a day. Although in this 3
situation, Charlie is trying to impress Marion and Lincoln that he is a changed man, Charlie still stays true to himself by not taking another drink. Charlie himself knows he is not perfect, later saying “’I had a good record up to three years ago. Of course, it’s within human possibilities I might go wrong any time’” (167) to which is why he created his one drink a day policy to help ward his temptation. Charlie isn’t the type to break rules, especially one he established himself. Later, he finds himself at a bar, after he just went through a situation of losing his chance at custody of his daughter. At the bar, he has already had his one drink when a bartender motions to refill his drink “’No, no more, what do I owe you’” (175) Charlie said to the bartender after he already drank a cup of alcohol and lost his chance at custody of his daughter. By refusing the refill, Charlie is showing he is strong in keeping his policy and not breaking his one and only rule. Even after he knows he lost his chance at Honoria, he still refuses the drink when he has a perfect reason to keep drinking, but he chooses not to continue, because of his rule and his restrain. Charlie shows he is determined to control his alcoholism and fight it with his one drink rule. The conflict is Charlie getting custody of Honoria and is challenged by Marion, but he demonstrates he is responsible and caring enough to get custody. While having dinner at Marion’s house, Charlie is thinking about Honoria when suddenly “a great wave of protectiveness went over him” (161). Charlie legitimately wants Honoria back in his custody and he wants to be back in her life. Charlie wants to be by Honoria’s side from now on, but he must first convince Marion. In the next quote, Charlie is still trying to convince he is capable and responsible enough to have custody of Honoria. Charlie is back in the living room of Marion’s house trying to convince Marion. Charlie is aware that he has faults and explains this to Marion 4
saying “’I knew I’d acted badly, and I thought if it would bring any peace to Helen, I’d agree to anything’” (167) and that is how he gave up guardianship to Marion, but he is now trying to get guardianship back to his side. Charlie knew that he has been a bad parent and was not a stable person, but by relinquishing his custody of Honoria, it showed he wanted the best for his daughter, because he couldn’t deliver on that. In the next quote, Charlie has finally shown Marion his change. Through the time that Charlie has put in trying to convince Marion, “Marion shuddered suddenly, part of her saw that. Charlie’s feet were planted on the Earth now, and her own maternal feeling recognized the naturalness of his desire.” (168). Marion knows and can see Charlie deserves custody of Honoria with Charlie back on his feet financially and can provide for Honoria with an honest fatherly care. Charlie has shown his humility throughout the story and Marion has seen that in Charlie. Charlie has shown he deserves custody of his daughter and that he is responsible and capable. Therefore, Charlie is a sympathetic character. Charlie struggles with his alcoholism, his convincing of a changed man, and the custody of Honoria. Charlie leaves behind his past and shows he is a changed man, he sticks to his one drink policy, and shows Marion that he is responsible and worthy of getting custody of his daughter. In conclusion, Charlie is a sympathetic character.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. “Babylon Revisited.” Perrine’s Story and Structure: An Introduction to Fiction.
13th ed. Eds. Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012. 157-75. Print.