It is no wonder, that when students read literature, some are confused about the
meaning of the story or poem, know little, if anything at all, about the author,
and have trouble memorizing important points. This is not only because of the
limited time allowed, but because the student fails to associate new knowledge
with old knowledge. Making a personal connection is important whether the
instructor recommends it or not. Attention should be given to both the technical
points of the writing and the author's biography. Take, for example, F. Scott
Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited." At first glance, the story wasn't that hard to
understand, so it was a good opportunity to study a piece of 20th century
American literature in a deeper way.
"Babylon Revisited" is often credited for being one of Fitzgerald's greatest
short stories. As Professor Jackson Bryer states on a web site interview, "[It
combines] Fitzgerald's human themes of loss with a background of the social
times in which they take place. ...Paris in the Twenties. ...[These aspects] give
them a resonance (the personal story played within a larger picture) which many
of Fitzgerald's other stories lack" (1). Bryer also feels that "FSF should be
remembered and valued most for the 'how' of his fiction rather than the 'what'
of it, namely his style is what makes him exceptional, not his subject matter.
...he does have the ability to capture feeling and emotion brilliantly as well.
Gatsby's frustration, Charlie Wale's exasperation, ... these are palpably present
Composed in 1931 and published in 1935, "Babylon Revisited" is "the story of a
man whose failure to understand the tyranny of time and the subversive
properties of money results in a tragic defeat" (Cowart 27). The story's main
character, Charlie Wales, attempts to get back on track with the American Dream
after his wife's death, the stock market crash of 1929, and a difficult battle
with alcoholism. He becomes a businessman in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and returns
to Paris in an attempt to regain custody of his daughter, Honoria. Honoria is
Charlie's last hope of re-establishing his family life, for she is still
forgiving and trusting at the innocent age of nine. However, the child is under
the legal guardianship of Charlie's sister-in-law, Marion Peters, who rigidly
holds Charlie's past against him, and her husband, Lincoln.
There is symbolism in the story's title, which testifies to Charlie's exile. The
image that "Babylon" creates is one of the greatest cities of the ancient world.
This "gate of God" was a religious center and place of exile for the Hebrews but
then became a capitol of luxury and evil (Baker 270). Charlie unsuccessfully
searches for his freedom as he tries to shed his bad...