Babylon Revisited

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited,” the main character, Charlie, is attempting to put his life back together after a three-year rough patch that involved alcoholism, the collapse of his marriage, and the death of his wife. Now that he’s been sober for a year and a half and is financially stable despite the crash of the stock market, Charlie’s main goal is to regain custody of his daughter Honoria from his wife’s sister and brother-in-law. However, Charlie’s return to Paris only reminds him of the life he used to lead, and the various settings described in the story are very telling of the relationships between the characters.

            The first place Charlie visits is the bar he used to go to with his friends. It was a busy place, full of life, and now has hardly anyone in it. Tuan says in his chapter on “Architectural Space and Awareness” that “architecture is key to comprehending reality” (102). There is a strong connection between the attachment Charlie has to the physical place itself and to all the memories he has there. The contrast lies in the fact that the architectural space has remained the same, but that so much else has changed. As Tuan says, this forces Charlie to see the reality that, although he is back to where his past took place, much has changed including himself.

            Another important instance of physical surroundings having an effect on relationships is within Marion and Lincoln’s home. Tuan explains that “built environment clarifies social roles and relations” (102). This is especially true when it comes to people’s homes. Charlie notes how protected the children feel in Marion’s house, and it’s extremely significant that Charlie needs to enter someone else’s domain in order to obtain something that is his. At this point in time, Honoria’s guardians are Marion and Lincoln, and they have been more of parents to her than Charlie has. They are the parents of the household, and Charlie feels the strain of the relationship between them every time he enters the building.

            Tuan also speaks of a social awareness that comes with private and public domains. He says that everyone knows of the differences between “inside and outside, of intimacy and exposure, of private life and public space” (107). Unfortunately, some people are more conscious of these differences than others. The turning point in the story comes when Charlie’s boisterous friends from the past take the liberty to find Lincoln’s address and invite themselves over. They come in the middle of what started as a hopeful discussion about Honoria’s custody, and ruin Charlie’s chances of getting his child back. They were completely disrespectful of Charlie’s private life, and their loudness and disregard for someone’s intimate space shows that they weren’t concerned about interrupting anything of importance at all. They blurred the lines of behavior fit for “outside” and behavior fit for “inside,” and because of this, Charlie’s plan is ultimately ruined.

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Published in: on March 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm Comments (0)

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