“Babylon revisited” is a story which was written at the end of the Jazz Age. The characteristics of the characters and story setting tell us that it is about the end of the 1920s. At this time, many members of American society were sober and remorseful over their early 1920s lifestyles. This is portrayed by several aspects presented throughout the story. Fitzgerald, the writer of the story, seems relieved by the fact that Americans were headed to their former ways of life which were more valuable.
The setting of the story is based on changes that took place in the life of the main character, Charlie in the 1920s. “Babylon revisits” is used to refer to Charlie’s journey back to Paris (Gross 128). Having lost everything here, Paris was no longer a good place for him. This is what made him relocate to Prague where people did not know much about him. Historical Babylon was not a good place and Fitzgerald used the name to show resentments he had for Paris (Gross 129). Charlie and his wife were royalty and were very extravagant just like Americans during the Jazz Age. Rich Americans in the 1920s ran wild in the streets of various towns and cities while drunk. This situation, however, changed abruptly in 1929 when the American Stock Market collapsed. American moved away from Paris and consequently, Paris was replaced by emptiness, quietness, and a boring atmosphere. Charlie is nostalgic about the massive exodus of Americans from Paris. It could be read from his eyes while walking in the streets of Paris (Gross 132).
The story is also engaged in contrasting reputable European culture with the American traditional values; and prosperity of the 1920s and eventual depression. It also contrasts the “easily acquired money’ of speculating American investors in the Jazz Age with the moral value of work in American society (Gross 130). All this contrast is drawn from Charlie’s story which is a representation of the Americans’ way of life during this era. After acquiring lots of money using simple means and participation in the American stock market, Americans abandoned their traditional ways of life. This made them to become drunkards and they lost their moral values (Gross 131). Just like the situation of Charlie’s family, many American families in this age were torn apart as the drunken men abandoned their domestic responsibilities. They are, however, willing to go back to former ways of life after learning from their own mistakes.
At the beginning of the depression, Charlie laments great changes that were brought about by the crash of the American Stock Market (Gross 128). Charlie admits to having lost some money due to the collapse of the stock market but claims to have lost everything during the boom. Although the interpretation of this may mean that Charlie experienced losses due to selling shock, he meant to have surrendered all his principles. Just like Charlie, most Americans lost lots of money. Some sold all their stock when their prices slightly rose while others waited for stock prices to rise further only to fall drastically making them sell in losses. This analysis of events shows that the story is about the end of the Jazz Age.
Americans ruled Paris after capturing it during the First World War and created a paradise out of it. They continued to support it until the collapse of the American Stock Market in 1929 which led to enormous economic difficulties among the Americans (Gross 130). Charlie had abandoned America to go to Paris which to him was like heaven. This symbolizes the way Americans left their traditional practices during the boom period and ended up in the new ways of life which they regretted later. Widespread lack of money made Americans abandon Paris. The state of new Paris after the departure of Americans is likened to seedy tourist strap, loose women, nightspots and licentious nightclubs (Gross 130). Familiar American images employed by Fitzgerald remind Charlie about America. He is also made to know that he was separated from the moral center by his ill-acquired money. Just like other Americans, Charlie is being threatened by many problems resulting from Crash of the stock market. He begins by trying to be reunited with Honoria her daughter (Gross 130). Americans are at large faced with similar problems as they sought to regain their past lives.
Fitzgerald is seemingly celebrating the end of this era. He does this by showing that Charlie wanted to go back to his former ways of life. Charlie is ashamed of his past ways and consequently goes to Prague where people don’t know him to avoid the shame (Gross 129). Although the time he squandered all his money was appealing, he was left with nothing to carry forward. He wishes to reunite with his family and return to a traditional way of life. This case was the same as most of the rich members of American society. In the end, they had no gains from the Jazz Age and therefore its end gave people a chance to go back to former ways of life which were beneficial. This led to the recovery of the character American people which was a positive change among Americans.
Gross, Seymour L. Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited”, College English, Vol. 25, No. 2, 1963, pp.
128-135. National Council of Teachers of English Stable. Web. 26/4/2014.