In the short story “BabylonRevisited,” a man named Charlie Wales has come back to Paris with theintent of regaining custody of his nine year old daughter. She has been stayingwith her aunt and uncle since the death of her mother. Being in Paris bringsback memories of his previous lifestyle of drinking, late night socializing, andexcessive spending. During lunch with his daughter he encounters two friendsfrom his carousing days, but since he is attempting to turn his life around, hehas no desire to renew their friendship. He politely declines their invitationto meet up later so that he can spend time with his daughter. While finalizingthe details with his sister-in-law regarding his daughter, they are interruptedby his former cohorts from the restaurant, resulting in the postponement ofcustody.
The central idea is that people make mistakes but if they are given asecond chance, it is possible to turn their life around. Personification is oneof the literary terms used in this story. The examples “his heart sat uprigidly” and “his heart leaped” are giving his heart humancharacteristics. The first quote is referring to how nervous Charlie is feelingwhen he is at his sister-in-law Marion’s house. He knows that she dislikes himand the anticipated talk of custody probably contributed to this feeling.
Thesecond quote demonstrates his excitement and happiness when his daughter Honoria,tells him that she desires to live with him. When Charlie and Honoria are havinglunch together, he asks her the name of her child, referring to her doll. WhenHonoria states that her child’s name is Simone she is giving her doll life, whenin reality it is just a toy. Dramatic irony is another term that is used in thisstory. Charlie claims that he has control of his drinking problem, that he isstable, and no longer socializes with the wrong crowd.
The story begins withCharlie hanging out at bar that he is very familiar with asking about oldacquaintances who are former drinking buddies. He sabotages himself when heleaves an address with the bartender for his old friend Duncan. The night hewalks about the streets of Paris, he engages in conversation with a woman whopresumably could be a prostitute. When he runs into Lorraine and Duncan hestates where he will be taking his daughter later that day, knowing that thereis a chance that they might show up there.
The reader can assume that they werestill drinkers because in a letter Lorraine wrote to Charlie, she mentions thatshe has a hangover. Charlie even allows himself one drink everyday and feelsthat is the cure to his drinking problem. When Lorraine and Duncan show up atMarion’s house, Charlie tries to get rid of them by telling them that he willcatch up with them later and then tries to portray that he is outraged by theiruninvited intrusion. He claims that he does not know how his friends got theiraddress, when he had left it for Duncan while he was visiting at the bar. WhatMarion sees with her eyes is a man who still has a drink every day, formerhang-out buddies still in Charlie’s life, and a man who is not changed.
Thisperception of Charlie results in Marion changing her mind about Honoria going tolive with her dad. The author uses a metaphor in following passage: “At theEmpire, Honoria proudly refused to sit upon her father’s folded coat. She wasalready an individual with a code of her own, and Charlie was more and moreabsorbed by the desire of putting a little of himself into her before shecrystallized utterly.
It was hopeless to try to know her in so short atime.” When Charlie says that his daughter will “crystallizedutterly,” he does not mean that she will be turn into a crystal. He issaying that he can see how quickly his daughter is growing up. He is alsorealizing how little time there is before he will no longer has any influence onwhat kind of person his daughter will become. The writer uses a simile whenCharlie is discussing family problems with his sister-in-law, Marion.
“Family quarrels are bitter things. They don’t go according to any rules. They’re not like aches or wounds; they’re more like splits in the skin thatwon’t heal because there’s not enough material. I wish you and I could be onbetter terms.” Charlie compares family quarrels to aches, wounds, andsplits in the skin that won’t heal. He says that family quarrels are not likeaches or wounds but they are like splits in the skin. When he talks about splitsthat won’t heal because there is not enough material, he means that heunderstands that some quarrels cannot be resolved because too many things havehappened and the feelings between the family member are too bitter and run toodeep.
The reader could feel sympathy for Charlie since he claims to be arecovering alcoholic who has lost his wife, daughter, and money during the stockmarket crash. He realizes that he once had a problem but that he has finallyturned his life around. To regain custody of Honoria, all he has to do is proveto Marion that he is a changed man and that he deserves a second chance.
One canonly wonder whether Charlie is really any different than before. When Marionasks Charlie how long his drinking will remain at one a day, his response is notone of confidence. While reminiscing about the past, he recalls the days ofliving in luxury and the way he threw money around. He seems to find thosememories as joyful ones and not one of regret. When Charlie states that he lostmoney during the crash, but everything during the boom, he realizes that what helost was his family and that they are important to him. Possibly this is why hedwells in the past, where Helen lives, and has not yet gone on with his life.