Existentialism in “Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fiction provides not only the magic of allure Age however likewise its immorality, materialism, and degradation of the human spirit. While Fitzgerald was most likely not trying to particularly present existentialism in his works, Finkelstein describes Fitzgerald’s work as having an existential theme: “F.

Scott Fitzgerald was of this scene, and at the very same time critically detached from it. He revealed its hard-boiled, disillusioned attitude through the purposeful usage of alienated images” (171 ).

He manages to provide the existential style of alienation in addition to other existential problems; the characters in his fiction identify the existential ideas of the absurdity of life, the absolute flexibility of choice, and coping with the effect of one’s choices. In “Babylon Revisited,” the freedom of option leads the characters to exploit wealth and liberty and, ultimately, to be sorry for previous actions and try to offset the abuse of this freedom. In “Babylon Revisited” the reader can see the absurdity of life through the increase, fall and rebuilding of Charlie Wales.

He picks to consume and spend all his money. He loses whatever in the stock market crash but tries to restore his life. Charlie is troubled over the tragic loss of his partner but understands that he must suffer the consequences of his previous actions.

Gaining back custody of his child Honoria serves as a sign that Charlie has actually restored control of his life. This paper presents the ideas of existentialism as they use to “Babylon Revisited”. The best tenet of existentialism in “Babylon Revisited” is that life is absurd due to the fact that there is no true meaning.

Individuals need to develop meaning; therefore they are continuously searching for themselves. Charlie Wales was looking for his true significance and made some choices that led to bad effects. The ultimate absurdity in this story is that Charlie makes the right choice to turn his life around, but since he should cope with his effects, he stops working to gain back custody of his child. Although Charlie thinks he has actually moved beyond his previous profligate behavior, his sister-in law does not, and she decides to keep his child from him.

The most unreasonable part is that Charlie is much better fit now to take care of his daughter but Marion handles to remain in control of the scenario. He strives to build his life back up however one occurrence (that shows his past life) turns whatever upside down.

Charlie Wales made some options that led to bad effects. The supreme absurdity in this story is that even though Charlie has made the best decision to turn his life around, he should live with the effects of his previous choices and stops working to gain back custody of his child.

The absurdity here handles the reality that Charlie’s experiences run contrary to expectations. If he has actually certainly altered his life, he should be rewarded for his redemption; regrettably, he is not. He works hard to build his life back up but one event (that reflects his previous life) turns everything upside down.

Although Charlie is now strong, his sister-in-law Marion is not, and she decides to keep his daughter from him. Charlie might be much better fit now to take care of his child, however Marion manages to remain in control of the circumstance.

Charlie makes the option to return to the bar where he had invested much time in the past, and he makes the absurdly innocuous option to offer the bartender the Peters’ address, which results in the occurrence of Duncan and Lorraine’s visit to the Peters’ home that damages the whole effort to get his daughter back.

The reader, for that reason, can never really understand how huge of a role Charlie plays in his own failure. He lives, as we all do, in a ridiculous world and this absurdity amplifies the effect of even the smallest decision. The existential idea of free will is necessary in “Babylon Revisited.

” Sartre postulates a principle of being-in-itself that represents one incredible world, and it does not lie within the power of the individual to choose it. Individuals exist by virtue of personal option. He believes “there is no universal a priori structure of consciousness, no typical human nature, no native set of desires shared by all men that dispose us to predict one type of values to the exemption of others or to give being-in-itself one type of significance rather than another” (Olson 133). Each person is absolutely totally free.

Charlie Wales exercised his free choice prior to Helen’s death in a series of wasteful actions that Fitzgerald provides as having a connection to the scriptural idea of “Babylon.” The works of the “Daddies of the Church describe Babylon as the ancient center of luxury and wickedness” (Baker 270).

Fitzgerald develops the Babylon theme by providing Charlie’s actions as “dealing with vice and waste” (215 ). Here, Fitzgerald’s work can be viewed as absorbing Nietzsche’s concept that God is dead and each individual must be the god of himself in a world without a God (Lavine 325).

Because the existentialist mentality has as its basis the principle that a person is free to choose for the life he or she lives, she or he is absolutely responsible for the world in which he or she lives. The idea of being-in-itself did not cause Charlie to select this life.

If, for that reason, he made a bad choice, he can not hold anyone else accountable. Not till after the stock exchange crash does Charlie understand the effects of his actions and feel the guilt of those effects. He recognizes that, like all people, he is responsible for whatever he does (Toor 157).

Charlie is delegated his actions in that he loses both his wife and daughter. He can not reclaim his child up until he accepts the effects of his past. Charlie Wales pays the penance for his choice to consume and live the life of Babylon (Eble 42).

He realizes that he needs to pay the price: It [money] had been given, even the most wildly misused amount, as an offering to destiny that he may not remember the important things most worth keeping in mind, the things that now he would always keep in mind– his child taken from his control, his better half left to a tomb in Vermont (Fitzgerald 216).

For Charlie, the suddenness of the Anxiety produces a sense of dislocation, a feeling that he is living in 2 worlds at once. He is committed to the concept of healing and the brand-new lifestyle he has produced, however he still clings partially to a lot of the practices he formed during the boom (Method 91).

Charlie Wales makes the existential option to live the “Babylonian” principle of “vice and waste.” He now, however, feels the tension of his actions, and he makes the option to attempt to reconcile his former failings. The recovery is the important modification that Charlie makes.

His main function is to gain back custody of Honoria. Charlie feels as if he has paid the rate for his previous options and has actually adequately recovered enough to look after Honoria himself. He tells Marion and Lincoln that he is nervous to have a home and anxious to have Honoria in it.

He states that “things have altered radically” with him (Fitzgerald 220). The memory of Helen drives Charlie to work hard and make himself a better individual. He is working to get Honoria not just for his own sake, but for the sake of his dead spouse.

Fitzgerald is showing the sort of strength in Charlie that the reader does not see in Marion. Charlie has actually discovered to control his drinking. When Marion discovers he had actually been in a bar before coming to her apartment or condo, she chides him. He responds, “I take one beverage every afternoon and I’ve had that” (213 ).

He is trying to prove that he can control his drinking practices. He has one drink to delight in the concept and taste of alcohol but will not permit himself to drink in excess. This is his idea of control, “I take that drink intentionally so that the idea of alcohol will not get too huge in my creativity” (Fitzgerald 221).

He understands it will be challenging to encourage Marion to let Honoria go, however he is positive that if he accepts her recriminations patiently and persuades her of his recently acquired steadiness of character, he will eventually succeed. Another aspect of Charlie’s recovery that Fitzgerald addresses is his renewed relationship with his child.

Fitzgerald makes it apparent in the beginning of the book that Honoria was not the first thing on the mind of her moms and dads during their Babylon days. When the barman asks why he remains in town and Charlie reacts that he is in Paris to see his child, the barman replies questioningly, “Oh-h!

You have a little woman?” (211 ). Someone who understood Charlie fairly well throughout his drinking days did not even know that he had a child. Fitzgerald contrasts this concept of having no relationship with his child by showing with tenderness and affection the scenes in which Charlie tentatively establishes contact with Honoria.

He buys her toys and takes her to the circus, creating when again the atmosphere of love between them. Although he might be buying the love of his child, Marion reluctantly confesses that Charlie has earned the right to his kid (Method 91). Fitzgerald likewise reveals the intense love that the kid has for her father.

She wishes to choose him to Prague and asks when she will get to be with him (217 ). Charlie has actually recuperated to the point that he wishes to be with his child and she wants to be with him. Ultimately, when Marion rejects him the kid, he again shows self-control (Way 109).

He stays lonesome however self-confident, “He would come back some day; they couldn’t make him pay forever” (Fitzgerald 230). Sartre believes that “there are minutes of distress when life loses its meaning: when the things that formerly drew our attention fade into oblivion and the desires that had actually previously guided our conduct appear vain or minor” (Olson 131).

This develops an ugliness in the world to which people should respond. These “minutes of suffering” in “Babylon Revisited” happen when Charlie’s pals handle to show up at the most inconvenient times: “Abrupt ghosts out of the past: Duncan Schaeffer, a pal from college.

Lorraine Quarries; one of a crowd who had assisted them make months into days in the lavish times of 3 years ago” (Fitzgerald 217). In a foreshadowing of the more important invasion that Duncan and Lorraine will make later on in the story, the first encounter with the duo is when they intrude on Charlie’s luncheon with Honoria.

They welcome him to come being in the bar with them and also welcome him to supper. They can decline the change in Charlie. Their intrusion is an unwanted product of Charlie’s past, and they are outdoors forces that affect his life that he can not manage (Cooper 52). Later on in the story, Lorraine invites him to supper, advising him of their drunken exploits. As a temptress, she has lost her appeal for Charlie. He instead goes to consult with the Peters and his child (Baker 272). Just as Charlie has gained back approval to take his child, the last, and most harmful, intrusion occurs.

Lorraine and Duncan crash the home, unmistakably drunk. They loudly and brutishly encourage him to join them for supper. He tries feverishly to get them out of the home, however they are the pointers of his old life that Marion needs to alter her mind. Lorraine will not let Charlie ignore his mistakes, “All right we’ll go. However I keep in mind once when you hammered on my door at 4 a. m. I was enough of a sport to provide you a beverage” (Fitzgerald 227). Charlie understands that he has lost Honoria due to the fact that of these outdoors forces that try to make him weaker.

Fitzgerald shows that Charlie is stronger because of his life modification. Charlie handled the encounters by selecting to be strong, “Somehow an unwanted encounter. His old buddies liked him because he was functioning, since he was serious; they wanted to see him, since he was more powerful than they were now due to the fact that they wanted to draw a particular nourishment from his strength” (218 ). This strength has actually resulted in Charlie’s feeling of isolation. He goes to the Ritz bar in search of Duncan and Lorraine with the idea of finding them and letting them know that they possibly ruined his life.

They had done their sorry work and vanished from his life (Baker 273). Existential viewpoint includes alienation from the world, from one’s fellows, from oneself (Finkelstein), and Charlie suffers this kind of alienation. He has lost his family and his life. When he ultimately fails to restore custody of Honoria, he questions why life dealt him this hand: “He desired his kid, and nothing was much excellent now, next to that reality. He wasn’t young anymore, with a great deal of great ideas and dreams to have himself. He was definitely sure Helen wouldn’t have desired him to be so alone” (Fitzgerald 230).

“Babylon Revisited” opens in the Ritz bar, a symbolic prison for those trapped in Charlie’s lifestyle. Charlie invested lots of nights in the “prison” of the Ritz bar, when he was in his prime party age. Charlie beverages himself into a sanitarium before he begins to come out of the jail of alcohol addiction.

The story then ends again in the Ritz bar. Charlie has come full circle given that the start of the story. He found joy in understanding that he would take Honoria home, and then his past of solitude finds him. The invasions lead to his ultimate solitude again (Griffith 237).

He is sitting in the Ritz bar when he finds out that Marion has refused to let Honoria go. He understands that his loneliness will not end due to the fact that of the errors that he has made: “Once again the memory of those days swept over him like a problem … the men who locked their wives out in the snow, due to the fact that the snow of twenty-nine wasn’t genuine snow.

If you didn’t want it to be snow, you just paid some money” (229 ). The prosperity that he once had is now imprisoning him in a life of privacy and isolation. The sentence that he must pay in this prison is 6 more months of solitude before he can attempt to get custody of Honoria once again (Baker 274).

LeVot, in his discussion of Fitzgerald’s life, keeps in mind that this story marks completion of an age. This is the foreclosure of the practically divine advantages Americans had delighted in before the Anxiety. “Charlie Wales seems like a king removed of his kingdom, his past, his impressions” (256 ).

Ten years after he wrote the story, Fitzgerald stated that the story was his farewell to youth. Just as Fitzgerald is afraid that his own irresponsibility will pass to his daughter, Charlie tries to eliminate the past so it will not affect Honoria. LeVot states, “A great wave of protectiveness reviewed him. He believed he knew what to do for her.

He thought in character, he wished to leap back a whole generation and rely on character again as the eternally important component” (256 ). He wants to revive an earlier virtue, for the sake of Honoria. This revival will assist to reduce the solitude he feels without his daughter.

Fitzgerald felt the isolation caused by his dependency to alcohol (LeVot “Fitzgerald in Paris” 51). Bruccoli states that when Charlie remembers his Paris nights that these were probably Fitzgerald’s own memories, “When Fitzgerald went pub-crawling by himself, it was sometimes tough to terminate his revels” (239 ).

His talent and appeal often saved him from the social morasses he developed. Bruccoli shares an incident when Fitzgerald showed up intoxicated at the Paris Tribune and ripped up copy. He sang and firmly insisted that the other reporters participate in. When numerous pals tried to take him house, he firmly insisted that they explore the bars.

He finally lost consciousness, but when they provided him to his apartment he refused to go in. They ultimately had to carry Fitzgerald into to his home, kicking and yelling. This account was forgiven, as were most of his other experiences (239 ).

Charlie Wales, unlike Fitzgerald, has not been forgiven and remains separated from his wife and child due to alcohol addiction. He had to work hard to restore his life. The existential absurdity is that he was not able to get custody of Honoria, although he paid the penance for his past sins.

Charlie selected to live the life of “Babylon” and lost whatever. After doing whatever right to alter his life, the outside forces of Duncan and Lorraine destroyed his strategies to make a house with Honoria. These outside forces are the effects of the past life that Charlie picked to live.

Existentialists not just believe in free choice but also coping with the repercussions of past choices. Charlie’s past decisions caused his supreme isolation and alienation. Sartre makes the point that alienation is among the greatest tenets of existentialism.

Although Fitzgerald is not an existentialist, his characters in “Babylon Revisited” are fine examples of the ideas of the existentialist motion and how those concepts impact and shape an individual’s existence.

Works Cited

Baker, Carlos. “When the Story Ends, ‘Babylon Revisited. The Brief Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: New Approaches in Criticism. Madison, Wisconsin: U of Wisconsin P, 1982. 269-277.

Bruccoli, Matthew J. Some Sort of Epic Magnificence. New York City: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.

Finkelstein, Sidney. Existentialism and Alienation in American Literature. New York: International Publishers, 1965.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. “Babylon Revisited” and Other Stories. New York: Macmillan Scribner Classic, 1988. 210-230.

Griffith, Richard R. “A Note on Fitzgerald’s ‘Babylon Revisited.'” American Literature 35 (May 1963): 236-239.

Lavine, T. Z. From Socrates to Sartre: the Philosophic Mission. New York: Bantam, 1984.

LeVot, Andre. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Bio. New York: Doubleday, 1983.

LeVot, Andre. “Fitzgerald in Paris.” Fitzgerald/Hemingway Yearly 5 (1973 ): 49-68.

Olson, Robert G. A Short Intro to Approach. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1967.

Toor, David. “Guilt and Retribution in ‘Babylon Revisited. ‘” Fitzgerald/Hemingway Yearly 5 (1973 ): 155-64.

Method, Brian. F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Art of Social Fiction. New York City: St. Martin’s, 1980.