An Analysis of “Babylon Revisited” In the short story “Babylon Revisited,” a man named Charlie Wales has come back to Paris with the intent of regaining custody of his nine year old daughter. She has been staying with her aunt and uncle since the death of her mother. Being in Paris brings back memories of his previous lifestyle of drinking, late night socializing, and excessive spending.
During lunch with his daughter he encounters two friends from his carousing days, but since he is attempting to turn his life around, he has no desire to renew their friendship. He politely declines their invitation to meet up later so that he can spend time with his daughter. While finalizing the details with his sister-in-law regarding his daughter, they are interrupted by his former cohorts from the restaurant, resulting in the postponement of custody. The central idea is that people make mistakes but if they are given a second chance, it is possible to turn their life around. Personification is one of the literary terms used in this story. The examples “his heart sat up rigidly” and “his heart leaped” are giving his heart human characteristics.
The first quote is referring to how nervous Charlie is feeling when he is at his sister-in-law Marion’s house. He knows that she dislikes him and the anticipated talk of custody probably contributed to this feeling. The second quote demonstrates his excitement and happiness when his daughter Honoria, tells him that she desires to live with him. When Charlie and Honoria are having lunch together, he asks her the name of her child, referring to her doll. When Honoria states that her child’s name is Simone she is giving her doll life, when in reality it is just a toy.
Dramatic irony is another term that is used in this story. Charlie claims that he has control of his drinking problem, that he is stable, and no longer socializes with the wrong crowd. The story begins with Charlie hanging out at bar that he is very familiar with asking about old acquaintances who are former drinking buddies. He sabotages himself when he leaves an address with the bartender for his old friend Duncan. The night he walks about the streets of Paris, he engages in conversation with a woman who presumably could be a prostitute.
When he runs into Lorraine and Duncan he states where he will be taking his daughter later that day, knowing that there is a chance that they might show up there. The reader can assume that they were still drinkers because in a letter Lorraine wrote to Charlie, she mentions that she has a hangover. Charlie even allows himself one drink everyday and feels that is the cure to his drinking problem. When Lorraine and Duncan show up at Marion’s house, Charlie tries to get rid of them by telling them that he will catch up with them later and then tries to portray that he is outraged by their uninvited intrusion. He claims that he does not know how his friends got their address, when he had left it for Duncan while he was visiting at the bar.
What Marion sees with her eyes is a man who still has a drink every day, former hang-out buddies still in Charlie’s life, and a man who is not changed. This perception of Charlie results in Marion changing her mind about Honoria going to live with her dad. The author uses a metaphor in following passage: “At the Empire, Honoria proudly refused to sit upon her father’s folded coat. She was already an individual with a code of her own, and Charlie was more and more absorbed by the desire of putting a little of himself into her before she crystallized utterly.
It was hopeless to try to know her in so short a time.” When Charlie says that his daughter will “crystallized utterly,” he does not mean that she will be turn into a crystal. He is saying that he can see how quickly his daughter is growing up. He is also realizing how little time there is before he will no longer has any influence on what kind of person his daughter will become. The writer uses a simile when Charlie 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 that won’t heal because there’s not enough material. I wish you and I could be on better terms.” Charlie compares family quarrels to aches, wounds, and splits in the skin that won’t heal. He says that family quarrels are not like aches or wounds but they are like splits in the skin.
When he talks about splits that won’t heal because there is not enough material, he means that he understands that some quarrels cannot be resolved because too many things have happened and the feelings between the family member are too bitter and run too deep. The reader could feel sympathy for Charlie since he claims to be a recovering alcoholic who has lost his wife, daughter, and money during the stock market crash. He realizes that he once had a problem but that he has finally turned his life around. To regain custody of Honoria, all he has to do is prove to Marion that he is a changed man and that he deserves a second chance. One can only wonder whether Charlie is really any different than before.
When Marion asks Charlie how long his drinking will remain at one a day, his response is not one of confidence. While reminiscing about the past, he recalls the days of living in luxury and the way he threw money around. He seems to find those memories as joyful ones and not one of regret. When Charlie states that he lost money during the crash, but everything during the boom, he realizes that what he lost was his family and that they are important to him. Possibly this is why he dwells in the past, where Helen lives, and has not yet gone on with his life.