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In "Babylon Revisited," does the protagonist overcome the conflict or, in the end, is...

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tcbjp11 | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted July 15, 2011 at 4:42 AM via web

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In "Babylon Revisited," does the protagonist overcome the conflict or, in the end, is he the victim?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 15, 2011 at 7:20 PM (Answer #1)

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This is a very astute question. Of course, by the end of the story, it is clear that Charlie has not got what he came to Paris for. Marion's decision to postpone the handing over of her niece into Charlie's care represents a loss for Charlie, as he has worked hard to try and present a reformed self that is responsible, mature and different from his younger-self who was a drunkard and locked his wife out in the snow. However, arguably, one could argue that the true nature of this conflict is based not around Honoria and his possession of her, but his own new self-identity and his guilt over his past actions in Paris.

Returning to the city of "Babylon," a place of so much former vice and vanity, Charlie struggles against the past that he seems unable to shake off completely, as the way he visits old haunts and stumbles into friends from these former days symbolises. Although Charlie shows considerable remorse and guilt for his actions in the past, he is not allowed to let those actions rest, both by his own memory of them and by the rather chilling voice of Marion Peters, who seems to present Charlie with every doubt that he has about himself. In this sense, we could argue that Charlie, in spite of his best efforts, does not overcome his internal conflict to remain true to his new, reformed self, and some critics argue that there are significant hints that he still maintains many of the issues that he once struggled with, but that they are now dormant, waiting to resurge once more. In a sense, therefore, we could argue that Charlie is presented as a victim. He is a loving father, who, while not perfect, desperately wants to be reunited with his daughter. However, at the end of the story, arguably he is redeemed by his determination to keep on trying to get her back:

He would come back some day; they couldn't make him pay forever. But he wanted his child and nothing was much good now, beside that fact... He was absolutely sure Helen woldn't have wanted him to be so alone.

The way the story ends on exposing the emptiness of Charlie's life presents him as a victim, whose existence is now empty and void of meaning. Reference to his "aloneness" presents him as the loser of this story, but a loser who is determined to try again and eventually win.

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