Babylon Revisited Characters

Character Analysis

Lincoln Peters

Lincoln Peters is the husband of Marion Peters and Charlie's brother-in-law. A fair-minded man, he is devoted to his family and is willing to give Charlie the benefit of the doubt about his apparent reform. His home in Paris is "warm and comfortably American,’’ and, as his first name suggests, Lincoln represents the kind of stolid, traditional American that Charlie had ceased to be during his "nightmare" years before the crash. Unlike Charlie, Lincoln had never saved enough money from his job at a Paris bank to invest in the bull market of the 1920s and reap the rewards of the boom's easy money. Charlie describes the Peters's middle-class life succinctly: ‘‘They were not dull people. But they were very much in the grip of life and circumstance.’’

Throughout the story, Lincoln is the only adult who expresses a belief that Charlie has reformed himself. When Charlie explains that part of his program for recovery is to have a single drink every day, Lincoln quickly endorses the idea; when Charlie tells the Peters's that his deepest fear is that he will miss Honoria's childhood entirely, Lincoln sympathizes; and when Marion lashes out at Charlie for swearing, Lincoln takes Charlie's side. Finally, when Marion tells Charlie that she holds him partly responsible for Helen's death, Lincoln tells Charlie ‘‘I never thought you were responsible for that,’’ he says.

Lincoln is the mediator between Marion and Charlie, translating...

(The entire section is 411 words.)

Marion Peters

Because she retains legal guardianship over Charlie's daughter, Marion Peters represents Charlie' s nemesis, the most formidable external obstacle standing between him and his dream of a future with his daughter. The older sister of Charlie's dead wife, Marion is "a tall woman with worried eyes" who once had a "fresh" American attractiveness, but health problems, financial anxieties, and the unexpected death of her sister have left her embittered and frail. She regards Charlie with an "unalterable distrust" and "instinctive antipathy." Though she provides Charlie's daughter with a warm, American-style home—an island of domesticity amidst the pagan wickedness of Paris—for her Charlie represents the ugly undomesticated American, irresponsible, ostentatiously materialistic, and devoid of character. Fitzgerald underscores the contrast Charlie sees between Marion and Helen by describing Marion as dressed in a "dignified black dinner dress that just faintly suggested mourning'' with a necklace of ominous "black stars," while Helen appears to Charlie in a dream as the image of purity in a white dress.

Marion's dislike for Charlie predates his alcoholic collapse and his contribution to Helen's death. She never believed Helen was really happy with him; and, Charlie believes, she needs a "tangible villain'' to explain the dissatisfactions of her life. Perhaps most importantly, she resented the fortune that came his was by chance when he played the stock market,...

(The entire section is 279 words.)

Lorraine Quarrles

Lorraine Quarrles is "a lovely, pale blond of thirty" with whom Charlie socialized in his alcoholic days before the stock market crash. Although she is married, she has left her husband behind in America and is escorted by Duncan Schaeffer (who she familiarly calls "Dunc") throughout the story. She seems to be attracted to Charlie, and though he feels nothing for her now, during his dissipated days Lorraine was "very attractive" to him. Now she is one of the "ghosts" from his past: "blurred, worn away."

Charlie has severed whatever emotional connection he had to Lorraine, and he dismisses her coolly as "one of a crowd that had helped them make months into days in the lavish times of three years ago." When he escapes Lorraine and Duncan's attempts to renew their friendship, he describes her as a kind of emotional vampire, conscious of Charlie's self-control and sobriety and wishing to pull him back into the alcoholic daze she has not escaped: "they wanted to see him, because he was stronger than they were now, because they wanted to draw a certain sustenance from his strength.'' Lorraine and Duncan follow Charlie and Honoria to the vaudeville and finally prevail upon him to share a drink with them. Lorraine admits to Charlie that since the crash she and her husband have been "poor as hell" and that her husband has given her "two hundred a month and told me I could do my worst on that.'' At the Peters', as Charlie tries to finalize his future with Honoria,...

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Charlie Wales

Charlie Wales is the protagonist of "Babylon Revisited" and serves as the lens through which readers see the events of the story. A thirty-five-year old Irish-American businessman from Vermont, Charlie moved to Paris with his wife, Helen, and daughter, Honoria, to enjoy the windfall from stock investments he made during Wall Street's boom years in the late 1920s. Charlie and his family travel through Europe enjoying their wealth until his drinking, lack of work, quarrels with Helen, the corrupting influence of money, and the couple's new social circle begin to destroy his marriage. One night, after an argument, Charlie locks his wife out of their apartment during a storm. Later, he checks into a sanitarium to treat his alcoholism, learns that most of his money has been lost in the stock market crash, and, as a gesture to his wife, assigns legal custody of Honoria to Helen's sister, Marion. When Helen dies of heart trouble, Charlie moves to Prague to reestablish himself, and a year and a half later, prosperous and apparently sober, he returns to Paris to reclaim Honoria.

During the action of the story, Charlie is described as a devoted, loving father who desperately misses his child and is wracked by guilt and disgust at his earlier actions. He is a garrulous man with many acquaintances, enjoys money and the luxuries it provides, and has a generous streak that leads him to buy his daughter anything she wants and to help his brother-in-law find a better job. He also displays self-control that enables...

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Other Characters

Alix
Alix is the Hotel Ritz bartender who, along with the head barman, Paul, links Charlie Wales to his wild Paris life in the days before the stock market crash of 1929. As the story begins, he is filling Charlie in on the grim fates of Charlie's former Paris compatriots—Mr. Campbell, George Hardt, "the Snow Bird," Duncan Schaeffer, and Claude Fessenden. One is ill, another has returned to the United States after losing everything in the crash, and a third has been banned from the Ritz for trying to pass a bad check.

Alix is the first and last of several characters in the story who test Charlie's resolve to remain an ex-alcoholic. He offers Charlie a drink in the story's opening scene and another in the story's conclusion. Charlie declines both.

Paul
Paul is the head bartender at the Ritz Hotel bar in Paris and one of the witnesses to Charlie's wild lifestyle before his wife's death. He, too, made a killing in the bull market of the 1920s and used the money to buy such luxuries as a country house and a "custom-built" car, which he drives to work but scrupulously parks a block from the Ritz so as to maintain his humble image as a barman. He appears only at the end of the story, when Charlie angrily returns to the Ritz to locate Lorraine Quarrles and Duncan Schaeffer, whose drunken arrival at the Peters's has sabotaged Charlie's plans to reclaim custody of his daughter, Honoria. Like his fellow barman Alix at the beginning of the story, Paul fills Charlie in on the post-crash fortunes of Charlie's former Paris social companions. "I heard that you lost a lot in the crash," he tells Charlie. "I did," Charlie answers, "but I lost everything I wanted in the boom." Paul misreads Charlie's reply as a reference to investment blunders. "Selling short," he suggests, referring to the stock market practice of gambling on the future decline of a stock's price. Charlie's answer, "Something like that," continues the financial metaphor, but hints that Charlie's boom-year losses were of a much more personal nature.

Duncan Schaeffer
Duncan Schaeffer is a college friend of Charlie's who participated in Charlie's self-destructive life during his three-year Paris debauch before the stock market crash of 1929. Charlie asks the Ritz bartender about him in the story's opening scene. Later, at a Paris restaurant with his daughter, Charlie runs into Duncan, who is escorting another of Charlie's former party chums, Lorraine Quarrles. Duncan repeatedly tries to get Charlie to join them, but Charlie declines, eventually telling him that he and Honoria are headed for the vaudeville show at the Empire.

Charlie views Duncan's dogged sociability with deep suspicion: "They liked him because he was functioning, because he was serious; they wanted to see him, because he was stronger than they were now, because they wanted to draw a certain sustenance from his strength." Charlie's disclosure that he and Honoria will be at the Empire threatens his resolution to reject his past, for Duncan...

(The entire section is 1254 words.)