Fitzgerald's interweaving of the past with the present in his masterpiece story, "Babylon Revisited" is both a skillful technique which permits the reader's comprehension of more than is narrated and an underpinning of the themes of Memory and Atonement for the Past.
Charlie's concern over time prevails throughout his thoughts as he is haunted by his past and his anxieties about the future. First, he returns with "more judicious eyes" to Paris, both in the hope of regaining custody of his daughter Honoria and in a test of his having conquered the sins of the past, his dissipation and neglect of his responsibilities as a husband and a father. But, his well-meaning intentions for the future are foiled by revisiting "Babylon," the Paris of his dissolute behavior of years before where his old acquaintances of the past reappear at inconvenient times and the image of his wife Helen haunts him while Marion resents him for her sister's death and Charlie rues how they "abuse[d] each other's love."
After his second encounter with Lorraine Quarrles and Duncan Schaeffer, an encounter that changes Charlie's sister-in-law's mind about letting Honoria live with her father, Charlie sees his dream end:
...he suddenly realized the meaning of the word "dissipate"--to dissipate into thin air; to make nothing out of something.
For, his sister-in-law, after her discouragement and ill health and adverse circumstances, wants to "believe in tangible villainy and a tangible villain. Charlie, then, becomes the villain.
However, Charlie realizes that "the present was the thing--work to do and someone to love." For, the past is a mere nightmare and the future only a prayer. After his rejection, "He would come back some day; they couldn't make him pay forever." Entrapped by time, Henry will return and fight for his child and his happiness.