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While he suffers from alcoholism and has failed in his previouos attempts to regain custody of his daughter Honoria from his sister-in-law, Charlie Wales of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited" has been able to recover from his losses in the Stock Market Crash of 1929, going on to become a wealthy and successful businessman. This situation is especially ironic to his sister-in-law Marion because she knows in her "instinctive antipathy" for him that she can defeat Charlie by bringing up his past. This she enjoys doing especially since she and her husband have "suffered like everybody else," as she says.
Charlie is unique among his old friends who have not been so successful at financial recovery. In the Grand Vatel Charlie is approached by "sudden ghosts out of the past: Duncan Schaeffer...and Lorraine Quarrles" from the "lavish times of three years ago." Lorraine explains that her husband "could not come this year...We're poor as hell." The bartender tells Charlie that few of the old crowd come in anymore.
Although he has enough money, Fitzgerald conveys in economic metaphors other debts that Charlie cannot overcome. The untimely death of his wife, Marion's sister, who walked in the cold rain one night after she and Charlie fought and fell fatally ill is a debt Marion holds over Charlie. For, she refuses to relinquish custody of his daughter Honoria to him. So, while Charlie has recovered his lost fortune, he is destined to "pay forever" for the sins of a past that he cannot overcome.
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