Babylon Revisited Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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How does the narrator's obvious sympathy towards Charlie in Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited” shape the reader's perception of Charlie as "Charles"?

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It is clear that the narrator of this brilliant short story shows Charlie, the central protagonist, as a man who is desperately trying to outrun his past and failing dismally. Charlie is a man who used to live an extravagant and wasteful existence in France and now returns to Paris, the "Babylon" of the title, determined to show his sister-in-law that he is sober and has learnt the error of his ways, yet at every stage of his return, his old life pops up in threatening and unexpected ways that seem to challenge the impression of the sensible Charlie he is trying to pass himself of as. The perspective of the narrator, which is third person limited, clearly causes us to feel sympathy for Charlie as he desperately tries to prove himself to Marion, as we see everything from Charlie's perspective. Consider how he reacts when he expresses his desire to take his daughter with him to Marion:

He knew that now he would have to take a beating. It would lasst an hour or two hours, and it would be difficult, but if he modulated his inevitable resentment to the chastened attitude of the reformed sinner, he might win his point in the end.

We cannot but help feel sympathy for a man who has to "take a beating" in such a position to "win his point." Marion clearly has power over him through her guardianship of his daughter, and the narrator, through the choice of narrative perspective, makes his sympathy for Charlie evident.  

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