Lincoln Peters

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 Marion's emotional words and behavior into terms Charlie can understand: ‘‘I think she sees now,’’ he tells Charlie, ‘‘that you— can provide for the child, and so we can't very well stand in your way or Honoria's way.’’ But his first loyalty is to his family, even though he agrees that "there was no reason for delay'' in letting Charlie take Honoria back to Prague. Lincoln understands his wife's resentment about Charlie's former freewheeling days: "I think Marion felt there was some kind of injustice in it—you not even working toward the end, and getting richer and richer.’’ It is clear from Lincoln's words that Marion's sense of injustice may be his as well. After Duncan and Lorraine interrupt Charlie's visit to the Peters, it is Lincoln who must tell Charlie that Marion has changed her mind about giving him custody of Honoria. Charlie densely asks Lincoln whether Marion is "angry" with him; the sharpness of Lincoln's reply underscores the new relation between the two men: '‘‘Sort of,' he said, almost roughly.’’

Marion Peters

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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...

(This entire section contains 279 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

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, and through his own efforts during his period of sobriety and hard work in Prague. Moreover, she has trouble believing that Charlie had overcome his alcoholism. His admission that he had been in the Ritz Hotel bar fuels her suspicions, and the appearance of the snide and inebriated Lorraine and Duncan in confirms her worst fears.

Lorraine Quarrles

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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, Lorraine appears as a spectral, disembodied "voice'' that "develops under the light into... Lorraine Quarrles." She has appeared to do her "worst," drunkenly disrupting the scene in which Marion Peters is agreeing to let Charlie have custody of his daugher. She teases Charlie for being so "solemn," and when he remains unresponsive to her, she angrily reminds him of a time he sought her out early one morning desperate for a drink.

Charlie Wales

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 him to control his dormant dependence on alcohol and his natural desire to defend himself when his sister-in-law, Marion, reproaches him for his past mistakes. Once a strict father, he now wants to pamper his daughter. But his new tolerance disguises a moralistic streak that causes him to recoil in alarm at the "utter irresponsibility" of his pre-crash life. He affirms his belief in "character'' as the "eternally valuable element" and reflects responsibly on his need to give Honoria love, "but not too much love, for he knew the injury that a father can do to a daughter.''

If self-control, love, and generosity are Charlie's strengths, alcoholism and guilt are his weaknesses. Under the influence of alcohol, he allowed his marriage to fall apart, locked his wife out in the snow, consorted with Lorraine Quarrles behind his wife's back, and squandered his money in Paris clubs. Now apparently sober, he bears the weight of his previous life and returns repeatedly in his mind to memories of his wife, her death, and his responsibility for it. Charlie's guilt is personified in Marion Peters, who verbalizes every doubt Charlie has about himself. These doubts may be justified: Charlie foolishly gives the Ritz barman the Peters's address to pass on to a "ghost'' from his alcoholic past, his generosity suggests that he has the same preoccupation with the power of money he had before the crash, he returns more than once to the decadent Parisian scenes of his pre-crash "nightmare,'' he seems incapable of shutting Lorraine and Duncan out of his new life, and in his visits to the Peters he displays an ability to self-consciously manipulate his behavior and conversation to win the "points" he needs to get Honoria back. But Charlie's awareness of his weaknesses and his determination to obtain what he wants may help him prevail in the end. "He would come back some day," he tells himself at the story's conclusion, "they couldn't make him pay forever.... He was absolutely sure Helen wouldn't have wanted him to be so alone." Though he is temporarily beaten, the tenacity and conviction of Charlie's parting thoughts suggest that he is a survivor.

Other Characters

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 and Lorraine follow Charlie and Honoria to the Empire, where Duncan offers Charlie a drink. Worn down by Duncan's persistence, Charlie relents.

Later, Duncan and Lorraine, drunkenly burst in on Charlie at the Peters's apartment, seriously damaging Charlie's attempt to reclaim his daughter.

Helen Wales Charlie's dead wife, Helen, though physically absent from the story, is the central "ghost out of the past'' with whom Charlie struggles to fashion a new future for himself and Honoria. Like Fitzgerald's own relationship with his wife, Zelda, Charlie and Helen's marriage had been an emotionally stormy one. After Charlie makes a fortune in the stock market, he quits his job and moves with Helen and Honoria from Vermont to Paris. They travel throughout Europe "throwing money away." In Paris, they begin to "run around" with a wild, disreputable crowd and to fight with each other. On a February night an argument at a Paris nightclub ends with Helen kisses another man. Charlie storms out alone and angrily locks the door of their apartment behind him. Helen arrives home an hour later and, unable to get inside, wanders through a driving snowstorm to her sister's apartment. Although she avoids pneumonia and she and Charlie half-heartedly attempt a reconciliation, their marriage and her health have been dealt a fatal blow. While Charlie lies in a sanitarium recovering from his alcoholism, he assigns custody of Honoria to Helen's sister as a gesture to Helen, but she dies soon afterward.

As Charlie moves closer to reclaiming Honoria, Helen's ghost continues to haunt him, and on the night Charlie learns that Marion has agreed to let him have Honoria, Helen appears to Charlie in a dream and gives her approval to Honoria's move with him to Prague. After Helen's lone appearance in the story, Charlie's fate begins to change dramatically. The door he locked shutting Helen out in the snow many months before is replaced by the open "door of the world." But as he blissfully contemplates his future with Honoria, sad memories of Helen abruptly interrupt his happiness, and he begins to think gloomily that he must not love Honoria "too much." Later that day, after Lorraine and Duncan's disastrous appearance at the Peters' dashes Charlie's hopes for a life with Honoria, Charlie sits in the Ritz bar, assailed by memories of his trips with Helen and of their debauched lives, and by feelings of self-hatred for locking Helen out months before. For all the disastrous events of the day, however, the story closes with Charlie reassuring himself that Helen "wouldn't have wanted him to be so alone."

Honoria Wales Honoria Wales is Charlie's nine-year-old daughter, whose custody battle is the central conflict of the story. Honoria adores her father, and she greets his arrival in Paris with shrieks of joy and open arms. She is described as a lovely girl, and though she appears to get along well with the Peters and their children, she is excited by the prospect of going to live with her father in Prague after not having seen him in over ten months. At lunch at Le Grand Vatel, Honoria agreeably eats her vegetables and is pleased that they are going to the vaudeville later on. However, Charlie's offer to buy her anything in the toy store dampens her spirits. Though she likes the doll he has given her, she says "I've got lots of things. And we're not rich anymore, are we?"

Honoria is a good student at school, and when pressed, she admits that she likes Uncle Lincoln more than Aunt Marion. Eager to live with her father, she notes that "I don't really need much taking care of any more. I do everything for myself," and she hypothesizes that the reason she does not live with her father is because "mamma's dead." Though Lorraine and Duncan are condescending towards Honoria, she remains polite to them. At the theater, Charlie notes that she is "already an individual with a code of her own'' and he is "absorbed by the desire of putting a little of himself into her before she crystallized utterly." When asked about her mother, Honoria answers that she loved her very much, but now she loves her father "better than anybody." When Charlie suggests that someday she will fall in love, get married, and forget she ‘‘ever had a daddy,’’ she replies, "Yes, that's true," a comment which demonstrates her understanding of what adult life is like. Nevertheless, her affection for her father never wanes.




Critical Essays