What is the irony of Charlie's financial success in Babylon Revisited?

Quick answer:

When Charlie Wales arrives in Paris, he is reminded of the past when he sees a woman with her child. He thinks about his son and the time when he was happy. He begins drinking from that point on and misses his boat to America. He stays in Paris for three months and ends up getting a job as a bartender at the Grand Vatel hotel. In the present, his sister-in-law Marion comes to visit him. She asks him for money, but Charlie refuses because she has never been nice to him. Marion tells him that Honoria misses him very much and wants to live with him again.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to 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
Approved by eNotes Editorial