What does the Paris setting add to the story and what does the Babylon allusion mean?

Expert Answers

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

"Babylon Revisited" - which as critic John Higgins remarks, "stands as [F. Scott] Fitzgerald's one virtually flawless contribution to the canon of the short story" -relates the return of reformed debauchee Charlie Wales to depression-era Paris to claim his daughter, Honoria who has been under the guardianship of Charlie's in-laws, Marion and Lincoln Peters. Although plans are afoot for the 9-year-old girl to rejoin her father by the end of the story, Charlie's unfortunate encounter with his old life of drunken dissipation in the characters of Duncan Shaeffer and Lorraine Quarles jeopardize these. It is in Duncan and Lorraine - two 'Roaring 20's' characters incongruously plunked down in the midst of the 'Dirty 30's - which provide the clue as to why Fitzgerald entitled his story "Babylon (not Paris) Revisited". Charlie is not just revisiting Paris, he is returning to the place of a former life. While Charlie for the most part maintains his newfound moral probity, there is something in his return to Paris a reversion to the extravagance, debauchery, and wastefulness of his former way of life. For Charlie, therefore, Paris functions as a symbol of immorality, one to whose blandishments he is not entirely immune. But Paris, functioning as this symbol, is further symbolized by the ancient city of Babylon, a type in the New Testament Book of Revelation of the life of immorality.

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