Student Question

What is the significance of Honoria's name in "Babylon Revisited"?

Quick answer:

Honoria's name in "Babylon Revisited" is symbolic because it is the root of her character and the root of Charlie's honor, as well as an abstract quality which carries both literal and figurative meaning.

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Without doubt, the root of Honoria's name in "Babylon Revisited" carries with it significant meaning. After years of dissipation and scandalous behavior in Paris, Charlie Wales returns in the hopes of regaining his honor and his daughter, Honoria. In addition, Charlie draws his honor from being with his daughter. In Part I, for instance, when Charlie rings the doorbell at his brother-in-law's "he felt a cramping sensation in his belly"--fear. When his daughter Honoria hugs him happily, Charlie, elated to be reunited with her, cannot relax as "his heart sat up rigidly," but he "drew confidence from his daughter."

As Charlie watches his daughter at dinner, he feels protective towards her,as well as proud:

He thought he knew what to do for her. He believed in character; he wanted in character again as the eternally valuable element. Everything else wore out.

Charlie believes in Honoria, and he believes in honor, or character. With this blending of the real and literal with the abstract, there are passages which have both literal and figurative meaning. For example, at the Empire, 

Honor proudly refused to sit upon her father's folded coat. She was already an individual with a code of her own, and Charlie was more and more absorbed by the desire of putting a little of himself into her before she crystallized utterly.

Honoria is literally proud and honorable, but Charlie wishes to infuse some of his character and honor into her before her personality is completed.

And, in Part 2, as Charlie sits across from Honoria at Le Grand Vatel, 

Honoria looked at her father expectedly.
"What are we going to do?"

Here the child is asking her father their agenda for the day, yet the abstract quality of her nomenclature suggests that Charlie is wondering how to regain the respect of his sister-in-law, Marion. In another instance, after receiving a letter from the past in the form of Lorraine Quarrles, Charlie does not want to see her; instead,

It was a relief to think...of Honoria, to think of Sundays spent with her...and of knowing she was there in his house at night....

Thus, in a sense, the child's name becomes a double entendre.

After Charlie has regained much of his honor from humbling himself before Marion and exhibiting mature behavior, Marion agrees to let Charlie have custody of Honoria. Elated, he plans for the future with his daughter--he will love honorably, not too much lest she expect a similar love from a man.

When a tragic moment strikes Charlie: the frivolous and dissipated Lorraine and Duncan appear outside the Peters's apartment and Marion sees them, Charlie loses his honorable position with Mrion and is refused the custody of his daughter. Afterwards, Charlie sits at a table in the Ritz bar, depressed; yet, he ponders both his honor and the state of Honoria:

He would come back some day....he wanted his child and nothing was much good now....

Charlie's concern with time significantly involves both Honoria and his honor.

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