You Can’t Go Home Again
Gerald R. Lucas

Cafe de France Art Print by Ronald Lewis

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited”, Charlie continuously encounters reminders from his past upon his return to Paris. Many times, the reminders are a product of his own actions. He visits the Ritz bar that he used to frequent, contacts some old friends, and even pays a prostitute. It is as though his behavior became more of a habit and his return to the city begins acts as a trigger those old habits. However, even if Charlie tries to evade all of those situations, Marion is one reminder of his past he cannot avoid.

Marion, somewhat understandably, holds this grudge against Charlie and has no qualms of reminding him of his past actions and behavior. When Charlie visits her for the first time since his return, he unintentionally mentions his visit to the bar, to which she blatantly replies, “I should think you’d have had enough of bars.” (8) She believes Charlie and his drinking are indirectly responsible for the death of her sister. Furthermore, she knows that the reason she has custody of Honoria is due to the recklessness of his past behavior.

Marion is the sister to Charlie’s late wife, and she the legal guardian of his daughter, Honoria. Initially, Marion comes across as melodramatic and overprotective. She also seems a bit overcritical of Charlie’s intentions and current behavior. Based on her attitude and actions towards him, one may believe that she questions his ability to change. Yet, we can later see that she empathizes with Charlies when “her own maternal feelings recognized the naturalness of his desire.” (13) Therefore, it is more likely that she is mainly cautious for the sake of Honoria.

From this perspective, we can relate to Marion and recognize the complexity of the position she is in regarding Charlie and Honoria. We can understand her willingness to take her niece into her home and care for her. We also understand her feeling of responsibility to Honoria and the need to protect her from harm. It is the turmoil surrounding her sister’s death and her maternal instincts for Honoria that motivate her feelings and actions towards Charlie.

Because Charlie is the protagonist and we are able to read the story from his perspective, we are more compelled to see things from his side. We acknowledge and commend the changes he is making for himself and his daughter. However, we must keep in mind that Marion has good reasons to be guarded and skeptical towards Charlie. It is not that she does not believe he can change but Honoria’s safety and well-being are, and should be, first and foremost in the situation. She has doubts and concerns, as many of us would in her situation, and she does not hesitate to remind Charlie of that. Marion’s actions reiterate the story’s theme of family responsibility and highlight the elements relevant to the story.