Since is one of those periods. “Modernism is

Since all writers and artists are heavily
influenced by the society around them, different eras in history have different
literary periods; Modernism is one of those periods. “Modernism is defined as
extending from 1880 to 1945, giving “priority to the prewar years” or “postwar years”
while others claim that it extends from 1890 to 1945 until the end of the
Second World War” (Drobot, 2017). Either one of those given time periods shows
that Modernist literature was greatly influenced by war; it was a sadder time
than the Romantic period and Victorian periods that came before. While Romantic
writers wrote about nature, Modernist wrote about the more negative aspects of
civilization, such as isolation and not being able to communicate with others. Both
of those themes of Modernism were used by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his tale Babylon Revisited, which was published
in 1931. By analyzing the economy of the time period, Fitzgerald’s biography
and the different characters in Babylon
Revisited, we can see the different aspects of isolation and the inability
to communicate come into play and see how the elements relate to what was going
on in the war-influenced society, as well as provide lessons to the readers.  

            First,
it is important to note that modern works showed more of the darker sides of
society – such as addiction, money problems, and families being torn apart. The
economy of that time period is a segment of the short story. “… Paul, the
manager, and Charles Wales reflect on the changes wrought by the stock market
crash of 1929 and the economic depression that followed” (Eby, 1995). That
crash is a real-life event, and Fitzgerald would have known how it impacted
people. It is an example of how the Modernists drew from the negative of world
around them as they wrote. Unlike the Romantics, they focused on what can be
seen as harsh realities.  Fitzgerald took
it as an opportunity to show how people see events in different lights since
they are impacted differently. “Paul conceives the crash and the depression
purely in economic terms, while Charles is haunted by the dissipated lifestyle
of the boom years that ended with his wife’s death, his daughter Honoria’s
adoption by his sister-in-law, and his own stint in a sanitarium for
alcoholics” (Eby, 1995). Even when millions of people are impacted by a major
crisis, they are still impacted in different ways due to their own experiences
and choices. That explains this passage that took place in the Ritz bar:

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“It’s
a great change,” he said sadly. “We do about half the business we
did. So many fellows I hear about back in the States lost everything, maybe not
in the first crash, but then in the second. Your friend George Hardt lost every
cent, I hear. Are you back in the States?”

“No,
I’m in business in Prague.”

“I
heard that you lost a lot in the crash.”

“I
did,” and he added grimly, “but I lost everything I wanted in the
boom.”

“Selling
short.”

“Something
like that” (Fitzgerald, 1931).

Charles and Paul meant drastically different
things in regard to “selling short.” Paul meant in regard to stocks and other
such financial aspects. Charles meant that he lost his family; money no longer
was what he wanted now that it was all he had. By “selling short,” he meant
that his alcoholism had cost him everything he wanted. That parallel can also
be seen in Fitzgerald’s life.

            To
fully understand the elements of Babylon
Revisited, it is essential to examine F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life because
Charlie Wales, one of the main characters of the tale, can be compared to
Fitzgerald, especially in regard to a troublesome marriage and addiction. “Already
in that summer of 1923, the antics of Scott and Zelda his wife were
notorious—often entertaining, sometimes embarrassing, intermittently worse.

Both were inclined to melodramatic excesses” (Rell, 2015). That can easily be
compared to the marriage of his fictional characters, Charles and Helen. “Scott
and Zelda seemed to compete at theatrical self-display. Zelda performed
strip-tease dances at parties” (Rell, 2015). On the night Helen was locked out,
she had behaved inappropriately at a party; both her and Charles were drunk,
which is part of what led to her death. Charles and Helen had a love of alcohol
that often negatively influenced the love they had for each other, which is the
same as Fitzgerald’s reality; he died at 44 because of alcoholism. “Of course,
they fought frequently, “terrible 4-day rows,” Scott reported, “that always
start with a drinking party but we’re still enormously in love.” Fitzgerald
called himself an alcoholic and Charles is called one by his sister-in-law, Marion.

Though he says he is now recovered, by only drinking one a day so it does not
become too large and overwhelming in his mind, alcohol is still harming his
life. The economy also affected his life, just like it did the life of the
writer who invented him.

A
Modernist theme in this tale is isolation, both forced and chosen. Charles
learns that the reckless past actions have changed the city for him. “I spoiled
this city for myself. I didn’t realize it, but the days came along one after
another, and then two years were gone, and everything was gone, and I was gone””
(Fitzgerald, 1931). He also is tormented by the fact that his past has caused
him to become isolated from his wife and daughter – whom he deeply loved. It
was only as time passed that he realized what he once had, which is very much a
part of human nature. Now, he’d do and give anything to just have them back; no
amount of money was worth losing Helen and Honoria. Before the stock market
crash, people with money saw themselves as having everything. Afterwards, they
saw what was truly important. “It had been given, even the most wildly
squandered sum, as an offering to destiny that he might not remember the things
most worth remembering, the things that now he would always remember—his child
taken from his control, his wife escaped to a grave in Vermont” (Fitzgerald,
1931). The use of “escaped” in that last sentence is important. While he
escaped his demons through getting help, she escaped through death. She escaped
a life and a marriage that was disastrous. Charles sought help because of what
happened to Helen. It is probable that if she’d never been locked out in the
snow and died as a cause that they would have stayed in that lifestyle, no
knowing how to communicate with one another.

Another
Modernist theme implemented by Fitzgerald is the inability to communicate with
others in society. This is first shown when Charles is talking to his
brother-in-law. “His boasting was for
a specific purpose; but after a moment, seeing a faint restiveness in Lincoln’s
eye, he changed the subject” (Fitzgerald, 1931). Charles is trying to start off
to explain how his life has become stabilized to the point he feels he can
properly care for Honoria. It would seem that money is not something he could
talk to Lincoln about, just like the past and Helen are not topics he can talk
to Marion about. “”You know I never did drink heavily until I gave up business
and came over here with nothing to do. Then Helen and I began to run around
with—”… “Please leave Helen out of it. I can’t bear to hear you talk about her
like that” (Fitzgerald, 1931). It is ironic for her to say since she and her
sister did not ever get along; there was quite a bit of jealousy. However, it
also seems that she feels guilty and does not want to speak or hear ill of her
sister now; she is still trapped by the past, making it hard for her to talk to
Charles. That is also shown in the passage that says, “This was more difficult
than he expected; he wanted to launch out into a long expostulation and
explanation, but he only said: “The night I locked her out—” and she
interrupted, “I don’t feel up to going over that again” (Fitzgerald, 1931). Marion
wants to bring up her sister when it is convenient to her but does not want to
hear his side of events; she is still bitter about what happened. She does not
want to forgive him since that would mean forgiving herself as well. Lack to
communication is later seen in the passage stating, “… I’m functioning, I’m
behaving damn well, so far as—”… “Please don’t swear at me,” Marion said….

Lincoln realized the absurdity of Marion’s remark and asked her lightly since
when she had objected to the word “damn.”” (Fitzgerald, 1931). Instead of
Marion saying why she did not want to have the conversation, she pretended to
be against his language. She could not be honest, making Charles and the reader
need to think deeper about what she was saying.

It
is essential for readers to think deeper about what characters are saying as
opposed to taking the words at face value. Critical thinking not only sheds
more light on the tale, but also on the time period. In this case, Marion and
Charles can both be examples of everyday in people in the society after the
stock market crash and negative effects of war impacted them. Charles was
trying to improve his life and have hope for the future, while Marion was too
stuck in the past to move on. Even though Fitzgerald drank himself into an
early death, he could have been providing a choice to his readers. They could
either be like Charles and get help and do what they could to rebuild their
lives. Or, they could be like Marion and stay stuck in the past, filled with
guilt. That choice was extremely relevant to Fitzgerald’s original readers and
his still significant to his modern readers. There will always be negative in
the world – what people choose to do with the negative is what is truly important.