Babylon Revisited

Babylon Revisited Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on F. Scott Fitzgerald's Babylon Revisited. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and spent most of his childhood in Buffalo, New York. When he was fifteen, his parents sent him to school in New Jersey, where he met a teacher who encouraged him to develop his talent for writing stories. Fitzgerald went on to study at Princeton, where he pursued his passion for writing so wholeheartedly that his grades suffered, and he eventually dropped out to enlist in the army. Though the war ended before Fitzgerald was deployed, he met Zelda Sayre, whom he would later marry, while he was posted in Alabama. In 1919 he published This Side of Paradise, which became an overnight success. The couple moved to Paris in 1924, where Scott Fitzgerald supported his family primarily by selling short stories like “Babylon Revisited” to popular magazines. By 1931, Zelda had begun to suffer from mental illness. The Fitzgeralds returned to the United States, where Zelda was in and out of hospitals from 1936 onward. From 1936 until the end of his life in 1940, Scott Fitzgerald spent much of his time in Hollywood, struggling with alcoholism and trying (largely unsuccessfully) to write screenplays. He died of a heart attack.
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Historical Context of Babylon Revisited

The period from 1920-1929 is often called the “roaring twenties,” in part because it was a time of economic prosperity following the first World War. During this time, the United States emerged as the leader in world finance, prompting a wave of newly wealthy Americans to move overseas to Europe (and in particular to Paris). This period is also known as the “jazz age” because the bustling nightlife in so many Western cities centered around jazz clubs and cabarets. In 1929, however, the economic boom years came to an abrupt end when the stock market crashed, leading to a twelve-year economic depression that affected every Western industrialized country in the world. The Paris that Fitzgerald describes in “Babylon Revisited” has been radically transformed by the crash—emptied of Americans, its once teeming bars and clubs all but deserted.

Other Books Related to Babylon Revisited

F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in Paris at the same time as the American writer Ernest Hemingway, and the two became friends. Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast, though first published posthumously in 1964, describes his life in Paris in the 1920s and chronicles some of his experiences with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The book is a window into the Paris that Charlie Wales spends so much time reflecting on in “Babylon Revisited.” The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, while very different from “Babylon Revisited” in its style and focus, is one of the most important works of American literature to come out of the Great Depression. It tells the story of a family of tenant farmers in Oklahoma who are forced to migrate to California, and provides a valuable perspective on the impact the depression had on the lives of many Americans.
Key Facts about Babylon Revisited
  • Full Title: Babylon Revisited
  • When Written: 1930
  • When Published: February 21, 1931
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Short story
  • Setting: Paris, 1930
  • Climax: Duncan and Lorraine arrive unannounced at the Peters’ home
  • Antagonist: Marion, alcoholism, vice
  • Point of View: Third person limited

Extra Credit for Babylon Revisited

Biblical Babylon In the Old Testament of the Bible, Isaiah prophesized that Babylon, one of the largest cities on earth, would be destroyed because its inhabitants worshipped false idols. Therefore, the city became synonymous with hedonism and sin, and—like the Paris of Fitzgerald’s story—is seen as having been fated to collapse.

Autobiography The events of “Babylon Revisited” are based on Fitzgerald’s life. Following his wife Zelda’s nervous breakdown in 1930, Zelda’s sister and her husband (Rosaline and Newman Smith) tried to take possession of Fitzgerald’s nine-year-old daughter, Scottie. Rosaline saw Scott Fitzgerald as an irresponsible drunk, and the two openly despised each other.

The Last Time I Saw Paris. In 1954, “Babylon Revisited” was adapted into a film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson, titled “The Last Time I Saw Paris.”