Babylon Revisited

Charlie Wales Character Analysis

Charlie Wales, 35, is the protagonist of “Babylon Revisited,” who has returned to Paris to regain custody of his daughter, Honoria. Charlie, Honoria, and Charlie’s wife, Helen, lived in Paris for two years in the late 1920s. During that time, Charlie was very wealthy and didn’t have to work, instead spending his time partying, travelling, and drinking heavily. However, Charlie’s alcoholism eventually led to his collapse and the destruction of his marriage, after which Helen died. In returning to Paris, Charlie seems to be a changed man. He got sober after a stint in the sanatorium, began working again and recovered some of his wealth, and he now desires, above all else, to have a proper family and home in Prague, where he presently lives. To do so, he hopes to bring Honoria back with him, though he must win approval from Honoria’s custodial parent, his wife’s sister, Marion. In trying to prove himself to Marion—who mistrusts and even dislikes him—Charlie puts forward the best version of himself, but it’s unclear whether he will remain sober or whether he has changed enough since his time in Paris to be entrusted with his daughter’s care. His strong sense of remorse for his past actions, along with his desire to rebuild a family and a home, motivate him to behave with humility in the face of Marion’s consistently cruel treatment of him, though at times he missteps, bragging about his wealth or becoming defensive. The murky details of Charlie’s past—including the questions of whether he was responsible for Helen’s death and whether he had an affair with Lorraine Quarrles—point to a potentially cruel side of Charlie that suggest Marion may be right to regard him with such suspicion, and that perhaps he shouldn’t be relied upon to look after his daughter. Because the narrative follows Charlie’s point of view so closely, it’s difficult to clearly judge his marriage to Helen, his alcoholism, or whether he has truly changed, so he remains a morally complex—and even somewhat ambiguous—character.

Charlie Wales Quotes in Babylon Revisited

The Babylon Revisited quotes below are all either spoken by Charlie Wales or refer to Charlie Wales. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Babylon Revisited published in 1995.
Section 1 Quotes

“My income last year was bigger than it was when I had money. You see, the Czechs—”
His boasting was for a specific purpose; but after a moment, seeing a faint restiveness in Lincoln’s eyes, he changed the subject:
“Those are fine children of yours, well brought up, good manners.”

Related Characters: Charlie Wales (speaker)
Page Number: 618
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Babylon Revisited quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

A great wave of protectiveness went over him. He thought he knew what to do for her. He believed in character; he wanted to jump back a whole generation and trust in character again as the eternally valuable element. Everything wore out.

Related Characters: Charlie Wales, Honoria Wales
Page Number: 619
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

He remembered thousand-franc notes given to an orchestra for playing a single number, hundred-franc notes tossed to a doorman for calling a cab.
But it hadn't been given for nothing.
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.

Page Number: 620
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Section 2 Quotes

"First, we're going to that toy store in the Rue Saint-Honoré and buy you anything you like. And then we're going to the vaudeville at the Empire."
She hesitated. "I like it about the vaudeville, but not the toy store."
"Why not?"
"Well, you brought me this doll." She had it with her. "And I've got lots of things. And we're not rich any more, are we?"
"We never were. But today you are to have anything you want."
"All right," she agreed resignedly.

Related Characters: Charlie Wales (speaker), Honoria Wales (speaker)
Page Number: 621
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Somehow, an unwelcome encounter. They liked him because he was functioning, because he was serious; they wanted to see him, because he was stronger than they were now, because they wanted to draw a certain sustenance from his strength.

Page Number: 623
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

"Daddy, I want to come and live with you," she said suddenly.
His heart leaped; he had wanted it to come like this.
"Aren't you perfectly happy?"
"Yes, but I love you better than anybody. And you love me better than anybody, don't you, now that mummy's dead?"
"Of course I do. But you won't always like me best, honey. You'll grow up and meet somebody your own age and go marry him and forget you ever had a daddy."
"Yes, that's true," she agreed tranquilly.

Related Characters: Charlie Wales (speaker), Honoria Wales (speaker), Helen Wales
Page Number: 623
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Section 3 Quotes

As I told you, I haven't had more than a drink a day for over a year, and I take that drink deliberately, so that the idea of alcohol won't get too big in my imagination. You see the idea?"
"No," said Marion succinctly.
"It's a sort of stunt I set myself. It keeps the matter in proportion."
"I get you," said Lincoln. "You don't want to admit it's got any attraction for you."
"Something like that. Sometimes I forget and don't take it. But I try to take it.”

Related Characters: Charlie Wales (speaker), Marion Peters (speaker), Lincoln Peters (speaker)
Page Number: 624
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

"I don't blame Marion," Charlie said slowly, "but I think she can have entire confidence in me. I had a good record up to three years ago. Of course, it's within human possibilities I might go wrong any time. But if we wait much longer I'll lose Honoria's childhood and my chance for a home." He shook his head, "I'll simply lose her, don't you see?"

Related Characters: Charlie Wales (speaker), Marion Peters (speaker), Lincoln Peters (speaker)
Page Number: 626
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Marion shuddered suddenly; part of her saw that Charlie's feet were planted on the earth now, and her own maternal feeling recognized the naturalness of his desire; but she had lived for a long time with a prejudice—a prejudice founded on a curious disbelief in her sister's happiness, and which, in the shock of one terrible night, had turned to hatred for him. It had all happened at a point in her life where the discouragement of ill health and adverse circumstances made it necessary for her to believe in tangible villainy and a tangible villain.
"I can't help what I think!" she cried out suddenly. "How much you were responsible for Helen's death, I don't know. It's something you'll have to square with your own conscience."

Related Characters: Marion Peters (speaker), Charlie Wales, Helen Wales
Page Number: 626-627
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Section 4 Quotes

"There's another thing." Lincoln hesitated. "While you and Helen were tearing around Europe throwing money away, we were just getting along. I didn't touch any of the prosperity because I never got ahead enough to carry anything but my insurance. I think Marion felt there was some kind of injustice in it—you not even working toward the end, and getting richer and richer."
"It went just as quick as it came," said Charlie.

Related Characters: Charlie Wales (speaker), Lincoln Peters (speaker)
Page Number: 629
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

His first feeling was one of awe that he had actually, in his mature years, stolen a tricycle and pedaled Lorraine all over the Étoile between the small hours and dawn. In retrospect it was a nightmare. Locking out Helen didn't fit in with any other act of his life, but the tricycle incident did--it was one of many. How many weeks or months of dissipation to arrive at that condition of utter irresponsibility?

Page Number: 629
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

He tried to picture how Lorraine had appeared to him then—very attractive; Helen was unhappy about it, though she said nothing. Yesterday, in the restaurant, Lorraine had seemed trite, blurred, worn away. He emphatically did not want to see her, and he was glad Alix had not given away his hotel address. It was a relief to think, instead, of Honoria, to think of Sundays spent with her and of saying good morning to her and of knowing she was there in his house at night, drawing her breath in the darkness.

Page Number: 629-630
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Section 5 Quotes

"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."

Related Characters: Charlie Wales (speaker), Paul (speaker)
Page Number: 633
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

There wasn't much he could do now except send Honoria some things; he would send her a lot of things tomorrow. He thought rather angrily that this was just money—he had given so many people money. . . .
"No, no more," he said to another waiter. "What do I owe you?"

Related Characters: Charlie Wales (speaker), Honoria Wales , Helen Wales
Page Number: 633
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Babylon Revisited LitChart as a printable PDF.
Babylon revisited.pdf.medium

Charlie Wales Character Timeline in Babylon Revisited

The timeline below shows where the character Charlie Wales appears in Babylon Revisited. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
The story opens with Charlie Wales, the protagonist, talking to Alix, the bartender at the Ritz in Paris. Alix is... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Charlie is not disappointed to find Paris is so empty, but he finds “the stillness in... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Alix asks Charlie about the “conditions” in America, but Charlie responds that he hasn’t been there for months,... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Charlie watches a group of “strident queens”—effeminate men he assumes are gay—sit down in a corner... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Charlie goes outside to catch a taxi, and directs the driver out of the way so... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Charlie is 35 years old and handsome. He furrows his brow and feels a cramp in... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
The room is warm and “comfortably American” with the three children playing nearby, but Charlie can’t relax. He summons confidence from his daughter, who is playing with a doll he... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Marion Peters is “a tall woman with worried eyes” who was once quite attractive, though Charlie never thought so. The two had always disliked each other. Marion asks how Charlie is... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Charlie lets it slip that he was at a bar earlier in the afternoon, but immediately... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Charlie reacts to Marion’s harsh treatment simply by smiling. He can’t afford to react temperamentally—he came... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
At dinner, Charlie wonders to himself whether Honoria is more similar to him or her mother, Helen. He... (full context)
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
After dinner, Charlie leaves the Peters’ home, eager to wander the streets of Paris at night “with clearer... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
What Charlie once saw as the “effort and ingenuity” of Montmartre, he now sees as childish “catering... (full context)
Section 2
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
The next day Charlie wakes up feeling refreshed, the “depression of yesterday” gone. He takes Honoria to lunch at... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Back when Charlie had lived with Helen, and Honoria had been taken care of by a nurse, he... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Charlie asks Honoria whether she likes her aunt and uncle, Marion and Lincoln, and she replies... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Suddenly Charlie and Honoria’s lunch is interrupted by Duncan Schaeffer and Lorraine Quarrles, “two ghosts out of... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
However, Duncan and Lorraine are persistent. They offer dinner, and Charlie declines again, saying he’ll call them. Lorraine supposes aloud that Charlie must be sober, and... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
At the Empire, Honoria proudly refuses to sit on Charlie’s folded coat, prompting him to worry that she will “crystalize” into a fully formed individual... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
In the taxi home, Charlie asks Honoria whether she ever thinks about her mother. She answers vaguely that sometimes she... (full context)
Section 3
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Lincoln and Marion Peters are waiting anxiously in the salon of their home for Charlie to ask the question he came to Paris to ask. Lincoln’s nervousness suggests he and... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
...begins by saying that he and Marion have been discussing the matter since they received Charlie’s letter a month ago. He goes on to say that they are glad to have... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Marion states that her duty is to Helen, and that ever since the night Charlie “did that terrible thing,” he hasn’t existed for her. When Helen was dying, she asked... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
...chimes in to suggest that the real question is whether Marion has enough confidence in Charlie to give him legal guardianship of Honoria. Charlie says he doesn’t blame Marion, but that... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Marion takes issue with Charlie’s use of the word “damn,” which startles Charlie. He realizes the extent of Marion’s dislike... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Marion admits that Charlie can give Honoria “more luxuries,” recalling that while Charlie and Helen were “throwing away money,”... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Marion suddenly shudders. She can see that Charlie has his “feet planted on the earth now,” but she has harbored a prejudice against... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
An “electric current of agony” surges through Charlie, but he controls himself. Lincoln asserts that he never thought Charlie was responsible for Helen’s... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...day, as if apologizing on her behalf. He says that Marion can see now that Charlie can provide for Honoria, so they won’t stand in his way. Charlie leaves. (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
On the street, Charlie is still shaking. The image of Helen haunts him. On the night that he locked... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
In a half-asleep state in his hotel room, Charlie imagines himself talking to Helen. She says she wants Honoria to be with him, and... (full context)
Section 4
Home and Family Theme Icon
Charlie wakes up feeling happy. He begins imagining life with Honoria, but becomes sad when he... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Charlie goes to lunch with Lincoln, where he bemoans the fact that Marion has held such... (full context)
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
When he returns to his hotel, Charlie finds a letter waiting for him from Lorraine Quarrles. She writes that he behaved so... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Charlie can hardly believe he had once behaved so irresponsibly. He remembers it now like a... (full context)
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Charlie arrives at the Peters’ home with presents for all of them, and sees that Marion... (full context)
...a maid opens the door, and in walk Duncan Schaeffer and Lorraine Quarrles, laughing hysterically. Charlie takes a moment to realize how they found the Peters’ address, then introduces them. Marion... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Duncan explains that he and Lorraine came to invite Charlie to dinner. He says they insist that “all this shishi, cagy business” about not having... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Charlie, expressing outrage, exclaims “People I haven’t seen in two years having the colossal nerve—” but... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Lincoln comes back into the room and tells Charlie that Marion is in bad shape, and he thinks it best to call off dinner.... (full context)
Section 5
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Charlie goes directly from the Peters’ house to the Ritz bar. Furious, he thinks he might... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Again, Charlie’s thoughts drift back to the boom years, and he remembers them—and the people he met—like... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Charlie calls Lincoln to ask if Marion has said anything, and Lincoln responds that Marion is... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
Another waiter offers Charlie a drink, and he declines again, asking “What do I owe you?” He thinks that... (full context)