Babylon Revisited

Babylon Revisited Section 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day Charlie wakes up feeling refreshed, the “depression of yesterday” gone. He takes Honoria to lunch at Le Grand Vatel, the one restaurant he can think of that doesn’t remind him of the decadence of the old days. Over lunch, he tells Honoria he’s going to take her to the toy store to buy her anything she wants and then to a vaudeville show. Honoria protests that she doesn’t want to go to the toy store—she already has lots of things, and he already brought her a doll—but she unenthusiastically agrees anyway.
Honoria’s initial refusal of Charlie’s offer to buy her whatever she wants at the toy store is noteworthy because it seems unusual for a nine-year-old girl. Charlie, searching for ways to feel close to his daughter, resorts to offering to buy her things, but clever Honoria seems to see the gifts Charlie gives her for what they are: an inadequate material substitute for her father’s presence in her life.
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Back when Charlie had lived with Helen, and Honoria had been taken care of by a nurse, he was a stricter father, but now he tries to “be both parents to her.” He tells Honoria that he wants to get to know her, so he introduces himself, which Honoria finds funny. She introduces herself as well, and Charlie asks whether she’s married. When she says no, Charlie points out that she has a child, gesturing to the doll. Honoria thinks quickly, and says that she was married once, but her husband is dead.
Charlie and Honoria’s interactions are awkward because they aren’t used to seeing each other, and Charlie struggles to find ways to fulfill the roles of “both parents.” This is a somewhat ironic goal for him to have as someone who, at present, barely even fulfills the role of father. Charlie’s lunch date with Honoria underscores the newness and effort involved, for Charlie, in prioritizing family over money or pleasure.
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Charlie asks Honoria whether she likes her aunt and uncle, Marion and Lincoln, and she replies that she does, but then asks if the reason she doesn’t live with her father is that her mother is dead. Charlie responds that Honoria must stay in Paris to learn French, and because it would have been hard for him to take care of her as well as the Peters family had. Honoria responds that she doesn’t need to be taken care of because she does everything herself.
Honoria’s question about why she doesn’t live with her father—as well as her assertion that she doesn’t need to be taken care of—are evidence that she longs to feel closer to her father. Meanwhile, it seems that Charlie is cautiously and subtly beginning to lay the groundwork for a plan to regain custody of Honoria (and in doing so, to rebuild a family).
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Suddenly Charlie and Honoria’s lunch is interrupted by Duncan Schaeffer and Lorraine Quarrles, “two ghosts out of the past” who greet him enthusiastically. Duncan is a friend from college and Lorraine is a “lovely, pale blonde of thirty.” Lorraine explains that her husband is not with her because they’re “poor as hell,” and Duncan suggests that they come back and all sit together, but Charlie declines. Despite finding Lorraine very attractive, “his own rhythm was different now.”
Part of the irony of Duncan and Lorraine running into Charlie at lunch is that he purposely chose a location that he thought of as being far-removed from his old social life. Therefore, the sudden appearance of these two “ghosts” seems an affirmation of the inescapability of the past. Lorraine’s explanation that she is “poor as hell” rings somewhat hollow in light of the fact that she is taking time to vacation by herself in Paris. Fitzgerald seems to be pointing to a general lack of perspective among the wealthy about the conditions most people live in. Charlie seems to find still more evidence of his change of character in the fact of his not finding Lorraine as attractive as he once did.
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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 Charlie nods toward Honoria, which makes them laugh. Duncan asks for Charlie’s address but Charlie tells him he’s not settled into a hotel and changes the subject, telling them that he and Honoria are going to see the vaudeville at the Empire. Lorraine suggests that she and Duncan come along, but Charlie tells them he and Honoria have an errand to run. At that, Duncan and Lorraine depart. Charlie feels the encounter with Duncan and Lorraine was unwelcome, and supposes that they liked him because he was “stronger than they were now”—that they wanted to see him because “they wanted to draw a certain sustenance from his strength.”
Lorraine and Duncan are portrayed as characters who have yet to sober up and move on from the wasteful and opulent lifestyle they lived in the 1920s. Charlie feels a sense of superiority when he doesn’t agree to make time to see them, which is presumably why he lies about not having a hotel yet. It is telling, however, that Lorraine is able to discern so quickly that Charlie is sober, since it implies that his abuse of alcohol was a primary characteristic of his in the time they knew each other. That Charlie attributes his sobriety to Honoria illustrates again that he has chosen to prioritize family as a virtue over alcohol as a vice.
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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 before he has an opportunity to influence her development at all. During the intermission, Charlie and Honoria run into Duncan and Lorraine and agree to sit with them for a drink. At the table, Charlie is barely listening to Lorraine. He watches Honoria instead.
Charlie is anxious that Honoria will grow up before he has a chance to parent her, a concern that adds urgency to his quest to get his daughter back. Charlie’s inability to listen to Duncan and Lorraine over drinks at intermission illustrates how dramatically his priorities have shifted. Instead of seeking pleasure in drinking and abandoning responsibility, he now single-mindedly seeks the pleasure of being responsible for a family.
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In the taxi home, Charlie asks Honoria whether she ever thinks about her mother. She answers vaguely that sometimes she does. Charlie says he doesn’t want Honoria to forget her, and reminds Honoria that her mother loved her very much. Honoria says that she wants to come live with Charlie, which pleases him to hear. She says that she loves him better than anybody, and asks whether he loves her more than anybody “now that mummy’s dead.” Charlie says he does, but reminds her that someday she’ll grow up and meet a man and forget all about her father.
Charlie’s response to Honoria’s question reveals the depth of his anxiety about missing out on her childhood. He fears the day that she’ll be grown enough to love another man—since that will be the day she’ll no longer love her father more than anyone else. It’s a somewhat strange response to her question, but it speaks to his own loneliness and desire to be loved that before he has even regained custody of his daughter, he is worried about losing her.
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When the taxi arrives at the Peters’ home, Charlie doesn’t go in because he’s coming back later and wants to save his energy for “the thing he must say then.” He tells Honoria to wave from the window when she gets inside.
Fitzgerald still has not explicitly stated the purpose of Charlie’s visit, but he foreshadows a difficult confrontation by suggesting that Charlie must steel his nerves beforehand.
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