Babylon Revisited

The Ritz Symbol Analysis

The Ritz Symbol Icon

“Babylon Revisited” begins and ends with Charlie having a drink at the Ritz, a fancy hotel. According to Charlie, the Ritz was the epicenter of Paris nightlife for American expatriates in the ‘20s, and it continues, after the crash, to be a meeting place for the few Americans Charlie still knows in Paris. Charlie reminisces about the parties at the Ritz back when the bar was at its busiest, and although he swears he has put those days behind him, the Ritz seems to have a strong gravitational pull for Charlie, representing the dangerous allure of his old life. The Ritz is the first place Charlie visits upon returning to Paris, and he leaves his address with the barman to give to his old friend Duncan Schaeffer, which further suggests that Charlie might not be fully committed to leaving his old life behind.

However, despite this, Charlie shows moderation in all his visits to the Ritz, never allowing himself more than one drink. Thus, the Ritz is also the place where Charlie proves that he can resist the temptation of his old life. Because of this tension (Charlie being repeatedly drawn back to the Ritz even as he continues to resist the allure of the lifestyle it represents) his presence there remains ambiguous. Put differently, the Ritz is not just a symbol for Charlie’s past life and his old drinking habits—it’s also symbolic of his inability to shake those old habits completely, and of his own attraction to the impulsive, self-destructive life he used to live. Although Charlie repeatedly denies that he wants a drink, or that he misses the extravagance of his old life, he nevertheless keeps finding himself at the epicenter of his old life: the bar at the Ritz. Just as he is haunted by his past, it seems, Charlie continues to haunt the Ritz.

Get the entire Babylon Revisited LitChart as a printable PDF.
Babylon revisited.pdf.medium

The Ritz Symbol Timeline in Babylon Revisited

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Ritz 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 answering Charlie’s questions about people who used to frequent the bar... (full context)
Wealth and Poverty Theme Icon
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
...not disappointed to find Paris is so empty, but he finds “the stillness in the Ritz bar … strange and portentous,” since it used to be such a lively scene. From... (full context)
Section 4
Transformation and Redemption Theme Icon
Alcohol, Immoderation, and Collapse Theme Icon
...she doesn’t feel old. Then she proposes they meet, and says she’ll be at the Ritz at five o’clock. (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 find Lorraine and Duncan, but when they’re not there... (full context)