The melancholy mood of “Babylon Revisited” comes partly from the historical period in which it is set. Fitzgerald is often identified as the voice of the Jazz Age, but in this story he portrays the post–Jazz Age world, which is sober and full of regret. Charlie returns to a Paris that has changed dramatically. In the old days, before the story’s action takes place, Americans like Charlie and Helen “were a sort of royalty, almost infallible” because they had money to burn. Like drunken children, rich Americans ran wild all over the city in the 1920s. Then the American stock market crashed in 1929, an event mentioned only briefly in the story but one that casts a pall over its characters. Charlie’s personal history runs parallel to the course of history itself. During the Jazz Age, he lived lavishly, giving hundreds of francs to doormen and thousands of francs to orchestras. He was blindingly drunk most of the time and pulled childish pranks. He lived a dissipated, crazed life that epitomized the hedonism of wealthy Americans living in the mid-1920s. Then, just as the stock market crashed, Charlie’s alcoholism landed him in a sanitarium. By drawing parallels between history and Charlie’s life, Fitzgerald makes Charlie representative of an entire age.
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