Babylon Revisited

by: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Charlie Wales

Characters Charlie Wales

Despite his many flaws, Charlie is a man whom almost everyone can’t help but like. It’s surprising that Charlie’s so likeable considering his wild past of uncontrollable alcoholism, his possible complicity in his wife’s death, and the fact that he essentially abandoned his child. Charlie is hard to dislike in part because he seems so earnest in his efforts to turn over a new leaf. If we’re wary of him in the beginning of the story, we increasingly trust him as he rebuffs his former friends and sticks to just one drink a day. Fitzgerald also conveys Charlie’s great personal charm. Charlie is a physically attractive man, a quality that clearly affects Lorraine and possibly even Marion. He is also a winning, persuasive speaker, able to manipulate listeners without seeming to try.

If we can’t help but like Charlie, however, neither can we help feeling slightly suspicious of him. His justification for taking one drink per day makes sense when he explains it—he implies that he doesn’t want to give alcohol undue power over him by avoiding it altogether—but seems nonsensical later. We wonder if he has hoodwinked us and worry that he’ll slip back into drinking heavily. When Charlie disavows his former friends, we think back to the beginning of the story when he gives Lincoln and Marion’s address to Alix, knowing that it’ll land in Duncan Schaeffer’s hands. As a result, we wonder whether some part of him actually wants to return to the old days. Although we’re naturally inclined to take Charlie’s side because of his good intentions, Fitzgerald doesn’t allow us to root for him unrestrainedly.