The Importance Of Capable Parenting In F. Scott Fitzgerald's Babylon Revisited

Submitted By mica2222
Words: 4737
Pages: 19

Charlie, the main character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story “Babylon Revisited,” has one goal: “he wanted his child, and nothing was much good now, besides that fact” (612). However, although Charlie clearly wants to be a father again, his daughter Honoria’s current guardians, her Aunt Marion and Uncle Lincoln, will not relinquish custody of her. As much as Charlie, a recovering alcoholic, thinks that he is able to care for his daughter, Marion and Lincoln do not think he is ready. Thus, one of the central questions the story asks of the reader is whether or not Charlie is a capable parent. A careful reading of the evidence in the story makes the answer to that question clear: Charlie is a capable parent. The question is not a simple one because parenting is complex; many factors go into capable parenting. Ideally, parents should be able to provide for a child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, physical safety, and health care – yet many parents struggle economically and still do a good job raising their children, so these factors alone do not define capable parenting. Parents also must be able to convey love to a child so a child feels secure and can develop a positive sense of self, but love is so complex that there are many ways to convey it successfully, making it hard to pinpoint exactly when a parent does or does not love a child adequately. In order to define capable parenting, therefore, we need to find what is at the heart of all these factors: a capable parent is a parent who makes decisions based on what a child needs, not what the parent needs. For instance, most parents need a full night’s sleep, but when a child starts to cry at three a.m., a capable parent decides to crawl out of bed and provides the child with the needed bottle, hug, or drink of water. Another example of a capable parent is one who spends money on a child’s needs, such as clothes, sports equipment, or a college education, rather than on something the parent needs instead, such as their own clothes or a new car. Capable parents also deal with bigger decisions, such as moving to a new city with a better school system or taking a different job that provides better health insurance, by choosing what will be best for their child, even if the parents must give up something important to them in order to do so. In all these cases, the parent shows he or she is capable by deciding to act according to what the child needs – the decisions are child-centered. Given this definition, it is clear that Charlie is a capable parent. First of all, during the story, Charlie makes major life decisions based on what is best for Honoria. For instance, Charlie has stopped drinking excessively and is only having one drink a day. When a bartender offers him a second drink, he responds by telling him, “No, no more … I’m going pretty slow these days” (598). Later that same day, when Lincoln offers him a drink, Charlie declines, saying “I take only one drink every afternoon, and I’ve had that (600). He claims that he has “stuck to [having one drink a day] for over a year and a half now,” and nowhere in the story do we seem him stray from this plan. Since it was his drinking that lost him custody of Honoria initially because he could no longer care for her, by choosing to drink in moderation, Charlie is making a decision based on what Honoria needs. In addition to his new sobriety, we can see Charlie’s focus on his daughter in his other decisions, such as his choice to work in Prague, where “they don’t know about” him and he can therefore make more money and work without distractions (598); his plan to acquire “a French governess” who will educate Honoria (606); and his plan to have his sister come live with him (599). None of these choices are for Charlie’s sake; instead, they are based on acquiring what Honoria needs: a steady financial base, education, and a mother-figure. Thus, in the big decisions