A Summary of “’Babylon Revisited’: A Story of the Exile’s Return”
by Roy R. Male
In “’Babylon Revisited’: A Story of the Exile’s Return,” Roy R. Male analyzes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1931 short story “Babylon Revisited” by discussing how the various themes of the story compare to similar themes in a wide range of Western literary works. Fitzgerald’s story takes on added complexity by participating in the genre tradition of the story of an exile’s return.
“Babylon Revisited” profits from reading beyond a strict formalist view by using generic, historical, and biographical contexts to compare and contrast the story to other works based upon the same pattern. Categorizing the story as an exile’s return helps call attention to features that this story has in common with others of the genre as well as departures from the genre.
Similarities to other works within the genre include a concern with the mutability theme and a yearning for reunion with what Male calls “some form of the feminine principle.” Returning exiles are forced to confront themselves as they were in the past and to compare that former self with themselves in the present. This inevitably contributes to a sense of loss and passing time and a need for some type of reconciliation with the present, often in the form of a female figure such as a mother, wife, daughter, or female image like Mother Earth. This reconciliation also may involve the need to reconcile or replace an escapist, profligate kind of past freedom with a more mature responsibility.
Besides these similarities to other works in the genre, “Babylon Revisited” exhibits certain differences. Fitzgerald’s story, as do other modern stories, illustrates a much more concentrated narrative focus and point of view and creates a more dramatic, pictorial style than do earlier works. Furthermore,…