Babylon Revisited

The question of whether or not Charlie Wales’ request to have his daughter returned to him is reasonable seems fairly clear. The fact that the story begins and ends in a bar, with the alcoholic protagonist struggling with his addiction seems an indication that his demon has not been slain. Ambiguities seen in the story lead a reader to think that perhaps at this point it is not reasonable.

Charlie perceives his old haunts as less than glamorous in the cold light of sobriety, but still he feels compelled to go and look once more. Yet, while it seems that Charlie genuinely regrets his past the reader also is told that Charlie has lost his fortune, which could easily be the reason for his new mindset. One of the twin themes of this story is that a person is responsible for his own shortcomings, and must pay his dues, so to speak, being held accountable to others.

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Charlie says that he never had a problem with alcohol until he began to lose his fortune, appearing to be in classic denial. Charlie does not accept that his bouts of drunkenness are the reason why people such as Marion behave toward him as they do. He faults Marion’s lack of compassion and her intolerance for their discord. Everyone is out of step but Johnny, so to speak, and Charlie is not willing to accept that is likely his own actions that cause the rift between them.
The story ends with Charlie sitting in a bar with drink in hand, which is a dangerous act for a recovering alcoholic. Though he has refused a second one, it is clear that he is not over his addiction. His life is a tragedy, yet he has not demonstrated the ability, by story’s end, to take responsibility for his own inadequacies, so the question of his being able to care for his young daughter seems moot. For the stated reasons, Charlie is not being reasonable in asking for custody of the child.

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