Babylon Revisited: And Other Stories | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Babylon Revisited: And Other Stories | Crazy Sunday | Summary



The story, set in Hollywood, California, follows the fortunes of 28-year-old Joel Coles, son of an actress and now a continuity writer for the film industry. One Sunday afternoon, he is invited to tea at the home of a notable Hollywood director, Miles Calman. The first part of the story dramatizes some of the banter between Joel and Stella Calman, Miles's wife, and also between Joel and a heavy-drinking guest named Nat Keogh.

On the strength of several cocktails, Joel decides to entertain the company with an original burlesque routine called "Building It Up," but his performance is a dismal failure with "a general trek for the door." Ashamed of himself, Joel writes an apologetic note to Miles Calman. In reply he receives a telegram from Stella inviting him to her sister's buffet supper the following Sunday evening.

At this occasion, tension escalates. Joel learns Miles has been having an affair with Eva Goebel, one of Stella's close friends, and is being psychoanalyzed. Miles is slowly but inexorably drawn into the rancor of this conflict and is made privy to the psychological jargon and gibberish pertaining to it.

Suddenly, Stella suggests to Joel that he accompany her to a fashionable dinner and theater party the following Saturday evening. Miles will be unable to attend the dinner because he has planned to fly to South Bend, Indiana, to attend the football game between Notre Dame and California. Joel agrees to Stella's request.

At the office Joel discusses the dinner party with Miles. Miles declares he finds it difficult to terminate his relationship with Eva Goebel. If he should find out, however, that Stella was unfaithful to him, he would promptly divorce her for hurting his pride. As for the party and the Notre Dame game, Miles seems undecided.

On the night of the party, Joel cannot make the dinner but awaits the other guests at the Hollywood Theatre. Stella arrives, gorgeously attired, to inform Joel that Miles has decided to fly to the Notre Dame game after all. Stella says she would like to talk to Joel, but she is anxious about whether or not her husband really went to Indiana after all. Maybe he is spying on her. She explains that false telegrams can be arranged very easily.

In the final part of the story, events pile up on each other rapidly. Joel declares his love for Stella, even though he tells her he feels like "a sort of pawn in a spite game you're playing against Miles." A series of telegrams come in from Miles telling Stella he loves her and is returning shortly. Joel decides to leave but is dissuaded by Stella. The two make love.

Then the phone rings with the news that Miles's plane has crashed near Kansas City. In the confusion Stella borders on hysteria. Stella begs Joel to stay with her. Joel resolutely calls a doctor and then departs, saying he will be back if Stella should need him.


The story offers one of Fitzgerald's most sophisticated, psychologically penetrating portraits of marital and extramarital affairs, combining the themes of coming of age, acceptance and rejection, appearance and reality, and manipulation. Joel Coles, 28 years old and in Hollywood for only six months, experiences a hurried and harsh apprenticeship as—in his well-chosen word—a "pawn" in the fractured marriage of Miles and Stella Calman.

Joel begins the story as a callow neophyte. He imprudently breaks his resolution not to drink at the Calmans' tea party on the first "crazy Sunday." This choice opens the way to an ill-considered burlesque performance that proves to be a flop. The Calmans, strangely enough, are not put off—with Stella sending him a telegram to the effect that he was "one of the most agreeable people" at the party. (It is significant that, somewhat later, it occurs to Joel that Miles may have motivated this telegram.)

On the second "crazy Sunday," the night of the buffet supper, Joel is steadily drawn into the strange world of the couple's private conflicts, centering on Miles's extramarital affair with Eva Goebel and his psychiatric treatment. Jealousy and betrayal have blighted the Calmans' lives; at the same time, they seem more than willing to play the agreeable hosts to Joel.

The third climactic Sunday materializes after the night of the dinner and theater party. Fitzgerald mounts a split-screen narrative: Hollywood on the one hand and Miles's excursion to South Bend, Indiana, for the Notre Dame football game on the other. By this time Joel and Stella readily acknowledge their mutual physical attraction. At the same time Stella is unnerved by the suspicion that Miles may be spying on her and deceiving her with fake telegrams while Joel is uneasily aware he may have been forced into the role of a "pawn" between two feuding spouses. It is in this context that Joel and Stella make love and Stella learns of her husband's death.

Somehow, though, Miles's death is not as final as it seems, at least for Stella. As Stella begs Joel to stay with her, Joel feels once again like a surrogate: "In her dark groping Stella was trying to keep Miles alive by sustaining a situation in which he had figured—as if Miles' mind could not die so long as the possibilities that had worried him still existed."

It is not difficult, then, to explain Joel's tears and bitterness as he leaves the Calmans' house in the wake of the tragedy. He will be back, but with the knowledge of a certain side of human nature that was unknown to him when the story began.

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