Babylon Revisited: And Other Stories | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Babylon Revisited: And Other Stories | Quotes


They died for the most beautiful thing in the world—the dead South.

Sally Carrol Happer, The Ice Palace

At the cemetery in Tarleton, Georgia, Sally Carrol Happer explains her emotions about the fallen heroes of the Confederacy to her beau, Harry Bellamy, who is from the North. As is so typical in Fitzgerald's fiction, Sally Carrol has built a mental and emotional myth about the Civil War in her head. This romantic myth has little to do with reality, but it strongly propels Sally Carrol's actions and reactions in the story.


As she said this she had the feeling ... she was acting a part.

Narrator, The Ice Palace

At the start of her visit to Harry Bellamy's hometown up North, Sally Carrol Happer responds to Harry's prompt for praise, yet Fitzgerald plumbs the doubts that are already awakening within her. She feels far from comfortable in her beau's milieu.


Never had there been such splendor in the great city, for the victorious war had brought plenty.

Narrator, May Day

The opening of the short story "May Day" serves both as exposition and as a rich example of Fitzgerald's prose style. The "great city" is New York, where the tale is set. The "victorious war" is World War I. The story unfolds on May 1, 1919, a little less than six months after the end of the war. The paragraph goes on to describe a conflict in which millions died (mostly in Europe) in commercial terms, with a typically Fitzgerald-like catalog of costly goods being snapped up by merchants and their families.


In that instant they quite suddenly and definitely hated each other.

Narrator, May Day

In Fitzgerald's fiction, money motivates competition, triggers envy and violence, signals status, lubricates social relations, and buys culture and respect, but it almost never satisfies. When Philip Dean almost condescendingly offers his old friend Gordon Sterrett a petty handout, it symbolizes arrogance, contempt, and defiance rather than compassion.


Key, a name hinting that in his veins, however thinly diluted by ... degeneration, ran blood of some potentiality.

Narrator, May Day

The quotation exemplifies Fitzgerald's habitual tendency in his fiction to pigeonhole characters according to their names, physical appearance, heritage, and social position. Perhaps it is not coincidental that Carrol Key's surname is the same as Fitzgerald's ancestor and namesake, the Francis Scott Key who wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1814. Note the loaded connotations of such words as veins, diluted, degeneration, and blood. Fitzgerald is expert at describing many of his characters as racists, snobs, and materialists.


My father is by far the richest man in the world.

Percy Washington, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz

This sweeping boast turns out to be true, for Percy Washington's forebears, descended from none other than George Washington, have discovered a diamond that dwarfs all other diamonds. However, the Washington family encounters difficulty in converting their treasure into true wealth.


I think that sophisticated young people are terribly common, don't you? I'm not at all, really.

Kismine Washington, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz

The dialogue between John T. Unger and Kismine Washington is notable for both thematic and stylistic reasons. John sounds patronizing, rather than complimentary, in his praise of Kismine as "sophisticated." Packed into Kismine's rejoinder is a bundle of emotions: snobbery, disingenuousness, and melodrama. Hovering over the exchange is Fitzgerald's authorial smile.


Braddock Washington was offering a bribe to God!

Narrator, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz

This scene epitomizes the idolatry of wealth Fitzgerald so often portrays in his fiction.


Everybody's youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness.

John T. Unger, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz

John T. Unger's statement touches on the important themes of vain dreaming and fleeting youth in Fitzgerald's fiction.


He had wanted Judy Jones ever since he was a proud, desirous little boy.

Narrator, Winter Dreams

The quotation, which refers to Dexter Green, sums up the yearning nature of many of Fitzgerald's characters. All too often they long for things or people that lie beyond their capacity to attain.


Long ago, there was something in me, but now that thing is gone.

Dexter Green, Winter Dreams

This quotation poignantly sums up Dexter Green's feelings of frustration, grief, and loss. He is unable to name the "something" that has vanished and can't vent his emotions. Fitzgerald's use of repetition is especially effective in the closing sentences of the story.


Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.

Narrator, The Rich Boy

This quotation is an iconic statement about the wealthy crowd Fitzgerald loved to portray in his fiction.


Most of our lives end as a compromise—it was as a compromise that his life began.

Narrator, The Rich Boy

Fitzgerald is often capable of pithy statements, as in this comment on the life of Anson Hunter.


They couldn't make him pay forever ... Helen wouldn't have wanted him to be so alone.

Narrator, Babylon Revisited

This section of interior monologue closes the story "Babylon Revisited." It gives us insight into the poignant, self-pitying inner thoughts of Charlie Wales. He has failed to regain custody of his daughter, Honoria, several years after the death of his wife, Helen. A former alcoholic and spendthrift, Charlie has not persuaded his sister-in-law he is worthy to resume his role as a father.


Oh, yes, I'll be back—I'll be back!

Joel Coles, Crazy Sunday

Like Charlie Wales in "Babylon Revisited," Joel Coles closes "Crazy Sunday" with an assertion of perseverance—though in Joel's case the reader may doubt the wisdom of this character's resolution.

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