Babylon Revisited: And Other Stories | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Course Hero, "Babylon Revisited: And Other Stories Study Guide," November 29, 2017, accessed December 11, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Babylon-Revisited-And-Other-Stories/.

Babylon Revisited: And Other Stories | The Ice Palace | Summary

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Summary

In sunny, sleepy Tarleton, Georgia, Sally Carrol Happer is coming of age and pondering marriage. Her young gentleman friends urge her not to marry a Yankee, but her heart is set on Harry Bellamy, who hails from the North. During a brief visit by Harry to Tarleton, Sally Carrol takes him to one of her "favorite haunts," the cemetery, where she waxes emotional over the grave of Margery Lee, who died at the tender age of 29 in 1873. The two also visit the graves of the "unknown" Confederate dead, and once again Sally Carrol becomes emotional. She calls their sacrifice heroic. Harry responds supportively but reserves his real enthusiasm for a discussion of Sally Carrol's upcoming visit to him in the North, where she plans to stay at least a month during carnival time. Two months after that, in March, they plan to be married.

The remainder of the story recounts Sally Carrol's visit to the North. Almost from the beginning she finds the weather uncomfortable and the way of life unfamiliar and off-putting, despite Harry's ostentatious boasts that his region has produced some of the nation's best athletes and financiers.

Sally Carrol does enjoy some relaxing conversation at a dinner party with an older man named Roger Patton. However, her state of almost constant tension is unmistakable. She lashes out when Harry criticizes some Southern men as degenerate and shiftless. The same night, when an orchestra plays "Dixie" at the end of a vaudeville performance, the song transports Sally Carrol into a wave of nostalgia.

The climax of the story is the couple's visit to the ice palace. This structure, made entirely of ice, stands three stories high. It is elaborately decorated with realistic architectural elements and many electric lights. Harry delightedly reels off statistics about the size and layout while Sally Carrol thinks of some famous lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan. More ominously, the structure suggests to her a pagan sacrifice to a Nordic god of snow.

With growing excitement and enthusiasm, Harry urges Sally Carrol to follow him to the labyrinths inside the palace. The two become separated, and suddenly all the lights go out. Sally Carrol panics, and a deep terror possesses her. Completely out of her element, she feels as if she is in foreign territory. Then she thinks she sees the comforting ghost of Margery Lee. After two hours elapse, she is finally rescued by Roger Patton. Screaming fearfully, Sally Carrol begs to go home—not later than tomorrow.

Back in Tarleton in April, Sally Carrol relaxes, just as she did at the story's beginning. Also, just as at the beginning, her friend Clark Darrow appears in his ancient Ford, inviting her to go swimming.

Analysis

As the initial story in the collection, "The Ice Palace" introduces a number of Fitzgerald's most important themes in this anthology as a whole. Sally Carrol Happer is ambitious and imaginative; she does not want to be stuck forever in sleepy Tarleton, Georgia. At the same time, she is characterized as timid and traditional, wrapped up in the myth of a glorious and defeated Confederacy, which is epitomized by her fantasies in the Tarleton cemetery about Margery Lee and the "unknown" Confederate soldiers who sacrificed themselves for "the dead South." Sally Carrol's fantasy life comes up hard against the brute realities of the harsh northern climate and the even harsher prejudices of spoiled, biased characters like Harry Bellamy. If Sally Carrol dreams to excess, Harry suffers from an imagination deficit. As his comments about Southern men reveal, he is also a racist: "They've lived so long down there with all the colored people that they've gotten lazy and shiftless." Harry is, in fact, as cold-hearted as the weather conditions in his home region. The closing sentence of Section 3 is quite evocative: "She buried her face deep in his fur coat and trembled involuntarily as his cold lips kissed the tip of her ear."

Thus Sally Carrol's foray outside of Georgia proves a dismal failure. In fact she makes emphatic use of this adjective soon after she arrives to visit Harry: "It was a dismal town after all, she thought—dismal." The ring-composition structure of the story, in which the final paragraphs pointedly echo the opening paragraphs, signal that Sally Carrol's dream has been in vain.

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