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In "Babylon Revisited," F. Scott Fitzgerald authors the story of a man trying to regain what he lost as a consequence of his former wanton lifestyle. Some things are irretrievable once they are lost, but others are not. Charlie Wales had previously, in a weak moment, agreed to transfer custody of his only child to his deceased wife's sister, but after having put his life back together, realizes the terrible mistake he had made. He is now determined to correct that error by regaining custody of the most important thing in his life, his daughter. In doing so, he must return to the place of his downfall, a place full of pain, suffering, and dreadful memories precipitated by the frivolous lifestyle he had led together with his wife. This story illustrates how one can never entirely run away from his or her past. Not so much that ones past returns to haunt them, rather that ones actions carry consequences which remain forever, even after one might have changed oneself.
A year and a half prior to our story, Charlie Wales lived with his wife, Helen in Paris. As members of the social elite, a position granted to them on account of their great wealth, they had very few responsibilities. Having more than enough money, with more rolling in daily from their investments, Charlie did not see any reason to continue working. Instead, he opted to retire and enjoy life together with his wife and friends. An entire society existed of these seemingly fortunate folk, who perceived themselves as being better than everyone else is. "We were a sort of royalty, almost infallible, with a sort of magic around us," Charlie reflected.
In the following year and a half, Charlie worked very hard to reestablish himself as an honorable member of society. He moved away from the place of his life's destruction, found a good job, stopped his former bad habits such as drinking, and
readied himself for the responsibilities of bringing up his daughter as a single father. At
that point, he returned to Paris to speak with his sister-in-law and her husband, in an attempt to regain custody of his daughter. He reasoned with them, or rather argued his case to the best of his
ability. He seemed at first to have persuaded them, until a chance encounter with some friends of his past ruined his stand. Duncan and Lorain, partners of Charlie in the now extinct Parisian social elite, showed up at his sister-in law's house unexpectedly, behaving as though nothing had changed in the last year and a half. They were rude and discourteous, acting as if they had the right to be wherever they wanted whenever they wanted, without giving as much as thought to who they might be inconveniencing or disturbing. They had come to invite Charlie out to dinner and catch up on the past few months. Although he flatly refused their invitation and politely informed them that he was no longer interested in their company, his sister-in-law, Maurine, still found grounds to refuse his request to regain custody of his daughter.
On the surface, Maurine had no basis on which to refuse Charlie. He had not done anything wrong. He had not done anything, for that matter. Actually, when this unfortunate event presented itself, he displayed genuine sincere outrage. There was nothing more he could have done, and no better to have reacted. Only upon a deeper look can one understand what had transpired. Upon finalizing the decision to return custody of Honoria to her father, Maurine was suddenly and rudely reminded of how Charlie had been not too long before. Even though he had changed and was in fact a different person, he nevertheless was the same man who had lived and behaved so differently just a short while before.
People can change themselves, but they cannot, by any means, change their pasts. The consequences of a person's actions live on with them forever, becoming their personal rival to be overcome and conquered. Whatever success one might realize in this ongoing battle let it always be remembered that ones mistakes and wrongdoing will never disappear.
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