After the First World War, America got on the fast lane. The 1920's were a golden era for America as industries flourished. The economy was in a boom and more and more money was flowing down to the people. Alcohol that had been prohibited under the 18th amendment become very popular and so was jazz music the hit of the 20s. Women become more assertive, their dressing more provocative and there was in general an atmosphere of change. Americans were swimming in riches easily gotten and the thought of what tomorrow will bring was a bother to nobody. Many Americans went to other countries as expatriates. The setting of the story, Paris France, is compared to the Babylon City of the ancient time. In entertainment and pleasure, Paris was way ahead of other cities earning itself the nickname 'the Sin City'. When Charlie visits the first time, he wonders in awe at the magnificent city only to realize after his second coming it's filthy, corrupted and of a lower quality of life than many American cities of the time.
Babylon Revisited highlights the changes of the 1920's and their effects afterwards. Its main character is Charlie a typical young America of the 1920's who had made riches in America and then escaped to Paris, France to enjoy them. From the story we see the first change in the lifestyle of Americans, lots of drinking and merry-making which were previously not associated with Americans but the French. The other change is found in Charlie Wales; at the bar he comes out as one who is recovering from alcoholism and worth to keep custody of their daughter.
Charlie also finds a lot of change in Paris after his absence of one and a half years in Prague
He was not really disappointed to find Paris was so empty. But the stillness in the Ritz bar was strange and portentous. It was not an American bar any more--he felt polite in it, and not as if he owned it. It had gone back into France. He felt the stillness from the moment he got out of the taxi and saw the doorman, usually in a frenzy of activity at this hour, gossiping with a chasseur by the servants' entrance.(Goldberg, 2006)
The bar is devoid of the many Americans who visited it before the great depression. The whole city is different from what it was before he went to Prague.
Afterwards Charlie goes to Marion, his wife's sister, and manages to convince her that he is a different to an extent she agrees giving him the custodian of his daughter, Honororia. He is later refused after two of his friends appear drunk.
The theme of change runs throughout the story. Chief among it is Charlie decision to change his life. Charlie struggles to abandon drinking and to convince others that he has opened a new chapter of his life. However, he finds it hard convincing others of his change.