“Babylon Revisited” (1931) embodies a paradox in the Fitzgerald canon. On the one hand, it first appeared in the publication (The Saturday Evening Post) that its author believed wasted his talent by forcing him to write for cash instead of the aesthetic accomplishment attainable in the novel. But the story is also widely considered one of his greatest achievements, a complex exploration of the dissipating moral values of the 1920s that at once critiques the era's profligacy while reminiscing nostalgically over irresponsibility from the austere perspective of the Great Depression. This article examines the depiction of dissipation through a thorough stylistic analysis to provide formal evidence of the story's literary worth. Specifically, it argues that the story's dramatic tension rises from two interrelated conflicts between dissipation and legacy. The aesthetic staging of these conflicts parallels Fitzgerald's own metatextual struggle to resolve his feelings of having too long squandered his literary talent with commercial short fiction, effectively reversing the plot's insistence that one cannot recover from dissolution. The article demonstrates that “Babylon Revisited” aesthetically represents Fitzgerald's capacity to “make something out of nothing” by turning the thin air of dissipation and disillusion into economical yet valuable prose.

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