F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story “Babylon Revisited” is the tale of Charlie Wales, who might have been a cautionary figure for Fitzgerald’s own life. Wales and his wife, Helen, used to drink excessively and get in dramatic, drawn-out fights. They had a daughter together, named Honoria. One night in 1929, during the heady days of the Jazz Age that preceded the arrival of the Great Depression, they had had a particularly awful fight, and Charlie ended up locking his wife out in the snowy night, and she became sick and died from exposure. The daughter, Honoria, ended up with Helen’s sister and brother-in-law as her guardians, and Charlie’s quest in this story is to resume his relationship with his daughter. He is no longer drinking to excess, and the extent to which his priorities during his drinking days had been distorted is made obvious by the fact that Alix, the bartender where he first stops in Paris, knows Charlie very well, but does not know that Charlie has a daughter. Charlie’s quest is to reclaim his daughter (and if you doubt that he is on an heroic quest, it is no accident that the extremely picky editor Fitzgerald chose Helen for Charlie’s wife’s name). The pain of losing his wife and the presence of his daughter hurts Charlie – but it has not killed him; he has not succumbed to despair. Instead, he is patiently waiting for his chance to be reunited with her. Charlie regrets the lack of vision which he had had while his wife was alive – the promise of money blurred everything. After all, “the snow of twenty-nine wasn’t real snow. If you didn’t want it to be snow, you just paid some money” (“Babylon Revisited”). Because his intoxicated friends show up at his sister’s house while Charlie is there, trying to get his daughter, his sister-in-law becomes extremely upset – and he’ll have to wait six months to bring up the topic again. He is patient; but he is sad: as he puts it, he “would come back some day; they couldn’t make him pay forever. But he wanted his child, and nothing was much good now, beside that fact.”
In Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” game hunter Richard Rainsford has fallen off a yacht and must swim to shore on the notorious “Ship-Trap Island,” known for the rocks off shore that cause shipwrecks. This story is set late in the colonial era, when many of the islands in the Caribbean and other tropical locales were not independent states but instead were colonial possessions of the major European nations. There, he meets the insane General Zaroff, who has turned his island into a private preserve that allows him to hunt “the most dangerous game” – humans. Rainsford is the most difficult target that General Zaroff has ever pursued, though, and his Malay man-catcher wounds Zaroff. His Burmese tiger trap kills one of Zaroff’s hounds, and his Ugandan knife trick kills Zaroff’s aide and companion, Ivan. However, Zaroff and his hounds begin to close in on Rainsford, and so he must jump from a cliff, into the waters below. This might have killed most of Zaroff’s prey, but Rainsford’s decades of experience hunting and tracking in dangerous environments has paid off, and the challenges he has faced have made him a much more dangerous enemy. Rainsford survives the fall, swims to shore, and encounters Zaroff in his house. Zaroff concedes the victory, but Rainsford wants to fight him anyway, to the death; Zaroff puts the stakes to include the right to sleep in Zaroff’s bed. The end, of course, leaves ambiguous whether or not Rainsford simply takes Zaroff’s place.
“Hills Like White Elephants” features the middle of a challenge that ends up facing most men at some point in his life. The American and the girl, Jig, are traveling together, on the eternal vacation that characterized life for so many in what Gertrude Stein called the “Lost Generation,” a group of young people who left America to tour Europe between the two World Wars, using the strong currency and parental trust funds to live an extended life of leisure, delaying the passage to adult life for as long as possible. As Jig points out, though, “That’s all [they] do…look at things and try new drinks”(“Hills Like White Elephants”). The operation to which Jig and the American elliptically refer is an abortion – the American wants her to have one, so they can be “just like [they] were before.” Jig is uncertain, and the story does not resolve the point. The American is at a growing point in his life – the point where he has to decide what sort of person he wants to be. Whether he will accept the challenge of adulthood by marrying and becoming a father is an important part of what will or will not strengthen him, going forward.
Finally, The Call of the Wild portrays Buck, a Saint Bernard/Scotch shepherd mix who had grown up as a puppy in a domestic situation but ends up in Alaska during the days of the Klondike Gold Rush, as a sled dog. Following his primal instincts, he learns how to survive in the pack and, ultimately, defeats the lead dog, Spitz, to take over the team. Each of his experiences – learning to defeat Spitz, surviving the doomed trip led by Hal, defeating the Yeehat Indians who slew John Thornton, his last master – makes him stronger and brings him closer to his “true” state – a wild animal. At the end, he enters the woods and lives with the wolf, answering the “call of the wild.”
Connell, Richard. “The Most Dangerous Game.” Web. Retrieved 17 October 2011 at
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. “Babylon Revisited.” Web. Retrieved 17 October 2011 at
Hemingway, Ernest. “Hills Like White Elephants.” Web. Retrieved 17 October 2011 at