Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: Catholicism and the English Aristocracy


Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is an English novel written at the end of WWII. It tells the story of Captain Charles Ryder who, after stumbling upon the old mansion called Brideshead with his army brigade, remembers how he became acquainted with the house and its family twenty years prior.

Charles is student at Oxford shortly after WWI, at a time when the lifestyle of English aristocracy is fading from society. He befriends Sebastian Flyte, the youngest son of an aristocratic family, and they quickly form a strong attachment to each other. Sebastian is charming and attractive but deeply troubled, and his excessive escapism drinking eventually leads Charles to the rest of the Flyte family–Lady Marchain and Sebastian’s three siblings, Bridey, Julia, and Cordelia.

This is one of those novels that contains more theme than plot, more to be analyzed than absorbed at first reading. Waugh takes on the big three–love, family, and religion–in this, his most famous novel. The relationship between Sebastian and Charles is deeply embedded with homosexual undertones, and the Marchmains’ strong Catholic beliefs influence their decisions and define their relationships, both in and outside of the family. Simply put, Brideshead Revisited illustrates the conflicting war between religious morals and human desires. By telling the story in perspective, Waugh demonstrates that we can only hope to understand our actions and experiences by looking back on them.

1 comment:

Salvatore said…

I find Waugh to be a great novelist. I’d check out ‘Decline and Fall’, which is much more absurd and hysterical. Funnily enough, I found that I made friends in similar ways to Ryder at Oxford.

Talk about nostalgia.