Brideshead Revisited



Charles = Captain Charles Ryder of the British Army, 1940s

'I reflected now that it had no single happy memory for me'

  • Harsh reality of war juxtaposed with the Golden Age of Brideshead
  • corruption of the rural idyll

'The place had been marked for destruction before the army came to it'

  • Decline of the aristocracy, the counry house, locus amoenus, the Golden Age

''I've been here before'... the words seemed to ring back to me enriched from the vaults of my dungeon'

  • antipastoral, juxtaposes BH's open green
  • 'dungeon' of memories, BH is more than just a property to Charles

'I had been there before; and I knew all about it' - Shakespearian narrative of the semicolon

  • epiphanic moment,nostalgia & lament for the past
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Book One, Chapter One

'scents of summer'

  • retreat & return, Oxford ideals
  • sibilance, lulled into a sense of revelry - theme of alcoholosim starts to come through

'open parkland... new and secret landscape... head of a valley' 

  • 'secrecy' - remeniscent of The Secret Garden, yet also potential for danger
  • idealisation or the Classic Pastoral and rural life
  • Arcadia = valley in the greek peloponnese

Sebastian - 'It's where my family live'

  • detatches himself from family - Charles gets an 'ominous chill' as he barely has any family
  • Sebastian esssentially makes himself homeles - foreshadows his self- destuction
  • Danger in Arcadia

Sebastian's family are 'in London dancing'

  • ironic retrest to an antipastoral, urban area to escaptethe tranquility of the pastoral
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Book One, Chapter one

Sebastians nanny is surrounded by aesthetic pleasure - 'the fountain' 'the lakes' but also 'the temple'

  • the list of three ends on the temple, adding empahsis to its significance
  • aesthetic pleasures have no value - only God

Sebastians nanny - 'it's dull without them' (the family)

  • Family is central to the Flytes - however this is not the case for Sebastian
  • Is he ashamed?

'what they always want to go to London for in the best of summer.... I have never understood'

  • Appreciates the pastoral, leisurely lifestyle
  • rest of family is antipastoral
  • contrasting pastoral ideals
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Book One, Chapter Two

Waugh demonstrates his purpose as more aesthetic, rather than pastoral or spiritual

‘It was true; my room had cast its austere winter garments’

‘A dozen, frivolous new books’ ‘a Lalique decanter and glasse’ ‘a human skull’

-          Each item was purchased for its aesthetic purpose, to make Charles appear more cultured than he really is

-          The skull inscribed ‘Et in Arcadia ego’ presents his true value for the pastoral, yet also foreshadows the death of his Arcadian days in Oxford

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Book One, Chapter Two

Waugh also presents the importance of the aesthetic presentation of each character within the chapter – from Blanche’s perspective

Julia = ‘you know what she looks like’ ‘the face of flawless Florentine quattrocento beauty’

Lord M = ‘a little fleshy perhaps, but very handsome’

Lady M = ‘Very, very beautiful… her hair just turning grey in elegant silvery streaks

Bridey = ‘a learned bigot, a ceremonious barbarian, a snowbound lama’ – he has no aesthetic purpose or appreciation. Ignorance, closed minded, ambiguous etc.

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Book One, Chapter Three

Julia ‘flung her coat on a marble table’

-Commonplace – the Flyte’s are oblivious to the cost of their possessions

- Unappreciative of the pastoral?

‘I thought you were dying’ – ‘he was in pyjamas and a dressing gown with one foot heavily bandaged’

-          Sebastian’s tendency to exaggerate, presents himself as a grand tragedy.

-          Also shows Seb’s significance to Charles, and how much Seb wanted him there

‘We’ll have a heavenly time alone’… I felt a sense of liberation and peace’

- exclusive refuge – utopian

- Charles feels ‘liberated’, euphoric at the thought of time alone with Seb – Golden Age

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Book One, Chapter Three - The Painted Parlour

‘spacious octagon’/’wreathed medallions’/’prim Pompeian figures stood in pastoral groups’/’bronze candelabrum’/’mirrors’

-          A room based purely on aesthetics

-          ‘Pompeii’ connotations of tragedy – Et in arcadia ego. Aesthetic purpose to appear cultured is fulfilled, yet really it is fake.

-          Sebastian- ‘It’s just so cosy’

-          Ironic, a spacious, mirrored room with ornate items is far from cosy

-          All is commonplace to the flights – they’ve lost their sense of wealth.

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Book One, Chapter Four

You could only appreciate the beauty of the world by trying to paint it’

-irony, the Flyte’s are surrounded by baroque yet can’t contribute to the atmosphere they’ve created

-aesthetic influence

‘She couldn’t draw at all’

-Lack of aesthetic understanding – further irony

Ought we to be drunk every night’ Sebastian asked

-          Beginning of descent into alcoholism

-          -Charles drinks to enjoy, Seb to escape

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Book One, Chapter Five

Still trying to convert me. Cordelia?’ - C feels threatened

‘I caught him… with an unseen hook and invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still bring him back with a twitch upon a thread

  • -          Twitch upon a thread – name of Book three
  • -          ironic as we are lead to believe that this will be Sebastian from his alcoholism, however it is Charles

‘I had had my finger in the great, succulent pie of creation’

  • -          golden age, utopia ‘succulent’
  • -          God’s creation of Earth, yet he was controlling it – he was living in his own Arcadia

‘His days in Arcadia were numbered’

  • -          Sebastian’s drinking habits will lead him to be forced out of Arcadia, as Adam and Eve were from Eden
  • -          He drinks to escape the pastoral, Charles own Arcadia
  • -          Are they numbered in Charles’ Arcadia or his own – with Charles?
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Book Two, Chapter One

‘A moon landscape of barren lava’

  • BH has begins to decay into antipastoral – Charles Arcadia becomes dystopian
  • Dead, infertile

‘Family skeleton'-  Et in Arcadia ego, antipastoral, foreshadows the death of Lady M

‘We have no secrets in this house’ -Irony of Seb's drinking, ‘family skeletons’ in the closet

‘I don’t understand how you can have been so nice…. And then do something so cruel’

‘I was unmoved’

  • -maternal instincts, both in care for Sebastian and telling of Charles
  • Charles detaches himself from the family – lack of nurture from his own parents
  • His love for Sebastian is so deep he doesn’t care for Lady M’s concerns

I was leaving part of myself behind’

  • Arcadia, spiritual & intimate connection to BH and the family, even if he seems to deny it through his actions & reactions
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Book Two, Chapter Two

‘This was my first commission; I had to work against time’

  • Capturing final moment of paradise before destruction, et in arcadia ego

‘The contractors were only waiting for the final signature to start their work of destruction’

  • -unimportant to outsiders, but holds a special connection to Charles
  • painting will be a memory of his Arcadia
  • Decline of the country house, destruction of paradise – et in arcadia ego
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Book Two, Chapter Three

Kurt – ‘hair combed back without a parting’ ‘face that was unnaturally lines’ ‘the teeth he had were stained with tobacco’

  • wolfish description; parodyof Sebastian, not aesthetically beautiful

a saucer full of cigarette ends; he held a glass of beer’

  •  kurt represents Sebastians downfall

Charles – ‘I’m only a friend’

  • he has matured, the relationship is dead

‘young Flyte’ 

  • childlike, lack of nurture, Charles = parental figure, he has matured
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Book Three, Chapter One

Twitch upon a thread – The Innocence of Father Brown

‘I caught him… with an unseen hook and invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still bring him back with a twitch upon a thread’

  • Charles doesn’t realised he has been hooked, he will be ‘reeled in’

At start – ‘those pictures were my last contact with the Flyte’s’

  • end of Golden age and aristocracy for Chalres
  • J to C about Sebastian ‘you loved him, didn’t you?’ ‘Oh yes’ Julia Understood’
  • She’s content with his sexuality – not a threat
  • Julia has the aesthetic appeal of Sebastian, and Charles is able to repeat his Golden days
  • Total equality and honesty – suffering has levelled them
  • Celia and Rex’s unfaithfulness morally elevates C and J
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Book Three, Chapter One

Julia – ‘now I suppose I will be punished for what I’ve just done’ ‘part of a plan’

  • Marrying Rex who was divorced – aware of sin yet no regret?
  • Tries to justify her sins through religion
  • Gods plan has lead C and J together? Divine Grace, twitch upon a thread.

‘There is a whole word of things we understand and he doesn’t’

  • Social and cultural gap – aristocracy and aesthetics
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Book Three, Chapter Two

‘He knew of Julia… a suitable prize’

  • Rex marries J for her dowry, family estate, name, beauty – objectifies her
  • She’s with Rex for power and money – his affair motivates her, sexual competition

Julia's golden age and ‘Idyllic weeks’ were ‘sunshine between the trees’

Now: ‘creature neither child nor woman’

  • nostalgia of her old self
  • relates to sebastian’s ‘young’, childish tendencies, yet the maturity of his addiction

‘I was not her man’

  • Charles realises the relationship wont endure – foreshadows that it wont last

‘Perhaps it was Julia I’d known in him (Sebastian) in those Arcadian Days’

  • does he feel the same euphoric feeling with Julia as he did with Sebastian?
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Book Three, Chapter Three

‘The fountain which in that house seemed always to draw us to itself for comfort and refreshment’ -Classic pastoral motif, nostalgia

 ‘Draw us to itself’ – maternal? Fills aesthetic purpose

‘Why is it that love makes me hate the world?’

  • Lost love of Seb, Arcadia, golden days.
  • The things he’s loved have also caused him pain = paranoia

‘I needed this voice from the past to recall me’

  • Lament for loss, nostalgia. He has matured but still laments for Sebastian’s love and the golden age

‘I feel like the past and the future pressing are pressing so hard on either side’

  • Claustrophobic, yet C is content in the present
  • -          Waugh = disrupting social conventions
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Book Three, Chapter Three - Julia

 ‘Trying to be a good wife while all he does is smoke and drink’

‘I was trying to bear a child’

  • attempt at fertility and to be a conventional wife, yet Rex didn’t appreciate her efforts
  • Rex = otium cum dignitate, while Julia represents Et in Arcadia ego

‘Mummy carrying my sin with her’

  • J believes that her sin was more deadly to her than her illness – perpetual suffering
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Book Three, Chapter Four

 ‘Perhaps years later, to what’s left of it, with what’s left of us…’

  • Fragmented future, mortality, endings
  • No new beginning for Charles and Julia despite desire, their future is flawed – reflected by incomplete sentence structure

‘I had not forgotten Sebastian, every stone in the house had a memory of him’

  • -          Arcadian days, lament for lost & love, nostalgia for the past

‘He always got into trouble whatever he did’

  • Sebastian’s childlike qualities never seem to fade, and Charles appears superior and adopts almost paternal feelings for him.
  • Kurt and Seb are both childlike figures – drawn to one another

‘They put him (Kurt) in a concentration camp’ – death of the pastoral

‘He went back to morocco’ –trying to recover the pastoral, nostalgia

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Book Three, Chapter Five

'Ego te absolvo in nomine' - I absolve you in the name of the father

'Then I knelt, too, and prayed'/ 'I suddenly felt the longing for a sign'

  • The thread has been twitches
  • open communication with god

'the universal drama in which there is only one actor'

  • strong connection with God
  • theatrical lang again 'my theme is memory'
  • thinking of it as unrealistic helps him to deal with the situation

'O god' I prayed 'dont let him do that.' But there was no need for fear'

  • The twitch becomes v real as he prays for the first time
  • He has given into religion and therefore no longer fears
  • He trusts in God 
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Book Three, Chapter Five

'The last words spoken between Julia and me'

  • end of relationship, end of Sebastian - et in arcadia ego

'I can marry you, Charles; I cant be with you ever again'

'I hope your heart may break, but I do understand'

  • wants it to not be pointless, a broken heart shows there was meaning behind it, gods plan?

'I cant shut myself out from him... starting a life with you, without him'

  • Marrying Charles would mean that she would be 'living in sin', marrying a gain after a divroce etc
  • links to earlier monologue
  • Julia picks God over Charles, ironic as Charles has just converted
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Book Three, Chapter Five

'The avalanche was down'

'the last echoes died on the white slopes'

'the new mound glittered and lay still in the silent valley'

  • metaphor - death of relationship, golden days etc, et in Arcadia ego
  • 'silent valley' -emptiness not promise of a green, fertile future

Divine Grace spreads 

  • Julia is the third Convert (Lord M and Charles)
  • She doesnt want to reject God anymore because of a relationship
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