I need help with Brideshead Revisited!

Brideshead Revisited is my favorite novel and I need some help with two of the characters. In their separate ways I believe they are keys to the story but I can’t seem to quite grasp how …

Lady Marchmain (mother of Bridey, Sebastian, Julia and Cordelia). Where lies her mistake? Anthony Blanche, Charles and Sebastian all agree she’s a big problem. But I don’t see it.
Perhaps she shouldn’t have gotten Sebastian out of jail after the drunk driving incident. She shouldn’t have trusted Samgrass and she shouldn’t have given in to Rex’s ludicrous idea about sending Sebastian to some clinic in Switzerland. And before she sees clearly she’s unfair to Charles (calling him cruel for lending some money to Sebastian on the day of the fox hunt).
But I don’t see how her mistakes are worse than what Lord Flyte (the father) has done. He has left her to raise the children on her own - and a lot of the things she gets wrong are the sort of things fathers normally would deal with. All I see is a god catholic woman trying the best she can. Is all the talk about her sucking the life out of the family simply atheistic slander?

Anthony “Antoine” Blanche. At times he reminds me of an oracle in a greek drama. Strangely unbiased and all-knowing (for example in his analysis of Charles’ Latin American paintings). And yet he completely mistakes Sebastian’s charm for shallow when it is in fact founded on real goodness (in the conversation on his “date” with Charles at Oxford). And why does he try to turn Charles against Sebastian? Did Anthony Blanche really try to give Sebastian a haven in Turkey or was he sabotaging on purpose?

Oh I hope there is at least one more Brideshead nerd here who can help me out!

Lady Marchmain failed in these things because she lacked true charity towards others. She was too self-righteous, which put others off personally and spiritually. If I may use the term, she was a religious nazi.

As to Anthony Blanche, he may have had good motives, from what I can recall about him. But, even good intentions can go astray when they aren’t applied with right reason. That may have been his failing.

It seems to me Evelyn Waugh was saying that God brings about good things through imperfect human beings as they surrender to his grace. Some characters come to see this, like Lord Marchmain and Charles Ryder. I’m not sure Lady Marchmain ever really does, even though she’s such a faithful Catholic. Only God could judge her soul, but I rather thought she had all the outward appearances, but very little of the inward life of true Christianity. What do you think?

I think she’s for real. I think her faith is true. She has such an understanding of Sebastian’s depression and Julia’s hopeless situation with Rex.She is emotionally cool, though. I wonder if that’s it? That she doesn’t cry and wail and beat her chest … Perhaps that’s why she comes of as an ice queen …

But the very reason why I opened this thread is because I can’t make up my mind about her. I just made the mistake, I think, to imagine there was some one else in the world with such a nerdy interest in this book …

That’s what makes a classic story like BR so good. Everyone sees aspects to the characters through his own experience. The book speaks to us on many levels, teaching us things about ourselves we need to know.

Don’t worry about being a BR nerd. At least there’s two of us here so you’re not totally alone, if that’s any consolation. :wink:

I don’t know what books children are encouraged to read now days, but I’ll bet you they aren’t the classics we were expected to read. It’s a great pity because they’re missing out on history and culture in favor of whatever is popular in our day, which “ain’t” all that great. Sad, isn’t it?

I get a chance to change those things around though. I’m a swedish teacher and when ever those kids come up to me and say “can’t we read this friendly-dragon-and-witch-kill-evil-priest-story” I say with my best sunshine-voice “no! But we’ll read something much better called N-a-r-n-i-a”.

Kudos to you! If only our American schools had more teachers like you! I remember reading a portion of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” when I was in junior high (about age 13). It was the part in which Eustace turns into a dragon. I loved it but had no idea it was from a series of books. I can bet you our secularized schools no longer recommend The Chronicles of Narnia. Too religious. But Harry Potter is just find. Go figure!

Have to ask … do you read O’brien? Have you read “A Landscape With Dragons”? Turned my whole attitude towards children’s culture around. I thought I was being rather careful before but there was so much more to consider! One thinks that would make it more difficult but not really. Before I sometimes felt bad for not getting into the modern stuff. Now I jcan pick Little House on the Prairie as this months book without thinking twice. Plus there’s an e x t e n s i v e list of good (in both senses) books in the back.

I haven’t read O’Brien’s books–just haven’t been able to afford them. Same with “A Landscape with Dragons”. In order to be able to say something intelligent about his central thesis, I just read an article he wrote about the Harry Potter books. He doesn’t pass over a single failing he sees in the stories, that’ for sure. And he may be right in his evaluation. I haven’t read the HP books. Once again finances played a part in that, but I have also been writing my own series of children’s books and didn’t want to be influenced by Rowling. As he said, though she turns everything upside down and inside out that we normally see in fairy tales. Its’ what makes them fresh to a new readership/audience–like the Shrek film series.

I think what really bothers O’Brien is the use of magic spells, the killing, and power as the way to solve one’s problems. The stories lack the need for divine help or grace, unlike LOTR that implies rather than states such a need. I have to wonder, though if children are picking up on these things as much as he. Violence is an all too real part of modern life, what with it splashed on our TVs in both drama and the news and in film and books. Modern kids are inured to it and passively accept it. I don’t know that HP has lent any power to young people using force/guns/violence.

Frankly, I think O’Brien a bit of an alarmist–not that that’s a bad thing, but he may be making too much of it. Many a series of children’s books have come and gone that were wildly popular in their day and have now disappeared for new tales that speak to a new generation. The ones that stick, though are those with real value, such as Narnia and LOTR. I think HP will come and go and the next generation will be saying, “Harry who?”


O’Brien certainly is extreme. He still might be right. I’m not entirely convinced by some of his reasoning but his main point is that of symbolism. That the western symbols are there for a reason. That they explain the world from a christian perspective. that it’s a language through which we can get to know God. Change those symbols and you ruin that language. On that point I think he’s right. And it doesn’t really matter if HP is forgotten (I don’t think it will be) as long as the trend is there. We’ve been seeing symbol-twisting for a long time.

One thing I know: most Swedish children consider dragons to be good creatures. Like fairies or something. Because almost all the dragons they encounter in culture are sweet and funny. But when I give them an evil dragon by reading Bilbo or The Brothers Lionheart to them they are immediately very very intrigued. It seems to ring true to them, somehow.

Yes, I agree. Take the swastika, for instance. Talk about twisting a symbol from one of good to evil! :eek: Hitler was ahead of his time there. Even synagogues used it as part of their symbolism until the Nazis used it against them.

One thing I know: most Swedish children consider dragons to be good creatures. Like fairies or something. Because almost all the dragons they encounter in culture are sweet and funny. But when I give them an evil dragon by reading Bilbo or The Brothers Lionheart to them they are immediately very very intrigued. It seems to ring true to them, somehow.

Dragons as friendly creatures is silly. Like turning the savage T-Rex into Barney. :rolleyes: I did like Anne McCaffery’s dragons, though. They could be made into friends, but like the domestic cat, could never really be considered totally tamed. You’re right–dragons should be thought of as dangerous and unpredictable at the best.

If the dragon is a symbol for the demon, befriending them is not a very good idea. But i haven’t read McCaffery. But I get what you’re saying. And I’m so glad to have this discussion!

Well, I don’t think we can use a strict a one-to-one comparison between dragons and demons. The dragon wasn’t an evil symbol to the Chinese. And although we’re told that Satan is like a lion seeking whom he can devour, we love the character of Aslan in the Narnia stories. I don’t like allegorical types all that much. They can be used as archetypes, it’s true, but they can also be too limiting. As Catholics we don’t think sinners are without any redeeming qualities. We don’t paint people black or white. Doing so is rather unChristian at the best and downright dangerous at the worst. True?

I’m enjoying our discussion too. I just wish more people would join in to share their thoughts. :frowning:

Jesus is strong as the lion in the desert. So Lions are not strong symbols for either party.

So - you’re writing something yourself? What is it?

That’s true. :slight_smile:

So - you’re writing something yourself? What is it?

I am writing a sequel (part of a trilogy) to my first published fantasy (I style it mythological) book, “Eagle Moutain”. It’s a Narniaesque story set in a mythical land. The only talking animals are Avians–the reason for that to be explained in the final book.

I also wrote a series of five stories for young children, “The Slipper Saga” for which I have yet to find a publisher.

Also, a devotional work of mine, “The Beautiful Gate Rosary” was published by Our Sunday Visitor, and I’ve written a few articles for a couple of magazines.

I currently am trying to find an agent to represent my screenplay, a sci-fi action thriller, “The Revenge of the Thing from Another World” which is a follow up story to the original 1951 film, “The Thing from Another World”. I’m a huge classic sci-fi fan.

So far my writing hasn’t paid very well, but what writer worth his salt has ever been stopped by that? :wink:

How about you? Are you a writing addict, too?

Hey published means successful. how many writers ever did earn a lot of money?

No I’m not an addict writer. I’m a good writer but a bad story teller. And can’t say I have any real longing to write something of my own. So I work for a publishing company. Editing, proofreading and, once in a while, translating. I’m definitely more addicted to reading than to writing.

There are days when I don’t think I’m a good writer, either, especially when going through writer’s block. LOL!

It’s hard for people who write religiously based fiction to get published now days. The secular publishers aren’t interested unless the work bashes religion such as The DaVinci Code and the religious publishers don’t publish fiction. Evelyn Waugh wouldn’t have been published under these circumstances, either. So, we have to go to ones like Publish America that don’t care about the subject matter but that don’t promote the work, either. It’s discouraging to say that least!

If you are interested in what Catholic writers are doing, you should check out The Catholic Writers Guild. I am a member. I think you’d find it interesting.

will do! thanks!

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