The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

23 Nov 2008


Yesterday I went to the cinema and watched Brideshead Revisited. I must say that I started to read the novel years ago but never finished it and that I only saw part of the TV miniseries with Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder. Anyhow last year I read about this book as well as about A Handful of Dust when studying Evelyn Waugh’s work in the subject of Literatura Inglesa III. From that partial previous knowledge, my idea of the story was that of a young middle class Oxonian fascinated by the aristocratic world represented by a mansion and a Catholic family, of his friendship and love towards the brother and sister in that household, and of the social constraints and impediments that prevented the protagonists from being happy. I had also learned that Catholic aristocrats were presented as the custodians of traditional values in a declining society as a result of Waugh’s ‘romantic conservatism’ so I expected a positive approach to that religion.

At the end of the film I thought that the conveyed idea was the opposite, that the family’s Catholicism was the suffocating factor which provoked unfulfilled lives. Anyhow It is almost impossible for them to get rid of it (only Sebastian seems to find an exit far away from England). One of the final sentences, uttered by a soldier speaking to Charles, arouses the dilemma of the goodness or not of ending with the old world of the aristocracy.


  1. I haven´t seeen the Hollywood film deliberately because I am taking English Literature III this year and I have "Brideshead Revisited" as part of the course. I´ll probably go and see it after the exams.

    I have just finished the book and seen the BBC series which are really faithful to the book.

    In my opinion the book is a "monument" to the past old days represented by the aristocratic world as you say, the country house, symbol of the codes and values of English tradition and identiy. Religion,catholicism, plays an important role in the lives of the Flyte family.

    As I´ve said, I haven´t seen this new film in case I got disappointed after reading and "studying" the book but I got the impression they all get doomed by Catholicism and that religion is the thing that mainly prevents them from being healthy and happy:

    The mother because Lord Marchmain leaves her and the family and goes to Italy to live with his mistress.

    The lack of the father-figure in the family and also the social constraints of the time, affects the family deeply:

    Sebastian a child who very much needs love and can only get it from Nanny Hawkins walks round Oxford with his teddy-bear and finds solace in the bottle. His relationship with Charles goes fine until Charles gets vitiated by the family´s "charm".

    Julia also rebels from the social constraints and religion marrying a divorced man, Rex Mottram, causing a big trouble in the family. He represents modernity which Waugh distasted profoundly.

    Julia and Charles reunite after years and when they are both unhappy married lived a love story that lasts for 2 years waiting for a new divorced that never comes for Julia.

    Lord Marchmain returns to die to Brideshead and she gets very impressed when she sees her father repent in the last minute (much obliged in my opinion by Cara, her mistress and Julia who insist on bringing the priest home). Julia had been feeling guilty of living "in sin" from sometime and ends her relationship with Charles taking refuge on religion.

    Sebastian also brings religion back to his life and although he cannot give up the bottle he ends his days in a convent abroad well cared by the monks.

    So I do think Catholicism plays a suffocating role in the book for the unhappy characters but it is also the only way of redemption.

    Evelyn Waugh converted to Roman Catholicism in 1930 but he had a degree of detachment who made the book quite interesting.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Beatriz. Taking into account your notes on Julia’s marriage, for instance, I’d say that the film does not show the fate united to marrying a divorced man but to an impostor and self-seeker person, and regarding Sebastian, his decision to remain in Morocco appears to be a source of liberation from family constraints. I’d say that this film is faithful to the plot and setting but to some extent diverging in values or reasons. Anyway, I think that this cinematographic version reflects very well some ideas you mention, such as a somehow forced final repentance of the father or a certain ambivalence with regards to Catholicism: surely as a source of unhappiness but also as a magnetic force which places the Flytes back to their assigned righteous positions.