The action of Brideshead Revisited describes providence, grace, and the redemption through suffering of a jaded, often hilarious modernism. Evelyn Waugh explores these themes in the memory of his fictional narrator, Charles Ryder. In the prologue, Ryder prepares to move from the military camp where he has been stationed for several months. At the age of thirty-nine, he reflects that he has begun to feel old, and his love for the army has died. His company travels to camp on the grounds of Brideshead Castle, a name that evokes Charles’s memories and propels him into the narrative, which comprises the body of the novel.
Charles first remembers his experience of college at Oxford, which essentially begins when he meets Lord Sebastian Flyte, a Roman Catholic of eccentric habits, endearing innocence, and a love of beautiful things. As an apology for his drunken behavior, Sebastian invites Charles to a luncheon in his rooms, and the two quickly form a deep friendship. On one occasion they travel to Sebastian’s home at Brideshead Castle, stopping on the way for wine and strawberries in the countryside. Sebastian explains that his mother, his older brother Lord Brideshead, and his sisters Julia and Cordelia live in the house, while his father lives with a mistress in Venice. On this first visit, Charles begins to note stirrings in himself of his own love of beauty, which will later develop into his artistic career and his religious conversion.
The friends spend the term in decadent misbehavior, which elicits a remonstrance from Charles’s cousin Jasper and a different kind of remonstrance from the colorful Anthony Blanche. At the end of the term, Charles returns impoverished to his father, with whom he engages in silent battles of will over the dinner table. Their relationship declines until a summons from Sebastian brings Charles to spend the rest of the vacation at Brideshead. There, Charles indulges his interest in art and aesthetics. He also discovers the central place the Roman Catholic religion holds in...
(The entire section is 834 words.)