Evelyn Waugh Long Fiction Analysis
Evelyn Waugh’s novels are distinguished by thenarrative detachment with which they survey the madness and chaos of the modern age. His characters participate in a hopeless, often brutal, struggle for stability that hardens them to the absurdities of civilization and leads them, ultimately, to an unheroic retreat from the battle of life. Ironic detachment, thus, is Waugh’s principal comic technique and his principal theme as well.
Because each of Waugh’s novels reflects actual experiences, the nature of this detachment changes through the course of his career. In his early works, which satirize the havoc and instability of the 1920’s and 1930’s, he achieves comic detachment by splicing together the savage and the settled, the careless and the care-ridden, the comic and the tragic. Victims and victimizers alike are caught in the whirlwind of madness. Waugh’s satiric method changes in his postwar novels: Comically ineffectual characters still wage battle against the absurdities of life, but one is more aware of their struggle to maintain or recapture spiritual and moral values amid the absurdity. Waugh maintains comic distance in these novels by recommending a quiet sort of spiritual heroism as the only source of people’s happiness in the uncertain postwar world.
Decline and Fall
Waugh’s first novel, Decline and Fall, traces the misadventures of Paul Pennyfeather, a temperate, unassuming student of...
(The entire section is 4353 words.)
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