Brideshead Revisited Essential Quotes by Theme: Religion

Evelyn Waugh

Essential Quotes by Theme: Religion

Essential Passage 1: Book I, Chapter 5

“I believe God prefers drunkards to a lot of respectable people.”

"For God’s sake,” I said, for I was near to tears that morning, “why bring God into everything?”

“I’m sorry. I forgot. But you know that’s an extremely funny question.”

“Is it?”

“To me. Not to you.”

“No, not to me. It seems to me that without your religion Sebastian would have the chance to be a happy and healthy man.”

“It’s arguable,” said Brideshead. “Do you think he will need this elephant’s foot again?”

Charles has learned that Sebastian is to be placed under guard with a Catholic priest, to prevent his further descent into alcoholism. Naturally upset, Sebastian plans on cabling his father, who has no love for the Catholicism of his estranged wife. He hopes that Lord Marchmain will intervene and prevent this from occurring. Sebastian thinks that Charles is being drawn in by his mother into spying for her, something which Charles denies. Charles continues to drink with Sebastian, despite his concern for his health. Eventually, Sebastian is withdrawn from Oxford by his mother, and his brother Bridey comes to collect his things. Bridey and Charles discuss Sebastian’s alcoholism, leading Bridey to state that he believes God prefers drunkards to respectable people. Charles does not attempt to argue this premise, but only the fact that religion is such as constant topic among the Brideshead family. Charles, who is at best agnostic, resents that everything must be viewed in relation to religion. Bridey, a Catholic with marginally strong views, does not resent Charles’ agnosticism, and admits that the strict standards of Catholicism may have some blame in Sebastian’s rebellion against his family’s expectations, yet not to the point that he would reject the faith.

Essential Passage 2: Book II, Chapter 5

...Then I knelt, too, and prayed: “O God, if there is a God, forgive him his sins, if there is such a thing as sin,” and the man on the bed opened his eyes and gave a sigh, the sort of sigh I had imagined people made at the moment of death, but his eyes moved so that we knew there was still life in him.

I suddenly felt the longing for a sign, if only of courtesy, if only for the sake of the woman I loved, who knelt in front of me, praying, I knew, for a sign. It seemed so small a thing that was asked, the bare acknowledgement of a present, a nod in the crowd. All over the world people were on their knees before innumerable crosses, and here the drama was being played again by two men—by one man, rather, and he nearer death than life; the universal drama in which there is only one actor.

The priest took the little silver box from his pocket and spoke again in Latin, touching the dying man with an oily wad; he finished what he had to do, put away the box and gave the final blessing. Suddenly Lord Marchmain moved his hand to his forehead; I thought he had felt the touch of the chrism and was wiping it away. “O God,” I prayed, “don’t let him do that.” But there was no need for fear; the hand moved slowly down his breast, then to his shoulder, and Lord Marchmain made the sign of the cross. Then I knew that the sign I had asked for was not a little thing, not a passing nod of recognition, and a phrase came back to me from my childhood of the veil of the temple being rent from top to bottom.

Lord Marchmain has come home to England, to Brideshead, to die. Surrounded by family (except for Sebastian and the deceased Lady Marchmain), Lord Marchmain has resisted the last rites of the Catholic church, on the grounds that he has been so long absent from the faith. Yet at the end, the priest is allowed to administer the rites. Charles, who has had a long-term relationship now with Julia, prays for a sign, not for his own sake, but for Julia’s. Julia has grown closer of late...

(The entire section is 1707 words.)