Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 590
Llanabba Castle School
Llanabba Castle School. Small privately owned school in North Wales attended by fifty or sixty boys, ages ten through eighteen. Despite Waugh’s protestations to the contrary, it is most likely a fictionalized version of the North Wales school where he taught after leaving Oxford University. The essence of the school is falseness: The building is a country house altered to resemble a medieval castle, while the school’s claims to high academic standards and upper-class pupils and staff are similarly false. Pennyfeather is not impressed by the school’s dinginess or the meanness of its meals.
In a scene involving Llanabba’s annual sports competition, most of Waugh’s targets for satire are attacked: the chaotic organization of the school; the way in which the school’s owner and headmaster, Dr. Augustus Fagan, fusses over the few titled parents; whether the nouveaux riches can ever be as good as the old-fashioned titled families; a general air of hypocrisy; and even the position of blacks in society. In sports, cheating by staff and pupils is rampant.
Waugh makes use of this section of the novel to satirize the Welsh people, showing them as mercenary subhumans. In particular he describes (in insulting terms) a local brass band hired to play during the sports competition. Several of the scenes set in Wales take place in a local village public house, which is patronized mostly by the working class.
Scone College. Fictional Oxford University college that is based on Hertford College, which Waugh attended. Pennyfeather is a hard-working, middle-class student, who intends to become a clergyman. He is attacked by a drunken crowd of titled students, who remove his trousers. It is much easier for the college authorities to indict Pennyfeather, who is “of no importance,” than to punish the real culprits. After his disgrace, Pennyfeather returns to Scone College, claims to be a distant cousin of himself, and continues to pursue his education.
Blackstone Prison. Penal institution in which Pennyfeather is sentenced to a term of seven years after he pleads guilty to white slaving to protect the real criminal, his fiancé Margot. The prison is an exaggerated example of the British penal system of the period. There, Pennyfeather is treated like a stupid and illiterate member of the working class and threatened with violence, just as he had threatened his pupils earlier. Yet, he is quite content with the solitary confinement, poor food, and harsh regime because, Waugh notes, “anyone who has been to English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison.”
Pennyfeather is transferred to Egdon Heath Penal Settlement—whose name is an allusion to Thomas Hardy’s Wessex Tales (1888) and presumably located in Dorset, England. Later, he is taken to a private nursing home, Cliff Place, for an appendix operation he does not need. This nursing home, run by Fagan, who has sold the school, is located near the real town of Worthing, on England’s south coast. There Pennyfeather feigns death in order to escape.
King’s Thursday. Hampshire country house owned by Margot Beste-Chetwynde. Pennyfeather meets Margot at Llanabba’s sports competition. She is a wealthy widow, whose son is one of Pennyfeather’s pupils, and soon becomes Pennyfeather’s fiancé. Margot’s traditional Tudor home, unmodernized for centuries, is being completely remodeled in concrete and aluminum by an avant-garde architect. Margot also owns a London house and a villa on the Greek island of Corfu, both of which are briefly inhabited by Pennyfeather.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 150
Decline and Fall makes brilliant use of two literary...
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