Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 590 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Decline and Fall makes brilliant use of two literary techniques that invert one's conventional responses to the ebb and flow of life's...

(The entire section is 150 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The social preoccupations of Decline and Fall are accurately indicated by its title. The novel portrays an England whose established...

(The entire section is 220 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The bold, unconventional humor of Decline and Fall is certainly indebted to the work of such late-Victorian figures as Oscar Wilde and...

(The entire section is 116 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Beaty, Frederick L. The Ironic World of Evelyn Waugh: A Study of Eight Novels. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1992. Argues that Waugh is more an ironist than a satirist and examines his various uses of irony. Chapter 2 is a study of Decline and Fall.

Carens, James F. The Satiric Art of Evelyn Waugh. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966. Published in the year of Waugh’s death, this study of all his major works concentrates on specific satiric effects and the way in which the author achieved them. Decline and Fall is discussed in chapters 1 through 7.

Cowley, Malcolm. “Decline and Fall.” In Critical Essays on Evelyn Waugh, edited by James F. Carens. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987. This essay, first published only three years after the appearance of Decline and Fall, compares that novel with Vile Bodies and concludes that the first is greatly superior. An interesting early evaluation of Waugh.

Crabbe, Katharyn W. Evelyn Waugh. New York: Continuum, 1988. Following a brief biography in chapter 1, the author devotes the six remaining chapters to the novels; Decline and Fall is analyzed in chapter 2.

Stopp, Frederick J. Evelyn Waugh: Portrait of an Artist. Boston: Little, Brown, 1958. A standard work, which suffers only from having been published before Waugh completed his World War II trilogy. All the other novels, including Decline and Fall, are discussed in detail.