[Waugh] was sometimes criticized for his lack of pity, but the criticism, I think, a little misses the point. It may indeed fairly be said of his earlier works that, brilliant and funny as they are, they give us a picture of a society of irremediable futility. (p. 5)
Yet, if we turn from the portrait of society at large to the portrait of individuals, the criticism of lack of pity has little meaning. For the characters in his first two novels, Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies, are too wholly fantastic for any question of sympathy or antipathy to arise. No one can shed tears over the death of Mr Prendergast or of Agatha Runcible because they are clearly not real people. (pp. 5-6)
[It] is not until we come to Brideshead Revisited that we come to what may be called a wholly three-dimensional novel—to a novel on whose characters we can pass judgements as if they were real people.
On the other hand, that is by no means to say that the early novels can fairly be dismissed as merely frivolous, nor even that the religious influences which have been so predominant in Waugh's later work were wholly absent even then. (p. 7)
[Waugh gives us in Work Suspended a sustained excellence of style, which we are to get again in Brideshead Revisited, but which we had not found in the earlier books. We are no longer in the world of the jerky, short, comic sentences of conversation…. The book is the forerunner of Brideshead Revisited in the sense that its characters are much more nearly full and real people than those of the preceding books. (p. 15)
With Brideshead Revisited we enter upon the first of the third series of Waugh's novels—the explicitly and consciously Catholic novels. Brideshead Revisited is about religion, but it is about nothing except religion, nor is there any question at all of any other religious truth except that of the Catholic Church. It is in no way a work of apologetics. There is no consideration of the historical and metaphysical evidence for the Catholic claims…. [The] significance of Brideshead Revisited is the inescapable strength of the hold of the Church over the members of the Flyte family. It does not make them perfect. (p. 18)
All that Waugh, the novelist, is concerned to do is to show the strength of [the Church's] claims on those who have ever come under their influence—to show, whatever superficial appearances of similarity there may be, how there must inevitably be a sundering difference in every action of life between those to whom life is a religious adventure and those to whom it is not such an adventure. (p. 20)
The point of [The Loved One], if we retranslate it from fiction into propositions,...
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