Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Adam Fenwick-Symes

Adam Fenwick-Symes, a young writer. He returns from Paris to England to marry his fiancée but is forced to postpone his wedding because the manuscript of his autobiography is confiscated and burned by customs officials. Winning a bet of a thousand pounds, he renews his marriage plans, only to postpone them again when a drunken major, to whom he has given the money for a horse-race bet, disappears. His fiancée’s father gives him a thousand-pound check to enable the couple to marry. After they happily spend a night together, Adam learns that his fiancée’s father has absentmindedly signed Charlie Chaplin’s name to the check, and the wedding is postponed again. Adam takes over a newspaper gossip column, loses his job, and permits another man to marry his fiancée in exchange for a small loan. Later, in the war, during a lull in the fighting, he meets his drunken major again on a battlefield. The major, now a general, offers to pay Adam the thirty-five thousand pounds (the horse won) on the spot, but Adam thinks the money will be useless. They find champagne in the general’s car, and Adam drinks some of it and falls asleep.

Nina Blount

Nina Blount, Adam’s fiancée, whose marriage is repeatedly postponed. She marries the man who lent money to Adam, but after he is called up for military service, she takes Adam along, as her husband, to spend Christmas with her father.

Colonel Blount

Colonel Blount, her father, an absentminded film fan. He makes a film about the life of religious leader John Wesley and is too preoccupied with it to notice that his supposed son-in-law is a young man he had previously met as Fenwick-Symes.

Agatha Runcible

Agatha Runcible, a leader of the Bright Young People. Returning to England, she is mistaken for a notorious jewel smuggler, stripped, and searched. After escapades that include a party at No. 10 Downing Street, she goes to the auto races and takes the wheel of a car,...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Davis, Robert Murray. “Title, Theme, and Structure in Vile Bodies.” Southern Humanities Review 11 (Winter, 1977): 21-27. Davis argues that both the structure and theme of Vile Bodies is written from a Christian perspective. Waugh’s novels were “religious” long before they became “Catholic” with the publication of Brideshead Revisited (1945).

Jervis, Steven A. “Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies and the Younger Generation.” South Atlantic Quarterly 66 (Summer, 1967): 440-448. Examines Waugh’s portrayal of the Bright Young People, Britain’s equivalent of the Jazz Age flappers, and argues that Waugh’s disgust with their chaotic and pointless lives helped turn him toward the Roman Church.

Kleine, Don W. “The Cosmic Comedies of Evelyn Waugh.” South Atlantic Quarterly 61 (Autumn, 1962): 533-539. Focuses on Waugh’s early comedies, Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies, and the fact that many critics have ignored Waugh’s essential seriousness of purpose.

Phillips, Gene D. Evelyn Waugh’s Officers, Gentlemen, and Rogues: The Fact Behind His Fiction. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1975. In chapter 2, “Exile from Eden: The Early Satires,” Phillips connects the escapades in Vile Bodies with Waugh’s own experiences as a Bright Young Person. He cites Waugh’s diaries, his nonfiction travel books, and newspaper accounts of the period.

Walker, Julia M. “Being and Becoming: A Comment on Religion in Vile Bodies and Brideshead Revisited.” Evelyn Waugh Newsletter 16, no. 2 (Autumn, 1982): 4-5. Discusses the fact that Vile Bodies was published in the year of Waugh’s conversion to Roman Catholicism and that the book to some extent reflects this. Argues that Waugh the satirist approaches religion obliquely in Vile Bodies, exposing its gross vulgarization in the modern world, whereas in Brideshead Revisited he affirms his belief in the religious life more directly.