Sunday, July 15, 2012

Quotes from Brideshead Revisited

I just finished Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited and thought I would celebrate by sharing a few quotes. Each quote describes something about one of the characters in the story. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it! I've put the quotes in italics. Below each quote are some reflections I've had while reading, which you can skip if you don't like spoilers.


Sebastian Flyte:
...its a rather pleasant change when all your life you've had people looking after you, to have someone to look after yourself. Only of course it has to be someone pretty hopeless to need looking after by me.” 

I found it rather intriguing to find these words coming from Sebastian: Sebastian, the Oxford student who drinks too much and used to carry around a teddy-bear; Sebastian who despises his mother and his family. Yet, it may be an instance of the masculine tendency towards providing. Men like to have the answers. They want able to provide for their wives, girlfriends, and/or families. Sebastian didn't have the opportunity to really experience this until he'd fled his family and met Kurt.
Another interesting point I found was where Sebastian finally settles down: living half-in, half-out of an abbey. When I first read the title of Book II, "A Twitch Upon the Thread," I had a difficult time wrapping my head around it. However, as the story progressed, I realized that it was just as fitting as the first title. The title comes from one of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories. Cordelia speaks of it at the end of Book I. Fr. Brown says that he has his subject on a hook so that the man might go to the farthest corner of the earth, yet Fr. Brown can bring him back with "a twitch upon the thread." The same can be said of the fallen away members of the Flyte family, such as Sebastian. Sebastian remarked in Book I about how difficult it was to be Catholic. Charles dismisses it as nonsense, to which Sebastian responds, "Is it? I wish it it were." After Sebastian has disappeared, Cordelia confides to Charles,"I used to think Sebastian had [a vocation] and hated it--but I don't know now." He may have been running away from a vocation, and has finally stopped. This is all speculation on my part. But whether or not he actually had a vocation, he couldn't run away from his faith, either. He had his wild days, but eventually he came back.

Diana Quick as Julia Flyte
and Charles Keating as Rex Mottram in BBC's adaption
Julia about Rex Mottram:
He wasn't a complete human being at all. He was a tiny bit of one, unnaturally developed; something in a bottle, an organ kept alive in a laboratory. I thought he was a sort of primitive savage, but he was something absolutely modern and up-to-date that only this ghastly age could produce. A tiny bit of a man pretending to be whole.

Rex Mottram is quite a character, albeit an unattractive one. Julia met and married Rex in the hopes of finding happiness and prestige with him. At first, Rex intended to become Catholic in order that their marriage might be recognized by the Church. However, once the Flyte family discovers that he was previously divorced and his ex-wife is still living, marriage within the Catholic Church becomes impossible. Once he realizes that becoming Catholic isn't going to bring him a life with Julia, he drops it completely. Against the wishes of her Catholic family, Julia decides to reject her faith for life with Rex.  However, life with him doesn't turn out the way she thought it would. Soon after their marriage, Julia finds out that Rex has been continuing an affair with another woman, whom he had been seeing during their courtship. (This sent up warning flags for me, but apparently it didn't for Julia). When Julia confronts him about it, he is unable to see why she is so upset. I'm not sure how on earth a man could become practically devoid of feeling, but it certainly seems to have happened in the case of Rex Mottram. I believe he has a very small soul locked away in an iron safe located in his big toe.

Julia Flyte:
I've always been bad. Probably I shall be bad again, punished again. But the worse I am, the more I need God. I can't shut myself out from His mercy. ... Or it may be a private bargain between me and God, that if I give up this one thing I want so much, however bad I am, He won't quite despair of me in the end.”

Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder
Julia is rather similar to Sebastian in that she, also has had her wild days. Both she and Sebastian know that they are living in sin. Julia rejected her faith in pursuit of happiness when she married Rex in spite of his previous divorce. When life with Rex doesn't turn out the way she had hoped, she runs away to America. When she takes up with Charles, both have been disillusioned by their first love and by their ambition. Julia wants to marry Charles, but something is holding her back.  In her lifestyle she denies her faith, but in her heart she can't. At one point she undergoes a bout of hysterics over her sinful lifestyle. As I read her monologue, she seems to have an excessive focus on sin. It appears that she doesn't believe that God will forgive her, so there is no use asking for His mercy. There seems to be no turning back. However, both her faith and Charles' faith are tested when Lord Marchmain comes home to Brideshead to die. It is at the moment of death that the real drama is acted. It all comes down to what one believes.  Life. Death. The fall from grace. The possibility of redemption. Julia realizes through the example of her father, another fallen away Catholic, that redemption is possible. If so, Julia realizes that there may be hope even for her. A twitch upon the thread... The final quote is from my favorite scene in the book. I won't say any more, lest I spoil the ending for you.

Charles Ryder:
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.


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