Readers' Guide: Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh
Guide Created By: Ginny
Discussion Leader(s): Ginny
Read our archived discussion of this book
Considered one of the best 100 books in the English language, Brideshead Revisited outlines the journey of one man's coming of age.
Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Charles Ryder delineates, through flashbacks, Charles Ryder's life as a student at Oxford, his friendship with the unforgettable Sebastian Flyte of Brideshead Castle, and his journey to find meaning in his life. There are many layers of subtexts, themes, and fascinating one of a kind characters. A wonderful and unforgettable book for a book club discussion, this Guide contains a link to a Companion to Brideshead site which explains each of the book's many references. An 11 hour film, now in its 25th Anniversary release, is also available to complete an incredible reading experience.
"...that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall ... which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden ..." Charles
"I, Tiresias, have foresuffered all." T.S. Eliot, read by Anthony Blanche
Internet Resources for BridesheadInternet links for Brideshead | | Brideshead is Online
Discussion QuestionsWeek 1 ~ Brideshead Revisited
"I wanted to talk about Etruscan notions of immortality; he wanted to talk about extension lectures for the working class; so we compromised and talked about you."_Edward Ryder to his son Charles.
Let's look at the characters of Edward Ryder, Anthony Blanche and perhaps even Charles himself today.
1. "Somehow, Waugh doesn't manage to make Sebastian an interesting person to me. Other than physical attraction, I can't see why Charles is drawn to him." - Joan K
-----"Beautiful CHARMING Sebastian so far seems rather retarded and child-like with his teddy bear and talk of "Mummy." But Ryder seems totally in love with him and has difficulty keeping his eyes off of him."---- Marni
-----"Is the deeper meaning that Sebastian wants to re-visit childhood?"--- Mippy
Let's talk about the characters in the story, let's take each one in turn. We already have a wonderful discussion going over Anthony Blanche and his sophistication and stuttering, let's do him next, but let's hone in first on the "charming" Sebastian. What is your own opinion of his character and why do you think so? Who says he's charming? What IS charm? Why do you think Charles is drawn to him?
2. "Waugh gives a hint of end-of-the-world-as-he's-known-it disaster as early as the prologue, which has a description of things torn down to make room for the building of council estates and clusters of shops. It's obvious that the narrator doesn't like these things"---Malryn
-----"I was glad to find the prologue explaining what I didn't understand in the film" --- Pedln
-----"The prologue does show us where Charles is coming from."--- Daytripper
Why is the Prologue here, do you think? What purposes does it serve? Are there other things in the Prologue that the narrator does not like? What does the narrator reveal in the Prologue that makes a lot of the book anticlimactic?
3. "Anthony Blanche and his viperish tongue, slandering everyone and denigrating everything under that so amusing wit. My take on his remark about the boatmen and Grace Darling was that he looked on all boatmen as persons coming to his rescue, with pointed innuendo, of course."--- Babi
We've had two opinions on Grace Darlings, what do you understand Blanche to have meant by the term?
4. "At this point, I am struck with the undercurrent of sexuality in the book". --- Stephanie
Let's make a list of the undercurrents we see in the book. Babi has already spoken of cruelty, what else is here? Malryn and Joan K mention religion, what else?
5. "I did feel that the I am not I.. was Evelyn Waugh's disclaimer in that these are not real people ( although I read somewhere years ago, that they were)"--Stephanie
What do you think the Note "I am not I; thou art not he or she: they are not they means?
6. Why is the first chapter titled Et in Arcadia Ego?
7. "Throughout my reading I've been plagued with the thought that these are not like any college boys I've known or met in other literature."--- Pedln
-----"Is it England? Is it so-called upper-class England? or is it these years?"--- Mippy
-----"I assumed, probably incorrectly, that in this level of society that the Nanny was closer to the children than their parents ever were, both in emotional ties and physically, too." --- Jane
-----" I have quite strong reactions to various things. I'm startled that officers have "servants" in the army. I wonder who in the British army had them. Just the uppercrust? "--- Marni
Does class play a part in this book? If it does, did you have any instinctive reaction, pro or con to reading about this particular level of it? Do you resent these young men whose only duty is to study and spend money and have fun? Or do you feel sympathy with them?
8. "This book we are reading now portrays a Britain that has gone forever. I am not just referring to the class system because that still is alive and well."> --- Carolyn
Nostalgia for a Britain that may never have been is one of the themes of the book. What is being represented here which seems desirable or dreamlike?
9. "One has the impression that he took refuge against the ugliness of the world in the Catholic church and then, suddenly, was delivered up to his worst enemies. He had slid into a deep depression during these last months; personally, I think he died of a broken heart.'pp177-9"> Mitford quoted by Daytripper
-----"Perhaps BH is Waugh's cry from the heart. "--- Daytripper
Let's find out more about Evelyn Waugh, his conversion to Catholicism and his own youth, and how it differs, if it does, from what he writes about here. A man, as Daytripper notes who is famous for his irony, supposedly missing here but wait.....let's watch for it, and note it where we see it.
10. "The Venice chapter is amazing. We were in Venice last year. Wish I had found it that romantic, but I simply did not."--- Stephanie
Waugh was heavily criticized for the florid writing and the "romantic" tone of the book. Let's look at what might constitute "romantic" elements in the writing as we go and identify them. Is there any part of the book WE find romantic? What makes something "romantic?"
11. "Mystery abounds. What was it that he fell into? While the unfolding tale is riveting, still there is an air that it wasn't quite what he (and we) expected."--- Mrs. Sherlock
There is a great deal of foreshadowing in the book, let's start to make a list, starting with the skull inscribed Et in Arcadia Ego and the information in the Prologue.
"I have been here before," opens the first chapter. This seems to be metaphorical as well as literal -- for both Charles and for the reader. Who has not been out of their depth at some time in their life? Or attracted to someone you can't quite figure out? Or find intriguing but are not even certain if you really like that person? And can any of us remember that period in our life when we were slavishly trying out different identities and even personalities for ourselves?--MS BoltonIs there ANYTHING you feel you can relate to in this book? HOW are these young men different from any you have known? Is there a universal truth here you can tap into from your own experience even if your own background is totally different? Any universal element?.
Additional Questions for Brideshead Revisited
Part 2 of Week 1 Questions || Week 2 Questions || Week 3 Questions || Week 4 Questions