At the turn of the century, modernization of traditions also increased family breakups and infidelity; however these situations were not seem to be the norm. The characters in the novels A Handful of Dust and What Maisie Knew show the evolution of family breakups and infidelity due to their depraved actions. Brenda, a character from Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust shows the depraved mind in women during this period and Maisie Farange's parents from Henry James's What Maisie Knew show the evolution through their depraved actions. Both novels also show the evolution by the rare and scandalous divorce between the characters.
Many events in A Handful of Dust, such as Brenda's behaviour toward her family are so disgusting that they are considered 'funny' by many critics and book reviews. Her actions help in shaping her personality for the reader as she builds on to her corrupt mind. Her first, most inhuman action is when she discovers her son, John Andrew died in an accident while horseback riding.
Her first reaction:
" 'John?'... 'Dead?'... She sat down on a hard little empire chair against the wall, perfectly still with her hands folded in her lap, like a small well-bought-up child introduced into a room full of grownups. She said, 'Tell me what happened. Why do you know about it first?' 'I've been down at Hetton since the week-end,' [shows her confusion and misunderstanding that she yet does not know he is talking about her son to which Bruce Scott - Menzies, a family friend that is informing her replies] "Hetton? 'Don't you remember? John was going hunting today.' She frowned, not at once taking what he was saying. [The moment she realizes it was her son that dies, she is instantly relieved with happiness that] 'John ... John Andrew...