Brideshead Revisited

By Evelyn Waugh

Essay Plans

1 ) Compare Sebastian's faith with that of his brother, Brideshead.

As an introduction, you should discuss briefly the obvious difference in their characters. Note what Nanny Hawkins says, "He (Sebastian) was always a little heathen. Brideshead was one for the church" (288). Qualify this by making the point that this is a superficial description - Nanny Hawkins talks of their appearance in the same speech.

The thrust of the argument must consider the nature, not the appearance of their faith. Brideshead's faith is very conventional and orthodox. He treats theological issues as he treats the question of Sebastian's allowance. "It's simple" he says, once Charles has reassured him that there is no "viciousness" in his brother's relationship with Kurt. He sees Mrs. Muspratt primarily as devout whereas his father sees her primarily as a gold-digger. Sebastian's faith is much more complex -that is it is harder to understand. Though he does not seem "holy", Cordelia is correct in her judgement of him as such. It is useful to discuss other characters, especially Julia and Lord Marchmain in order to explain Sebastian's desire to run away from a Church that his brother, Brideshead accepts without questioning it. Then consider what Cordelia says about vocations - that if you don't have one, you cannot 'develop' one, no matter how much you want one; and, if you do, you cannot escape it, no matter how hard you try. Brideshead does not have a vocation, Sebastian does, though not of the conventional sort that Brideshead pursued.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that Sebastian is a 'forerunner' in Charles's conversion. In contrast, Charles says to Brideshead, "D'you know Bridey, if ever I felt for a moment like becoming a Catholic, I should only have to talk to you for five minutes to be cured" (158f.).

2) Compare Charles' relationship with Sebastian to his relationship with Julia.

As an introduction, you might quote Lord Marchmain says of Charles, "He seems to have a penchant for my children" (265). Charles does - he loves both of them, for they are both very similar.

Discuss the nature of Charles' love for Sebastian and for Julia. Though, with Julia, there is, of course, a sexual aspect, Charles' love is similar in both cases. He loves them for their beauty, their elegance and their charm. But his love for Julia is much more mature than that for Sebastian. As Cara says, Charles and Sebastian's love is "a kind of love that comes to children before they know its meaning" (98). It is not, she says, a love that lasts long. People grow up - or, at least they should do, unlike Lord Marchmain. Charles says, early in the book, "I began to realize how little I really knew of Sebastian…that he was like a friend made on board ship, on the high seas; now we had come to his home port" (91). Sebastian is the forerunner for Julia. He meets her - in the real rather than metaphorical sense - on board a ship. But their love endures because Charles understands a great deal more - he now knows what Cara might call 'the meaning' of love and, in her, Charles' love for Sebastian lives on. As Cordelia says, "'She (Julia) never loved him (Sebastian), you know, as we do'. 'Do'. The word reproached me; there was no past tense in Cordelia's verb 'to love'" (293).

Just as Charles' relationship with Sebastian was doomed by the progress of time, so too is his relationship with Julia "thwarted". He asks her, "Why is it that love makes me hate the world? It's supposed to have quite the opposite effect. I feel as though all mankind, and God, too, were in a conspiracy against us". "They are, they are", Julia replies (263). Charles and Sebastian pledged allegiance contra mundum. Julia and Charles could do the same by marrying. But they recognize that Julia is a forerunner also.

Conclude by saying that Charles's love for both Sebastian and Julia, superficially, was based on their beauty and charm. Deeper though and unrecognizable until the "fall of the avalanche", it was based on a love of God.