September 7th, 2012Revisiting Bridesheadby Joseph Pearce
Later today I will be discussing and debating the merits of Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece, Brideshead Revisited, with William Fahey, President of Thomas More College, in a two hour session with the entire student body of the college. In my own introductory comments I will be concentrating on the multifarious ways in which the action of grace can be seen in the lives of the main characters, a theme which Waugh himself described in the preface to the second edition of the novel as the overarching theme of the whole work.
We will be looking at the way in which Charles Ryder passes from innocent and naive agnosticism, via a descent into atheism, cyncism, selfishness and betayal, to an act of self-sacrifical love that brings him and others to the foot of the Cross.
We will see how Sebastian's irrational faith, rooted in self-loathing and the romantic idolatry of feeling over reason, leads to his descent into a moral wasteland, and how, through a final humble embrace of his own weakness, he is brought to a wretched but real holiness.
We will witness the destructive consequences of Julia's self-centredness and how she discovers peace through self-abnegation and obedience to the teaching of the Church.
We will discuss Bridey's rational faith, the antithesis of his brother's irrational romanticism, and consider whether a cold detachment from aesthetic reality constitutes a deficiency in one's loving relationship to God.
We will consider Cordelia's evident virtue, comparing her with her namesake in Shakespeare's King Lear.
We will broach the delicate subject of Lady Marchmain. Is she a saint or sinner? Is she a heroine or a villain?
Hopefully we will also have time to discuss Lord Marchmain's own desertion of his faith and family and his return in extremis.
It's a great novel and I think all of us at Thomas More College are in for a great time this afternoon!