Archive for November, 2009

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Subject : 14214 Narrativa Inglesa desde el siglo XVIII Grupo C

Student´s name: Mengual Roca , Vanessa

Title of the paper: CATHOLICISM: The last resort to save a writer?

Author or topic: Evelyn Waugh

Abstract: In this paper I have written a  Introduction(1.1) with the intention of justifying the author (Evelyn Waugh) and the topic chosen to carry my work out. I have kept to the point of his biography(1.2) specifically. For this reason, I offer the reader a string of several biographies (extensive)(short) and (timeline); so you can compare all of them or choose one that best suits to your needs. It’s not possible to have some knowledge from an author if we disregard the historical events given in his period which influenced his personal life, so I insist on the most important background in Evelyn Waugh’s life: World War II and the consequences for him (World War II, 1.3). Then, I talk about Catholicism and its relationship with the author as well as the effects that this phenomenon had on his writing career (Waugh’s Catholicism 1.4). Moreover, you can investigate more about it in (process of his conversion 1.4.1), (the influence 1.4.2) and (viewpoint 1.4.3, from Selina Hastings). On the other hand, I have considered this point quite important, I have established the special  remarkable link between his works and personal life (1.5). Moreover, I includ an interactive point and based on searching (1.6). Finally, if you would like to know my experience on the work and my opinion you can read my conclusion(1.7).


Auto-evaluation: I think I did a good work and I did my best for this paper, hence I believe I deserve at least 7.

Academic Year 2009/2010
©a.r.e.a./Dr.Vicente Forés López
©Vanessa Mengual Roca

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Reviewed from:


 *Here is the influence of catholicism in one of the most well-known novels from Evelyn Waugh,

it’s very useful to know the novel off by heart if you read it like me!



Taking into account the background of the author, the most significant theme of the book is Catholicism. Evelyn Waugh was a convert to Catholicism and the book is considered to be an attempt to express the Catholic faith in secular literary form. Waugh wrote to his literary agent A. D. Peters, “I hope the last conversation with Cordelia gives the theological clue. The whole thing is steeped in theology, but I begin to agree that the theologians won’t recognise it.” Considering his readership, who were generally urbane and cosmopolitan, a sentimental or a didactic approach would not have worked. Sentimentalism would have cheapened the story while didacticism would have repelled a secular audience through excessive sermonising.

Instead, the book brings the reader, through the narration of the agnostic Charles Ryder, in contact with the severely flawed but deeply Catholic Marchmain family. While many novels of the same era portray Catholics as the flatfooted people put on the spot by brilliant non-believers, Brideshead Revisited turns the table on the agnostic Charles Ryder (and presumably the reader as well) and scrutinises his secular values, which are tacitly portrayed as falling short of the deeper humanity and spirituality of the Catholic faith.

The Catholic themes of divine grace and reconciliation are pervasive in the book. Most of the major characters undergo a conversion in some way or another. Lord Marchmain, a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, who lived as an adulterer, is reconciled with the Church on his deathbed. Julia, who is involved in an extramarital affair with Charles, comes to feel this relationship is immoral and decides to separate from Charles in spite of her great attachment to him. Sebastian, the charming and flamboyant homosexual alcoholic, ends up in service to a monastery while struggling against his alcoholism. Even Cordelia has some sort of conversion: from being the “worst” behaved schoolgirl her headmistress has ever seen, to serving in the hospital bunks of the Spanish Civil War.

Most significant is Charles’s apparent conversion, which is expressed very subtly at the end of the book, set more than 20 years after his first meeting Sebastian, Charles kneels down in front of the tabernacle of the Brideshead chapel and says a prayer, “an ancient, newly learned form of words” — implying recent instruction in the catechism. Waugh speaks of his belief in grace in a letter to Lady Mary Lygon: “I believe that everyone in his (or her) life has the moment when he is open to Divine Grace. It’s there, of course, for the asking all the time, but human lives are so planned that usually there’s a particular time — sometimes, like Hubert, on his deathbed — when all resistance is down and Grace can come flooding in.”

Waugh uses a quote from a short story by G. K. Chesterton to illustrate the nature of Grace. Cordelia, in conversation with Charles Ryder, quotes a passage from the Father Brown detective story “The Queer Feet:” “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.” This illustrates how the hand of God works invisibly in each person’s life, allowing him his free will until he is ready to respond to Grace, at which point God will intervene in his life. Aside from Grace and Reconciliation, other Catholic themes in the book are the Communion of Saints, Faith and Vocation.

The same themes were criticised by Waugh’s contemporaries. Henry Green, a fellow novelist, wrote to Waugh, “The end was not for me. As you can imagine my heart was in my mouth all through the deathbed scene, hoping against hope that the old man would not give way, that is, take the course he eventually did.” And Edmund Wilson, who had praised Waugh as the hope of the English novel, wrote “The last scenes are extravagantly absurd, with an absurdity that would be worthy of Waugh at his best if it were not — painful to say — meant quite seriously.”

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