Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brideshead Revisited

Anthony Andrews & Jeremy Irons in Brideshead Revisited
Have you ever noticed how authors will name their characters something significantly similar to their personality? Dickens was notorious for his use of names. So too it seems was Evelyn Waugh. I'm about 3/4 of the way through Brideshead Revisited (a remarkable feat considering I started it less than a week ago). He couldn't have chosen a better surname for Sebastian than Flyte. He spends nearly the entire book either running away from his troubles (real or imagined) and/or drowning his sorrows in drink.

A more flighty young man I've never met. And yet he doesn't frustrate me for some reason. Rather, I pity him. He has such pathetic misconceptions about life and his place in the world. Sebastian's devoutly Catholic roots seem to haunt him. He learns to despise people once they meet his parents. Take Charles, for instance. For years those two were almost literally joined at the hip. It is possible that their relationship was far less than healthy (in fact, that's most likely the case), and yet the two needed each other, Sebastian most of all. But once he introduced Charles to his family (not really his idea), their relationship faltered. All Sebastian's mother needed to do was draw Charles into the intimate workings of the family and Sebastian started distancing himself from his friend.

Why would Sebastian feel that Charles was tainted somehow by liking his family? I just can't quite grasp his reasoning. Charles is the same man that he was when they first met, even after having encountered the dreaded family members. Why should anything change? I suppose it really had nothing to do with the family and everything to do with Charles' approaching maturity. It's one thing for young men to meet at the age of 19 and behave ridiculously together. It's another thing for one of them to reach the age of 21 and start thinking seriously about life and its goals while the other still prefers deep bouts of drinking ad partying. I do believe Sebastian felt that Charles left him behind.

It's sad really, when friendships start as childhood chums but can't develop into adult relationships too. Charles' fondness and adoration for Sebastian is unsurpassed. Even after their relationship shatters. But Sebastian becomes such a pitiable creature that you can no longer love him, only weep for the life that is being drunk away. Sebastian is one of those charming characters that draw you towards them. There's something magnetic in their personality. You can't help liking them. Poor chap. I just know this book must end in his death. There's no other alternative since he sees no use in changing his lifestyle.

I've only the 3rd section to go and then I'm on to the miniseries with Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons. I know, I know, there's a newer version, but I'd rather see two of my favorite actors in these pitiable roles than ones I'm unfamiliar with. It will make me sympathize with them more.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting story, isn't it? Very slow-moving and self-destructive in places, but there is something sad about Sebastian's decline. From what I understand it's something of a fictionalized account of the author's conversion to Christianity (he undertakes the role of Charles in the story).

    My understanding about Sebastian is that at college he could be free to be who he truly was in some sense, and he feared home (or rather, his sister) might take Charles away from him. We can discern from his intense possessiveness of Charles and his choice of friends that Sebastian inclined toward homosexuality but because of his Catholic upbringing could not pursue it, which made him deeply unhappy, which is why he became an alcoholic. That, and carrying about his teddy bear, were manifestations of his deeper insecurities. I feel great pity for Sebastian but at the same time am angered by his self-destructive behavior.

    Where the movies are concerned, with either one you will want to be prepared for a fair amount of backside nudity and sexual content. Both have their good points (miniseries -- Andrews/Irons, movie -- Emma Thompson) and their bad points (to be frank, the miniseries bored me to death... it took me three tries to get all the way through it... and the movie is much more condemning of Catholicism than the book is, to the point where people have cried foul) but how much you enjoy either one will probably depend on your liking for the book. I found the book and the miniseries rather dull, but I kind of liked the movie.




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