Brideshead Revisited Essay

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“There is a snake in Eden; corruption in paradise.” To what extent do you agree that the Brideshead estate embodies a corrupted paradise in the novel? June 2010 Within the context of pastoral literature, change is typically seen as a destructive force, intrinsic with the movement away from a harmony with the natural world towards modernisation and corruption. In ‘Brideshead Revisited’ the same pattern appears to be followed; moving from the peaceful harmony of Sebastian and Charles’ life in Oxford into corruption and turmoil or the shifting power balance between the social classes, from the nobility to the lower classes. However, change is not exclusively a negative force in the novel.
The title of book one ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’ suggests
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Waugh describes their first encounter with the girls at May Mayfield’s as a “sickly child” and “Death’s Head”, names foreshadowing the downfall and deterioration that will result. It is as a result of this night that Sebastian is arrested and tried for drunk-driving, and introduces them to the realities of adult life. It is because of this episode that the Marchmain family are shamed in the newspaper, perhaps worsening Lady Marchmains over reaction to Sebastian’s drinking later in the novel. This illustrates clearly how even in these youthful days that Charles cherishes so much, there was chaos which corrupted the serene life with Sebastian which he chooses not to dwell on.
Waugh presents corruption in terms of the hierarchy of society, with the nobility exclusively privileged to positions of power, as nought but as negative through his portrayal of Hooper. Charles states in the prologue that Hooper is a “symbol to me of Young Britain”; notably Hooper is not presented as an overly inspiring, promising or likeable character. The use of “young” has connotations of the working class were just ‘coming of age’ and beginning to have the means to hold positions of power and influence, as well as suggesting a major change in the Britain; an ‘old’ way of life has been left to be replaced by a new one. It could be argued that Charles is presenting the traditional world as being corrupted with the changing, modernised world.
Catholicism is a main focus
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