grew younger with each adult habit I acquired…I was being given a brief spell of what I had never known, a happy childhood" (45).

Charles grows up. He leaves the world of Brideshead and becomes an artist. Though he leaves his childhood behind him, he also leaves something deeper, a love "that wherever I went afterwards I should feel the lack of it and search for it hopelessly…" (163). He spends ten dry years searching, in England and abroad but it is not until he meets Julia on his return to England that he finds it. Just as his brief spell of childhood had a limited time span, so does his romance with Julia. It is "thwarted" because what he is really searching for, unbeknownst to him at the time, is God, the hand that touched him in the drawing- room of Marchmain house. Sebastian and Julia are the forerunners, an escape from a Godless world to an "enchanted garden" but his experience of God through them is second-hand (cf. 277).

Sebastian, Lord Marchmain and Julia are all trying to escape but in a different way. They live in the "enchanted garden" but they all wish to escape from their conscience - from sin, that "one little flat, deadly word" (273). They try to escape in different ways - Sebastian through drink, Lord Marchmain through Cara and Julia through Charles - but none succeed. In the end, they are all brought back with a "twitch upon the thread".


In his preface, Waugh writes, "Its (Brideshead’s) theme is the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected character" (7). Change, Escape, the satire and the nostalgia of the book - these are all just accessory to the main theme. It is difficult to summarise. Waugh admits the theme to be "presumptuously large" and, by its very nature, it is a theme that can be found present - or lacking - in every character and every part of the plot.

Julia, Sebastian and Lady Marchmain suffer for God. Their suffering is a crucial part of their faith. When Cordelia calls Sebastian "holy" this is what she means. This is what Julia is referring to when Charles says, "You are standing guard over your sadness". "It’s all I have earned…my wages", she replies (247). This is what Lady Marchmain is talking about when she says, "…now I realize that it is possible to sin by coveting the privileges of the poor. The poor have always been the favourites of God and his saints, but I believe it is one of the greatest achievements of Grace to sanctify the whole of life, riches included" (122).

The most important example of the action of Grace is in the conversion of Charles. The Marchmains have been brought as Catholics and, whatever way they choose to lead their life, none of them will agree, however much they might like to, that Catholicism is all "bosh". Charles and Rex act as contrast - the agnostic contingent. Just as the Catholic contingent is diverse in their attitude to God, so, also, Rex and Charles differ. Rex’s attitude is utilitarian, "A man needs a religion. If your Church is good enough for Julia, it’s good enough for me…Just give me the form and I’ll sign on the dotted line" (185). The operation of divine grace is difficult to see, perhaps, or maybe it might seem ‘thwarted’ but as Lady Marchmain points out, "In her long history, the Catholic Church must have had some pretty queer converts" (186).

In contrast is Charles’ conversion. Like Rex, he is not Catholic-minded but at least he is "minded". He is seduced by the charm of the Brideshead and the Marchmains but he sees it purely in romantic terms - the difference between the Sebastian’s world of colonnades and coronets and the backs of Bayswater (71). He does not understand the part played by God. He understands Julia when she speaks in half- sentences and in scarcely perceptible movements of her eyes or lips but her outburst on mortal sin leaves him "adrift in a strange sea" (274). He argues vehemently that Lord Marchmain should not receive the final sacrament. He does not realise the significance of Cordelia’s innocent questions about Modern Art:

"'Charles', said Cordelia, 'Modern Art is all bosh, isn’t it?'

'Great bosh'

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