Family Drama, Romance, Tragicomedy
Family seems to the source of everyone’s problems in Brideshead Revisited. Familial conflict certainly drives the novel’s plot and themes, from Lady Marchmain’s machinations to Lord Marchmain’s bitter resentment to Sebastian’s impenetrable suffering. Charles’s own story only begins once he becomes entrenched in the Flyte family web. If Charles’s friendship with Sebastian dominates the first book of Brideshead, his romance with Julia controls the second. The ups and downs of their respective marriages, divorces, and of course their affair are at the core of the post half-time drama. As far as "tragicomedy" goes, Waugh manages to combine his wry, mocking sense of humor with the very serious subject matter of religion and lost love. Sebastian’s end in Morocco and Charles’s doomed love with Julia is no picnic, but at the same time the sarcastic commentary on war, society, and wealth keeps us smiling.