Study Guide

Brideshead Revisited Writing Style

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Writing Style

Lush, Lovely, and Full of Enough Semi-Colons and Well-Placed Metaphors to Last You a Lifetime

Brideshead is written with rich, evocative language perfectly suited to the nostalgic nature of Charles’s recollections. If you get down to the level of the nitty-gritty, you’ll notice that Waugh is no stranger to the semi-colon either – we even found an article devoted entirely to his use of this particular punctuation mark (see "Links"). But the artistic device which most captures our hearts in Brideshead Revisited is the metaphor. (Or simile, you nit-picker you.) There was….this one:

She told me later that she had made a kind of note of me in her mind, as, scanning the shelf for a particular book, one will sometimes have one's attention caught by another, take it down, glance at the title page and, saying "I must read that, too, when I've the time," replace it and continue the search. (1.7.1)

And of course…this little one right here:

His constant, despairing prayer was to be let alone. By the blue waters and rustling palm of his own mind he was happy and harmless as a Polynesian; only when the big ship dropped anchor beyond the coral reef, and the cutter beached in the lagoon, and, up the golden slope that had never known the print of a boot there trod the grim invasion of trader, administrator, missionary and tourist – only then was it time to disinter the archaic weapons of the tribe and sound the drums in the hills; or, more easily, to turn from the sunlit door and lie alone in the darkness, where the impotent, painted deities paraded the walls in vain, and cough his heart out among the rum bottles. (1.5.205)

And it doesn’t get much better than that.

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