Study Guide

Brideshead Revisited Book 1: Chapter 3

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Book 1: Chapter 3

  • At the end of the year, Charles is out of money and won’t receive more until October. This is a problem.
  • Sebastian doesn’t have much of an allowance himself, but gets everything he wants by asking his mother, who prefers that everything he has to be a present. Even talking about his mother makes Sebastian "retreat," as Charles says, into his own solitary world.
  • Much of youth, says Charles, is made up of reflection and regret, though in adulthood we imagine our youth was dreamy and free of such melancholy.
  • It is with such self-reproach that Charles spends his first day at home with his father – he felt regret at having overspent his allowance. His father spends the whole day in the library, and emerges only at dinner.
  • Mr. Ryder is about fifty, but appears at least seventy. He wears an archaic smoking suit for dinner and always dines formally at home. He greets Charles, asks about the train home, and the two of them sit down to dinner.
  • Charles remarks that he thought about taking a class at an art school during the summer vacation, but that he doesn’t really have any money. His father remarks that he’s the worst person to come to for advice, as he’s never had that problem himself. He seems positively gleeful, and spends the rest of dinner reading his book while ignoring Charles.
  • After dinner, Charles takes a second shot at it. He ventures that surely his father doesn’t want him spending his entire vacation here at home? His father responds that, if he felt that way, he would never reveal as much.
  • For the next week, Mr. Ryder spent all day in the library, and Charles spent all day brooding. Dinner was their "battlefield." Mr. Ryder insists that his son entertain him, Charles makes poorly veiled attempts at getting more money, and Mr. Ryder pretends to not understand the innuendo – though it’s clear from their lavish, many-course dinners that money is no issue whatsoever for him.
  • Then Charles provides us with some back-story. After his mother died, his aunt Phillipa – his father’s sister – came to live with them for a while. She was a companion to Charles, but Mr. Ryder seems to have regarded her with menace. "I got her out in the end," he says of her now (she left the country by the time Charles went to Oxford), which Charles reads as a challenge to himself.
  • Charles runs into a man named Jorkins, a friend from his boyhood days whom he never liked and whom he finds relatively unchanged now.
  • Jorkins comes to dinner and serves as entertainment for Mr. Ryder, who decides to a play a little game pretending that Jorkins is American, but never makes references explicit enough that Jorkins can correct the misunderstanding.
  • A few days later, Mr. Ryder throws a dinner party to check the monotony of a nightly meal with his son alone. Their guests are specifically designed, says Charles, to annoy him, and include Sir Cuthbert and Lady Orme-Herrick, Miss Gloria Orme-Herrick, her bald fiancée, and a boring publisher. It’s awful.
  • Charles’s stay at home continues in this combative fashion, for his father loved this sort of battle, until he receives a letter from Sebastian, who has gone to Venice to visit his father. The letter’s style reminds Charles of what Anthony said of Sebastian that night at dinner – that he was insipid but couldn’t be blamed for it. For days after the letter, Charles thought he hated his friend Sebastian.
  • Then he gets another letter in which Sebastian curtly declares he is dying. Charles leaves at once to visit him, informing his father of the situation on his way out the door. Mr. Ryder doesn’t understand why Charles is in such a hurry, since he’s no doctor and wouldn’t be able to save his friend anyway. "Do not hurry back on my account," he adds.
  • Charles is panic-stricken during his train ride to Sebastian, imagining what horrible accident might have befallen his friend. He is afraid that he will be too late, Sebastian already dead by the time he arrives.
  • When Charles gets to Brideshead, he is met by Lady Julia – Sebastian’s sister – who takes him by car to the house and informs him that Sebastian isn’t dying, he broke a tiny bone in his foot by tripping over a croquet hoop.
  • Now that he can relax, Charles notes how much like Sebastian Julia is. She resembles him, sounds like him, and speaks with the same manner of speech. He feels as though he knows her already, because he already knows Sebastian. The only difference is her being a woman, a trait he recognizes intensely.
  • Julia has him light a cigarette for her, and there’s a moment of sexual tension, at least for Charles.
  • When they arrive at the house, they find Sebastian, in his pajamas, seated in a wheelchair with one foot all bandaged up. Charles simply says, "I thought you were dying" and realizes that, while he is relieved, he’s also angry at Sebastian for having put him through that.
  • They all have dinner in "the Painted Parlour," an ornate octagon room with wreathed medallions on the wall. Charles explains the war he’s been fighting with his father.
  • After dinner, Julia leaves to go see Nanny Hawkins. Sebastian declares that he loves his sister, that she’s so much like him. Then he clarifies – she looks and talks like he does; he doesn’t think he could love anyone with a character like his own.
  • That night the two friends drink and walk around the estate, and Charles feels "a sense of liberation and peace."

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