Brideshead Revisited offers a view into the world of British aristocracy in the 1920s and '30s. Titles, rank, and the obligations that go with them threaten to determine the course of each character’s life. Wealth in particular is a focus of the novel, especially the vulgar extravagance of the British upper class which is repeatedly compared to the natural beauty of places like Morocco, Tunis, or South America.
Questions About Society and Class
What does Charles learn when he goes off into the jungles of South America? About art? About British aristocracy?
Anthony warns Charles that British charm will ruin him and his artistry. Does it? What do you think of Anthony’s assessment of Charles’s work – the work which everyone else finds so "virile" and "passionate?" Does Charles agree with Anthony’s criticism?
How is British aristocracy portrayed in this novel? Waugh certainly pokes fun at it – think about the diamond-studded tortoise or the life-size swan carving filled with caviar – but does that mean he’s egalitarian? (Most critics say "no," and in fact claim it’s just the opposite; how can you use the text to justify this common interpretation?)
Chew on This
Lady Marchmain uses religion to mask her classist discriminations.