As I mentioned in my previous blog, let’s begin to analyze the first of the four main characters of the novel: Lady Marchmain. Lady Marchmain is the matriarch of the Brideshead household and the mother of Sebastian, Julia, and two other children.
She was born poor but married into the British aristocracy becoming prosperous after her marriage. She agreed to marry her husband but only if he converted to her faith, Catholicism, which he did. She had three brothers, all killed in the First World War. She commissioned a book devoted to the services of these three brothers.
Lay Marchmain was instrumental in preserving a chapel that was attached to the estate and in which mass was provided for her family as well as nearby neighbors.
Lady Marchmain exhibited none of the seven deadly sins. Even though she was abandoned by her husband (who ran off with another woman to Italy), and she was a Catholic in an English town that was leery of Catholics, she was not envious, greedy, lazy, gluttonous, lustful, boastful, or wrathful. She was by no means a saint, but simply dedicated to the faithful upbringing of her family. She had high expectations that her son Sebastian would continue the service of her three dead brothers and continue the traditions of Brideshead.
It is clear that Lady Marchmain received the the virtues of faith, hope, and, most likely, charity. She was strong enough, given her present situation, to live her faith with the hope that it would continue in the family (which it did to some degree). Even though after her death the chapel attached to her estate was closed her devotion to instilling Catholic traditions in her children served some of them well enough that by the end of the novel they were on a clear path to happiness.
The author provides an excellent example of grace given to a woman who most needs it in overcoming the many travesties and personal affronts experienced in her life – the same travesties and personal affronts experienced by many, if not most, of us.