Let’s discuss our final main character of the novel: Charles Ryder. Charles is the narrator of the book. He once visited the Brideshead estate in his youth but comes upon it a second time (thus Brideshead Revisited) as a British officer fighting in World War II. His narration is his recollections of his youth spent at Brideshead as remembered by a British officer about 20 years later.
Charles grows up in a very small but wealthy family and never develops a relationship with his father. Charles attends Oxford where he meets Sebastian. Soon after meeting Sebastian Charles is introduced to Sebastian’s family. Charles becomes engrossed in the family: its traditions, its religion, and its beauty. Charles falls in love with Julia and divorces his wife to be with Julia. He then loses Julia who decides that it is best to move on and perhaps find her purpose in life while obeying the laws of the Catholic Church.
Charles has some success as a painter while distancing himself from his wife and children. Near the end of the novel, we find that Charles no longer has any relationship with Sebastian, Julia, or any other member of the Brideshead estate. In the novel’s epilogue Charles himself states, “I never built anything, and I forfeited the right to watch my son grow up. I’m homeless, childless, middle-aged, love-less, …”
But Charles does discover one very important thing upon his revisit to Brideshead: Faith. As a British officer he visits the chapel at the Brideshead estate, once lit before the death of Lady Marchmain, and he realizes that the candle in the chapel has recently been relit. He realizes that he has found the faith that was missing throughout his life. More importantly, this faith was planted at Brideshead some 20 years earlier, and only now is it fully grown. We are left with an optimistic impression in the final paragraph of the novel that Charles will pull himself together and that his recently found faith will serve him well into the future.
Final thoughts about the novel in the next blog.