Second Companion Book – Brideshead Revisited (Part 3)

Let’s continue by analyzing the second of the four main characters of the novel: Sebastian.  Sebastian is the son of Lady Marchmain who simply can not stand being around his family at the Brieshead estate.  He spends much of his time at Oxford drinking to excess.  In fact, wherever he goes he drinks to excess.

While Sebastian is not overly envious of others or greedy, and he does appear to fight being lazy and gluttonous as he ages, it is unclear by the end of the book as to whether Sebastian will reach true happiness.  However, it is clear that he has matured and that his mother’s Catholic upbringing has had its desired effect on him.

The last mention of Sebastian concerns his wanting to be a servant to others at a monastery.  He has no other wish than to serve others in whatever capacity he is allowed: it is his faith that has brought him to a monastery.  In fact, the author gives us a very clear clue that Sebastian has not only received the grace of Faith but also the grace of Hope (it is fairly clear that the grace of Hope was received at the monastery).  The author writes, “If he lives long enough, generations of missionaries in all kinds of remote places will think of him as a queer old character who was somehow part of the Hope of their student days, and remember him in their masses.”  Like his mother, Sebastian eventually receives and reflects to others the theological virtues of Faith and Hope.  And, like his mother, it is unclear whether he will receive the final grace of Charity and be welcomed into happiness.

Sebastian does live up to the expressed hope of his mother by accepting the mantle of her dead brothers.  He does keep the family faith alive, and projects the graces of faith and of hope, albeit not at the Brideshead estate.

Second Companion Book – Brideshead Revisited (Part 2)

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.


Second Companion Book – Brideshead Revisited

I promised that I would search for a second companion book to accompany the first companion book which I have already discussed, Atlas Shrugged.  I have found that second book.  This second book is Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh.

Whereas Atlas Shrugged is concerned with the road to happiness in this life, Brideshead Revisited is concerned with the road to happiness in the next life.  Some critics believe that this book is primarily about family, love, or the English aristocracy.  I believe that the book is primarily about religion; and, thus I agree with the author, who states in the preface to his book, “the book’s theme is the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters…” It is through the willingness to accept this grace that a few of the main characters receive one or more of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity).  By accepting these virtues, the characters move closer to happiness in the next life.  In addition, the author makes very clear that these virtues have a similar effect on the characters’ road to happiness in this life.  In essence, the theological virtues help the characters to find the road to happiness in this life as well as the next life.

Brideshead Revisited was written during the Second World War.  The author was serving in the British Army and took time to write about several years during his youth spent visiting with family members of Brideshead estate.  He wrote the book having come across Brideshead for a second time while serving in the British Army.

The book is beautifully written and touches upon the British aristocracy of the early 1900s.  It concerns the narrator and his interaction with the Catholic family of Brideshead surrounded by Protestant aristocracy.  This great novel deserves to be treated as one of the two companion books to my book for one main reason: it vividly portrays the road to happiness in the next life better than any other work of art that I have come across.  While other books are better at articulating love, and family, and the English aristocracy, no other book is better at articulating  the road to happiness in the next life through divine grace.

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked the novel as number 80 on its list of 100 best English-language works of the 20th century.  In addition, it was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English-laguage books from 1923 to the present.

In the next four posts I will explore the impact of divine grace on the actions of each of four main characters.  Hopefully, this will help to better understand the theme of the book.

More to come!

Seven Deadly Sins (Part 4)

One final issue needs to be addressed concerning the role of the seven deadly sins and the road to happiness.

Clearly, the sins must be erased, perhaps not all at once, to move along the road to happiness.  By what means are these sins erased?  They are erased with the assistance of the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues.

Each of these virtues helps the individual to see the harm of each of the seven sins to move effectively along the road to happiness.  For example, courage fights the tendency to remain inactive and slothful.  Temperance battles the pleasurable sins of lust and gluttony.

The theological virtue of faith helps guide one in accepting the call to adventure in Gallery Four.  The theological virtue of hope fortifies one during the battles to seize the boon.  And it is the final theological virtue of charity that rids one of pride and wrath, helping to bring one to the threshold of Gallery Seven – happiness.

But it is one final element that is needed to bring the adventurer across the threshold – that element is love.  It is the love of others for the adventurer that pulls him/her to happiness with the boon to be enjoyed by society.  It is the boon, the reason for the adventure in the first place, that contributes to the flourishing of society.

In conclusion, the seven deadly sins must be eradicated within us, perhaps one by one, if individual happiness is to be achieved as well as the flourishing of society.  Perhaps the seven deadly sins are as deadly to individual happiness as they are to the flourishing of society!

Seven Deadly Sins (Part 3)

With the absence of the first five deadly sins (greed, envy, sloth, lust, and gluttony) and the assistance of the first three cardinal virtues (wisdom, courage, and temperance), the individual soon enters Gallery Six.  It is in this gallery that the individual who enters with the two remaining deadly sins of pride and wrath must eradicate those sins before reaching Gallery Seven and a state of happiness.

The sin of pride is a corrupt selfishness that places one’s needs and desires above those of others.  It is a disregard for the welfare of others in one’s family and community.  It is outwardly directed (versus the previous five deadly sins) and intended to harm others.

The final sin of wrath is anger or rage against others and may include a desire to seek vengeance.  Like the sin of pride, it is outwardly directed and seeks the malevolence of others.

Since the battles have been won and the boon seized, the individuals in this gallery can remain for a long period of time before entering Gallery Seven, if available.  It is in this gallery that individuals have the time to eliminate the final two deadly sins.  It is also in this gallery that the final cardinal virtue of justice, or a concern for others, is needed to reach the threshold of Gallery Seven.  Pride and wrath are incompatible with justice.  You can not be pride and full of wrath and still be concerned with justice.

So, with the help of the virtue of justice and the elimination of the final two deadly sins, the individual in Gallery Six moves to the threshold of Gallery Seven.  But one final element is needed for the crossing of the threshold and the entrance into Gallery Seven.

More to come!




Seven Deadly Sins (Part 2)

As I mentioned in my previous post, anyone who possesses the first three deadly sins of greed, envy, and sloth will not travel beyond Gallery Three, or will spend a short amount of time in Gallery Four to only return back to Gallery Three.

Now, if an individual does not possess the first three deadly sins, then with the assistance of the cardinal virtues of wisdom and courage, the individual will soon find Gallery Five.  It is in this gallery that battles will be undertaken to secure the boon – which was the reason  for the adventure.

However, if the individual can not ride himself/herself of the fourth and fifth deadly sins of lust and gluttony, the battle to secure the boon will be lost.  Once lost, the individual will be sent back to Gallery Three.  Lust and gluttony, sins of the appetite, will keep the adventurer from being prepared for the battles that will be encountered in life.

It should be noted that the individual can possess these two deadly sins of lust and gluttony and still enter Gallery Five.  However, if these sins are not expunged or erased within a short period of time, the battles will be lost.  The individual will return to Gallery Three.

If the sins are eradicated, with the help of the third cardinal virtue of temperance, the individual will move to Gallery Six, assuming the battles have been won and the boon seized.

More to come!


Seven Deadly Sins (Part 1)

While I am working on finding the novel that best explains the road to happiness in the next life (as the novel Atlas Shrugged best explains the road to happiness in this life), I thought it might be appropriate to spend some time on the Seven Deadly Sins.

These seven sins are the polar opposites of the four cardinal virtues needed to reach happiness in this life and the three theological virtues required to reach happiness in the next life.

The seven deadly sins are: greed, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, pride, and wrath.  A better understanding of these sins will help to illustrate the necessity of the virtues in achieving happiness.

For example, being greedy for money and riches and envious of the fortune of others makes it impossible to recognize the call to adventure, should it be sent.  Focusing on what others have will mask the summons to begin the adventure.  Sure, individuals can be greedy and envious and move forward to Gallery Three, but passage beyond Gallery Three will not be possible.

In addition, even if an individual is neither greedy not envious, the third deadly sin of sloth will ensure that the call to the adventure that is recognized is not accepted out of laziness or idleness.  The individual will not have the courage to take action to move to the end of Gallery Four and begin the fight to secure the boon in Gallery Five.

In summary, the first three deadly sins of greed, envy, and sloth will make any passage beyond Gallery Three impossible: either Gallery Four is never entered or it is entered but soon abandoned for the security of Gallery Three.

More to come.