Brideshead Revisited
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"Brideshead Revisited" Summary

By Evelyn Waugh

classics | 351 pages | Published in 1945

The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, Brideshead Revisited looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly-disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognize only his spiritual and social distance from them.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young man becomes infatuated with the wealthy and eccentric Flyte family, leading to a complex and tumultuous relationship that spans decades.


"Brideshead Revisited" is a novel by Evelyn Waugh, first published in 1945. It is a poignant and introspective story that explores themes of love, faith, and the passage of time. The novel is set in England before, during, and after World War II, and it follows the life of Charles Ryder, a young man who becomes captivated by the aristocratic Flyte family and their ancestral home, Brideshead Castle. As the story unfolds, it delves into the complexities of human relationships, the clash between tradition and modernity, and the transformative power of art and religion.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

The novel is primarily set in England, spanning the period from the 1920s to the early 1940s. It takes place against the backdrop of the country's social and political changes, including the decline of the British aristocracy and the impact of two world wars. The story is narrated by Charles Ryder, an aspiring artist and officer in the British Army.

Main Characters

The novel features a range of characters, but the key ones include:

Charles RyderThe protagonist, a young man from a middle-class background who becomes infatuated with the aristocratic world of the Flyte family.
Sebastian FlyteCharles' close friend at Oxford, a charming and troubled young man from a wealthy, Catholic family.
Julia FlyteSebastian's captivating sister, who becomes a central figure in Charles' life.
Lord MarchmainThe patriarch of the Flyte family, who struggles with his faith and the traditions of his noble lineage.
Lady MarchmainLord Marchmain's devoutly Catholic wife, who exerts a significant influence over her children and the family estate.

Summary of Different Story Points Over Chapters

Part One: Et in Arcadia Ego

In the opening chapters, Charles recalls his time at Oxford University, where he meets the charismatic Sebastian Flyte. The two become fast friends, and Charles is drawn into the opulent world of Sebastian's family and their ancestral home, Brideshead Castle. Charles is enamored with the beauty and grandeur of the estate, as well as the enigmatic charm of the Flyte siblings.

Part Two: Brideshead Deserted

The narrative shifts to the aftermath of World War II, where Charles is stationed with the British Army. He reflects on his past experiences with the Flyte family and his deepening relationships with Sebastian, Julia, and their parents. The family's Catholic faith and the tensions within their household become increasingly prominent themes.

Part Three: A Twitch upon the Thread

Charles is summoned to Brideshead, which has been requisitioned by the military. He reconnects with Julia, and their romantic feelings for each other resurface. The novel delves into the complexities of their forbidden love and the impact of religious beliefs and personal choices on their relationship.

Main Events

The novel is rich with significant events that shape the characters' lives and relationships. These events include Charles' introduction to the Flyte family, his infatuation with Brideshead, Sebastian's struggle with alcoholism, the family's conflicts over faith and tradition, and the evolving dynamics between Charles and the Flytes over the years.

Themes and Insights


  • Religion and Faith: The novel explores the complexities of Catholicism and its influence on the Flyte family, particularly the tensions between personal desires and religious convictions.
  • Love and Longing: The story delves into unrequited and forbidden love, as well as the yearning for a sense of belonging and purpose.
  • Class and Tradition: It examines the decline of the British aristocracy and the clash between old-world traditions and the changing social landscape.


The novel offers insights into the enduring power of memory, the impact of war on individuals and society, and the interplay between art, architecture, and the preservation of history.

Reader's Takeaway

"Brideshead Revisited" presents readers with a deeply evocative and introspective narrative that delves into the complexities of human emotions, the passage of time, and the enduring influence of the past on the present. It offers a captivating exploration of love, faith, and the intricacies of interpersonal relationships set against the backdrop of a changing world.


Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" stands as a timeless work that continues to resonate with readers for its profound exploration of love, faith, and the enduring impact of the past. Through its richly developed characters and evocative portrayal of England's social and cultural transformations, the novel invites readers to contemplate the complexities of human experience and the enduring quest for meaning and connection.

Brideshead Revisited FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Brideshead Revisited'?

    Brideshead Revisited is a novel that falls into the genre of literary fiction.

  2. Who is the author of 'Brideshead Revisited'?

    The author of 'Brideshead Revisited' is Evelyn Waugh.

  3. When was 'Brideshead Revisited' first published?

    Brideshead Revisited was first published in 1945.

  4. What is the setting of 'Brideshead Revisited'?

    The novel is set in the interwar period in England, primarily at the fictional estate of Brideshead Castle.

  5. What is the main theme of 'Brideshead Revisited'?

    The main themes of 'Brideshead Revisited' include nostalgia, the decline of the British aristocracy, and the complexities of faith and religion.

  6. Is 'Brideshead Revisited' a coming-of-age story?

    Yes, 'Brideshead Revisited' can be considered a coming-of-age story as it follows the protagonist, Charles Ryder, through his formative years and his relationships with the aristocratic Flyte family.

  7. What are the major symbols in 'Brideshead Revisited'?

    Some major symbols in the novel include Brideshead Castle itself, which represents the fading world of the British aristocracy, and the Catholic faith, which plays a significant role in the characters' lives.

  8. Is 'Brideshead Revisited' a romance novel?

    While romance is a significant element in the novel, 'Brideshead Revisited' is not solely a romance novel. It delves into various themes and relationships beyond romantic love.

  9. What is the narrative style of 'Brideshead Revisited'?

    The narrative is primarily told from the perspective of the protagonist, Charles Ryder, and is known for its rich, descriptive prose and introspective tone.

  10. Has 'Brideshead Revisited' been adapted into other forms of media?

    Yes, 'Brideshead Revisited' has been adapted into film, television, and radio productions, further cementing its status as a classic work of literature.