"Its theme — the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters — was perhaps presumptuously large, but I make no apology for it."Brideshead Revisited is a 1945 novel by Evelyn Waugh about the relationship/love-affair between Charles Ryder, a middle class man, and various members of a decaying family of English Roman Catholic aristocrats, most notably the lovable, but dipso, manchild Sebastian Flyte and later his sister Julia.Made into a successful mini-series by ITV in 1981 starring Jeremy Irons as Charles and Anthony Andrews as Sebastian, and a feature film in 2008 with Matthew Goode and Ben Whishaw in the roles.
— Evelyn Waugh, Preface to the 1945 Edition
The novel provides examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Sebastian starts as a young, tormented guy, and a major point in his part of the story is when he becomes an alcoholic. The problem is exacerbated by Charles's wanton and cruel gift of money. Sebastian's descent into alcoholism is Played for Drama.
- Aloof Big Brother: Sebastian's elder brother, who's name is also Brideshead, acts so "logically" and "to the point" most of the time that he typically treats his siblings coldly.
- Ambiguously Bi: Charles's relationships with Sebastian and Julia suggest this, although he shows no interest in men other than Sebastian. It's also worth noting that romances between Oxford undergrads were ubiquitous at the time and not seen as indicative of future orientation.
- Ambiguously Gay: Sebastian's orientation is never outright stated, but he clearly prefers the company of men — some of whom are openly gay — and shows no interest in women.
- Big Fancy House: Brideshead itself is an old mansion, with a full staff and enough rooms that Sebastian and Charles can be comfortably away from the rest of the family while Charles visits.
- Brick Joke: Early in the book, Mulcaster is involved in hazing of Anthony Blanche. Anthony predicts that the men who did it will remember this while they live boring lives. Halfway through the book, Mulcaster brings up the incident.
- Camp Gay: Anthony Blanche. He is a flamboyantly dressed aesthete who is outspoken about his sexuality and even buys Charles a drink at a gay club at one point.
- Christianity Is Catholic: Notably averted in the novel, where the distinctions between different kinds of Christianity are important to the plot.
- Converting for Love: It's a given that anyone who wants to marry into the Flyte family must convert to Catholicism. Rex Mottram's attempt to do so is an Epic Fail—partly because he doesn't give a hang for religion, partly because Cordelia feeds him false information as a joke (he believes, for instance, that you can condemn anyone's soul to Hell by paying the Church a small fee).
- Cure Your Gays: Very ambiguously implied when Rex mentions that the sanitorium he plans to send Sebastian to treats sex cases as well as alcoholism. Lady Marchmain seems to miss this as she responds by wondering about the kind of company Sebastian would have there.
- Downer Ending: By his own admission, Charles ends the book homeless, childless, loveless and middle-aged, and pretty much nobody else lives happily ever after either.note Still, it also ends with the intimation that he finds religion. After it might have mattered. Hallelujah!
- Ensign Newbie: Charles's World War II Military service is hindered by the clumsy, but well meaning Lieutenant Hooper.
- Everybody Smokes: Justified given the time period.
- Evil Matriarch: One interpretation of Lady Marchmain.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Played straight and then subverted — Charles initially is little more than an outside observer upon Sebastian and his family, but after the Time Skip becomes the novel's proper protagonist.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: The bulk of the action takes place between 1923 and 1939.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Considering it was first published in 1945 the book gets away with an awful lot. No one batted an eyelid at the flamboyant Anthony Blanche, ambiguously gay main character Sebastian Flyte, and conspicuous Homoerotic Subtext between him and Charles. (Unless you knew the real people of whom they were thinly veiled fictionalizations.)
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: In-universe; Charles is relieved to have a valid reason to hate his wife due to her infidelity but cheerfully abandons his own family for Julia.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Julia has one of these when Lord Brideshead calls her out on her adulterous relationship with Charles.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Charles and Sebastian. Maybe.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Charles consistently refers to Caroline as his wife's baby, indicating his belief that she is not his daughter but the product of Celia's adultery.
- Manchild: Sebastian is this, at least at the start. Complete with teddy bear.
- Minor Injury Overreaction: Sebastian sends a telegram to Charles saying that he's dying; Charles arrives to find that Sebastian really just broke a tiny bone too unimportant to name.
- The Mistress: Cara, Lord Marchmain's mistress.
- Missing Mum: Charles's mother passed away when he was young.
- The Not-Love Interest: Sebastian is this to Charles, and the "forerunner" to his later loves.
- Parental Abandonment: Charles doesn't really care for either of his children, emphasized best when he goes to London to begin his serious affair with Julia instead of returning home to meet his son and daughter, the former who made him a Welcome Home banner for the occasion and the latter who was born when he was away and who he never even met!
- The Plan: Arguably played by God, of all people. Almost all of the characters eventually find religion in the end, despite their attempts to run away.
- Second Love: Charles's first love is for Sebastian but when Sebastian becomes more distant due to his alcoholism problem, Charles—after an unhappy marriage—ultimately courts Sebastian's sister Julia (which turns out to be another ill-fated relationship). There are shades of the Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest here because Charles notes the striking similarity between Julia and her brother when he first encounters them. Towards the end of the novel, Charles considers his feelings for Sebastian a sort of forerunner to his devotion to Julia.
- Speech Impediment: Blanche, as well as Kurt.
- The Spock: Bridey
- Trophy Wife: Averted: Bridey thinks he's made quite the catch with the divorced mother Beryl but pretty much everyone who meets her is turned off by her appearance and demeanor; multiple people wonder why one of the most eligible bachelors in London chose her.
- Mottram sees Julia as one and finds himself disappointed after he marries her and finds it going nowhere.
- World War II: The framing narrative is set during the war, which sees Charles posted to the requisitioned Brideshead and reminiscing about his time with the Flytes.
The mini-series provides examples of:
- The Ghost: In the miniseries, Mrs. Muspratt never quite makes it onscreen.
- Tone Shift: Most apparent in this adaption, where the first half of the series offers an almost nostalgic window into the lives (and loves) of aristocratic young Englishmen, whereas the second half of the series feels more like a very staid, cold analysis and commentary on religion.
The movie provides examples of:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Cordelia is described in the novel as having grown up plain to the point where Charles is at first disappointed to see her; Felicity Jones, however, is too adorable to ever be considered "plain."
- Adaptational Curves: Julia is waifish in the books but is played by the much more buxom and curvaceous Hayley Atwell (Emma Thompson fought the demands for Atwell to lose weight for the role). This makes her look a lot less similar to the appropriately waifish Ben Whishaw, eroding one of book!Charles's motivations for falling for her (that she resembles her brother).
- Adaptational Villainy: Lady Marchmain.
- Christianity Is Catholic: Oddly kind of inverted in the film, with the nominal Catholics behaving more like Evangelicals.
- Death by Adaptation: Charles learns near the end of the film that Bridey died in the Blitz.
- Scenery Porn: The movie was filmed on location at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. There are a lot of nice shots of Oxford and Venice, as well.
- Sibling Triangle: In the 2008 movie, Sebastian has a thing for Charles, but the latter and Julia are in love. In the book and mini-series, Charles's relationship with Julia comes ten years after the friendship with Sebastian has ended and there are no signs of a love triangle.
- Triang Relations: Between Charles, Sebastian, and Julia.