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Evelyn Waugh (1903–1966)

  • Michael Gorra

Abstract

Just before the end of Decline and Fall (1928) Evelyn Waugh makes Paul Pennyfeather attend a lecture on church history, at which he learns about:

… the heresies of the second century. There was a bishop of Bithynia, Paul learned, who had denied the Divinity of Christ, the immortality of the soul, the existence of good, the legality of marriage, and validity of the sacrament of Extreme Unction. How right they had been to condemn him! (288)

But should one take this passage, and Pennyfeather’s concluding comment in particular, at face value, as a Kiplingesque plea for what Alvin Kernan calls the need for ‘ceaselessly manned walls protecting sense, order, and meaningful life from riot and savagery’ ?1 For Pennyfeather’s sentiments seem out of place in a novel written with the brio of Decline and Fall. They seem, in fact, to belong to the older Waugh, who in Brideshead Revisited replaced the anarchic comedy of his early work with an assertive Catholicism, a vision of the Roman Church as civilization’s only defence against the terrors of the modern world. This passage does provide a foreshadowing of Waugh’s later beliefs, but one need not in reading Decline and Fall take its implications seriously, need not view it as a condemnation of the world in which the novel is set.

Keywords

Real Person Radical Instability Country House Vatican Council Outward Behaviour 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes and References

  1. 1.
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  2. 2.
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  3. 3.
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Copyright information

© Michael Gorra 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Gorra
    • 1
  1. 1.Smith CollegeNorthamptonUSA

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