Brideshead Revisited: The Garden Breakdown

Probably the most powerful scene in BR, Julia suffers a temendous prick of conscience which eventually leads to her full conversion of life. In this scene we see a combination of plot elements tumbled together, her Catholic upbringing at the knee of her Irish nanny, the childhood crucifix, the “penny Catechism” of the era, the death of her newborn, her bad marriage, her affair with Charlies–all are ultimately vehicles for communicating the paschal mystery concretely into her own experience. Connecting her sins and sorrows and those she inflicted on others to Christ’s suffering and death on the cross is the first moment of her drawn out conversion to Him.

The first moment of conversion is sorrow and regret. Unrepentant, God can do nothing with us.

Note: Charles has no clue what she is talking about, reinforcing the major theme of the story–Catholics are absolutely not like other people. Catholics dwell between the two worlds–the material and the spiritual, each having its own rules and logic.

Note 2:  The Religious Ed Director of the parish where I assist just read BR on my recommendation.  She loved it and was all excited to discuss this morning.  She is a convert and a religious educator, so it was interesting to hear her take.  She saw the book as the playing out of the deep religious formation from Lady Marchmain and the Nanny–the nanny being the almost invisible figure who attached the invisible thread to each of the children in preparation for God’s twitch.


One Response to Brideshead Revisited: The Garden Breakdown

  1. brideshead says:

    Agreed – Julia’s breakdown in the garden is central to the second half of the novel. It explains to us why she must renounce Charles to fully embrace her faith.

    BTW, you’re not the only Cordelia-themed Catholic blog:

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