Thoughts on Brideshead Revisited -- The Miniseries


“By long forebearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.”
-Prov. 25:15, KJV

Thoughts on Brideshead Revisited

Thoughts on Brideshead Revisited

While watching Brideshead Revisited, the BBC television miniseries, I have contemplated the above verse from Proverbs and what exactly it means.

In the television miniseries, a struggle with alcoholism is portrayed. Sebastian, one of the leading characters, increasingly falls into a worse struggle with drinking, to the point that his character completely changes.  It is like he is swallowed up into the belly of the beast that is addiction.

His good friend, the protagonist Charles Ryder — played by Jeremy Irons — continues to show him compassion, and is a faithful friend.  I think the dramatic irony — specifically in episode 5 — is that the Catholic character is the one severely suffering with a harrowing addiction, while his non-religious friend is the one showing stability and a continued, faithful friendship over many years. Charles is called a bad friend for letting it continue, and even enabling him financially, by Sebastian’s family. But in reality, he is self-sacrificing and unjudging in the midst of convoluted circumstances.

Returning to Proverbs 25:15, Christ’s forbearance with us as often faithless and unfaithful Christians is like a good friend who just won’t go away.  Sometimes he is just waiting, sometimes speaking softly, and according to this verse, that is the sort of conviction that actually works. He demonstrates patience by speaking softly to us throughout the course of our lives. Sometimes it is through trials or circumstances, sometimes through friends or acquaintances. I could remember God’s immense patience with me when I’m dealing with my children. I would also do well to consider it in regard to some of my friendships.

However, I believe that children are a much different case from an adult with a life-threatening addiction. One example from the show comes to mind.  A friend of the family, Mr. Samgrass, is called upon by Lady Marchmain (Sebastian’s mother) to sort of “watch out” for Sebastian while he is away at Oxford. Charles finds this childish and foolish, knowing that it will cause shame for Sebastian. As his friend, he refuses to “watch him” like he is a little child. Instead, he remains a friend.  His suspicion is confirmed when the plan they have concocted only makes the alcoholism into a worse problem for Sebastian.

I expect to finish watching the miniseries, and I’m curious to know if Charles is converted to the Catholic faith. So far, I find the friendship intriguing, though the situation remains morose.

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Copyright 2013 Tacy Beck


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  1. Ginny Kubitz Moyer on

    You make me want to see the miniseries again! I’ve read the book a few times and it is terrific. I first read it for a high school English class (I went to a Catholic school) and it really spoke to me … it seemed to mirror some of my own family’s experience of Catholicism. Subsequent re-readings over the years have been every bit as rewarding. Lots of food for thought.

  2. Rhonda Ortiz on

    What a great point, Tacy! No matter where we or others are in our Jacob’s wrestling with the Almighty, it doesn’t negate the good things placed in ourselves or others. Do you think we have a tendency to fall into the “either/or” mentality, that is, either a person is Catholic and therefore worth emulation, or they aren’t, and we’re supposed to distrust them? I think I do, and I don’t think it’s a noteworthy trait.

    Perhaps a digression, but your point somehow reminds me of that line in one of C.S. Lewis’ works (Mere Christianity?) where he points out the the grumpy old woman that annoys us might be fighting and winning a heroic battle against a naturally dour temper… though we couldn’t see it.

    • Good point – I love the C.S. lewis reference. And yes, life is always more complicated than a black and white moral to the story.

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