1 minute read

Vile Bodies

Decline and Fall

a novel by Evelyn Waugh, published in 1930. Following the success of Decline and Fall, his chronicle of the empty hedonism of the ‘roaring Twenties’, Waugh introduced many of the same themes and characters, including the brittle, amoral Margot Metroland, into his second novel. The book opens with an account of a Channel crossing undertaken by a group of ‘Bright Young Things’ including the hero, Adam Fenwick-Symes, together with other social luminaries such as the American evangelist Mrs Melrose Ape, the disgraced former Prime Minister Walter Outrage, the sinister Jesuit priest Father Rothschild, and the society beauty Agatha Runcible. All these characters reappear at the various social gatherings which punctuate the narrative, where other characters, including Lady Metroland, Miles Malpractice, and Nina Blount, Adam's fiancée, are introduced. One of the book's running jokes is the alternate breaking-off and reinstatement of Adam's engagement to Nina, as his finances dwindle or increase. Eventually, Nina marries Ginger Littlejohn, her childhood sweetheart, but continues her illicit liaison with Adam. The surreal tone of the work is epitomized in its closing scenes, in which war is declared and Adam, now a war hero, reads his last letter from Nina on the field of battle—a prescient image of the impending cataclysm.

Additional topics

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Richard Vaughan Biography to Rosanna Warren Biography