Charles Ryder's description of his worldview:
The view implicit in my education was that the basic narrative of Christianity had long been exposed as a myth, and that opinion was now divided as to whether its ethical teaching was of present value, a division in which the main weight went against it; religion was a hobby which some people professed and others did not; at the best it was slightly ornamental, at the worst it was the province of "complexes" and "inhibitions" - catchwords of the decade - and of the intolerance, hypocrisy, and sheer stupidity attributed it for centuries. No one had ever suggested to me that these quaint observances expressed a coherent philosophic system and intransigent historical claims; nor, had they done so, would I have been much interested.
A vivid description of Italy:
The fortnight at Venice passed quickly and sweetly - perhaps too sweetly; I was drowning in honey, stingless. On some days life kept pace with the gondola, as we nosed through the side-canals and the boatman uttered his plaintive musical bird-cry of warning; on other days, with the speed-boat bouncing over the lagoon in a stream of sun-lit foam; it left a confused memory of fierce sunlight on the sands and cool, marble interiors; of water everywhere, lapping on smooth stone, reflected in a dapple of light on painted ceilings....
Cara, Alex Marchmain's mistress, on why he hates his wife:
"When people hate with all that energy, it is something in themselves they are hating. Alex is hating all the illusions of boyhood - innocence, God, hope. Poor Lady Marchmain has to bear all that. He loved me for a time, quite a short time, as a man loves his own strength; it is simpler for a woman; she has not all these ways of loving. Now Alex is very fond of me and I protect him from his own innocence."
I find it an interesting commentary on how some love, and on that breed of men that hover forever between adolescence and adulthood. Sometimes, innocence can be a bad thing.
And this was just such a grand, heartbreaking portrait of a young alcoholic I couldn't help but share it:
His constant, despairing prayer was to be let alone. By the blue waters and rustling palm of his own mind he was happy and harmless as a Polynesian; only when the big ship dropped anchor beyond the coral reef, and the cutter beached in the lagoon, and, up the golden slope that had never known the print of a boot there trod the grim invasion of a trader, administrator, missionary and tourist - only then was it time to disinter the archaic weapons of the tribe and sound the drums in the hills; or, more easily, to turn from the sunlit door and lie alone in the darkness, where the impotent, painted deities paraded the walls in vain, and cough his heart out among the rum bottles.
And again, about the drunkard:
Julia used to say, "Poor Sebastian. It's something chemical in him."
That was the cant phrase of the time, derived from heaven knows what misconception of popular science. "There's something chemical between them" was used to explain the overmastering hate or love of any two people. It was the old concept of determinism in a new form. I do not believe there was anything chemical in my friend.
And Julia's famous monologue on sin, a histrionic, rather unbelievable, but heart wrenching scene:
"All in one word, too, on little flat, deadly word that covers a lifetime.
"A word from so long ago, from Nanny Hawkins stitching by the hearth and the nightlight burning before the Sacred Heart. Cordelia and me with the catechism, in Mummy's room, before luncheon on Sundays. Mummy carrying my sin with her to church, bowed under it and the black lace veil, in the chapel; slipping out with in in London before the fires were lit; taking it with her through empty streets, where the milkman's ponies stood with their forefeet on the pavement; Mummy dying with my sin eating at her, more cruelly than her own deadly illness.
"Never the shelter of the cave or of the castle walls. Outcast in the desolate spaces where the hyenas roam at night and the rubbish heaps smoke in the daylight. No way back; the gates barred; all the saints and angels posted along the walls. Nothing but bare stone and dust and the smouldering dumps. Thrown away, scrapped, rotting down; the old man with lupus and the forked stick who limps out at nightfall to turn the rubbish, hoping for something to put in his sack, something marketable, turns away in disgust.
"Nameless and dead, like the baby they wrapped up and took away before I had seen her."
Overall, a great book, a moving portrayal of sin and reality, redemption and mercy. The central theme is that of God's grace, drawing those who are his, as Chesterton's Father Brown puts it in The Queer Feet, "with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread."