Charles Ryder
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Charles Ryder

Brideshead Revisited

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About Him

Grew Up… in pre-WWI London. An only child, Charles lost his mother at an early age and was raised mainly by his father, who was a decidedly hands-off parent. Still, if not an ideal upbringing, it spared Charles from inheriting some of his father’s odder mannerisms.

Living… at Oxford University, where he attends Hertford College. Charles is living away from home for the first time, so his older cousin at Oxford often tries to prep him on what he needs to know about life in the city of dreaming spires. Charles, however, seems more interested in taking his new life into his own hands.

Profession… history major who would rather be an artist. When told by a fellow student that one either is or is not an artist, Charles replies: “then I am.” A mixture of this artistic temperament, his wide-eyed charm, and pure coincidence end up making Charles close with young Lord Sebastian Flyte, whose friendship ends up being nearly a full-time job. Luckily, though, friendship with a young aristocrat can pay very well.

Interests… art, wine, and Sebastian. Charles is interested not only in Sebastian, but also in Sebastian’s family, the Marchmains. After visiting their country home, Brideshead, Charles becomes particularly enamored with the family, their unusual Catholic ways, and of course, their fantastic wine cellar.

Relationship Status… single. Oxford is predominantly male, and a number of Charles’ group of friends are flamboyantly homosexual. Though heterosexual himself, Charles has a complex relationship with Sebastian, one which may be more than just platonic.

Challenge… resolving his inner conflict. Charles doesn’t know what he wants or why he wants it. He is driven – whether by fascination or envy – toward the Marchmain family, but in order to love truly, Charles must first learn how to truly be himself. It sounds simple, but it is a difficult task for a man who no longer knows whether “my loves, my hates, down even to my deepest desires [...] are my own, or stolen from those I once so desperately wished to be.”

Personality… unassuming, mild-mannered, and thoughtful. Charles is capable of great maturity, but also of naïve wonder. Like Sebastian, he is young and fairly wide-eyed, but Charles also carries a sense of disillusionment waiting to happen. 

Charles Ryder's popularity ranking on CharacTour is #3966 out of 5,600+ characters. See our top-ranked characters and read their profiles.

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