Charles comments that he doesn’t think Julia likes him. Sebastian explains that Julia doesn’t like many people and says that he and Julia are similar. Charles asks what Sebastian means. Sebastian explains that he and Julia look alike, but they aren’t alike in personality. Sebastian would never love someone who had his own temperament. Sebastian exclaims that they are going to have a wonderful time alone, and Charles has a sense of freedom.
Charles’s awkward time with his father illuminates new aspects of Charles’s character. First, we see that in Charles’s family, people do not say what they mean but rather rely on implication to the point of farce. Charles displays some of this indirectness himself, such as in Chapter 1, when he talks about the way Sebastian describes beauty instead of directly stating why he likes Sebastian. In addition, the way Charles needles his commanding officer in the prologue evokes the way his father’s rudeness comes out through passive aggressive behavior. In addition, given his father’s anecdote about Charles’s aunt, it becomes clear the Ryder family has a habit of driving each other away, making every conversation a strategic battle. Given this pattern, we can understand why Charles finds Sebastian, with his open warmth, novel and exhilarating. We also see from the dinner scenes that Charles’s father pursues his own amusement at the expense of those around him, in a crueler version of how Charles now wishes to pursue pleasure heedless of the consequences. Because Charles’s father holds the authority in their small family, it stands to reason that Charles has never gotten to behave freely until now, explaining some of his Oxford excesses and his embrace of the freedom he finds there.
Charles’s strong reaction to meeting Julia clarifies several aspects of Charles’s desires. First, because his primary point of attraction to Julia comes from her physical similarities to Sebastian, their meeting works as probable confirmation of a romantic aspect to Sebastian and Charles’s relationship. However, this encounter also foreshadows a future closeness between Charles and Julia instead of Charles continuing his closeness to Sebastian. Throughout this scene, Julia holds herself like an adult despite being around Sebastian’s age: she drives a car, smokes a cigarette, and attends social engagements outside of her home. In contrast, Sebastian cannot handle even a small injury without coddling, as usual behaving much younger than his years. The way Charles portrays Sebastian and Julia as extremely similar in appearance but lightyears apart in maturity again furthers the idea that maturing means conforming to heteronormative societal dictates like marriage. Charles’s overwhelming sense of freedom and relief at Julia’s departure suggests he is not ready to grow up and take part in a world of social expectations.
This chapter also illuminates some of Sebastian’s emotional issues with his family. Julia’s eagerness to leave Sebastian hints that she has no patience for her brother, suggesting that one of the reasons Sebastian avoids his family is because they don’t enjoy his company. Therefore, while it would be easy to dismiss Sebastian’s exaggerated report of his condition as typical dramatics, it also functions as a response to a profound loneliness. Sebastian himself notes that he wouldn’t love someone with his own temperament, which implies self-loathing, suggesting that him being alone at Brideshead would have been disastrous. Sebastian’s comment that he might not bring Aloysius to Venice helps develop the role the bear plays in Sebastian’s life. Sebastian treats Aloysius almost as a conscience or positive influence. For example, in a previous chapter, when he writes the first apology letter to Charles, he claims Aloysius demands Sebastian earn Charles’s forgiveness. Sebastian thus imbues Aloysius with artistic merit and believes he looks down on bad behavior, like Anthony’s lying. Therefore, Sebastian leaving Aloysius home from Venice suggests that something about seeing his father makes him want to abandon positive influences.