A Handful of Dust
Brett and Brenda: Fallen Women
Evelyn Waugh’s “A Handful of Dust” and Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” both feature memorable female characters. Lady Brett Ashley, of “The Sun Also Rises” is a strong and independent woman who refuses to commit to any one man. Brenda Last, of Evelyn Waugh’s “A Handful of Dust” is an unhappily married woman who engages in an extramarital affair. Both of these women have one defining feature: infidelity. While the unfaithful Brenda and the promiscuous Brett are similar in their flaws, they are also very different characters in their motives, their attitudes, and their eventual outcomes as fallen women.
Brenda Last’s character is slow in development. We first only hear a few mentions of her when Mrs. Beaver refers to her as “lovely” (Waugh 6), and “people used to be mad about her when she was a girl” (7). A little while later, Jock refers to Brenda as a “grand girl” and “devoted wife” (11). Despite these complimentary references to Brenda, she is later revealed as far less than a devoted wife, and certainly not lovely to her husband and son.
The first subtle but significant hint that Brenda is not what people imagine is that her room is named Guinevere. Although every room in the house is named with an Arthurian name,...
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