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Decline and Fall Study Guide & Plot Summary

This Study Guide consists of approximately 65 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Decline and Fall.
This section contains 506 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Decline and Fall Summary & Study Guide Description

Decline and Fall Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Literary Precedents and a Free Quiz on Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh.

Plot Summary

Decline and Fall, published in 1928 and subtitled "A Novel of Many Manners," follows Paul Pennyfeather a twenty year old man who, when unfairly ejected from Oxford University, is forced to seek work as a schoolmaster at a private boys' school in Wales.

On the night of the Bollinger Club dinner - a socially elite and notoriously badly behaved society located at Scone College, Oxford - Paul Pennyfeather, returning across the quadrangle to his rooms, is assaulted by one of the Club's members for wearing a tie that resembles that of the Boller. In the ensuing tussle, Pennyfeather loses most of his clothing, including his trousers, and runs in this near naked state the length of the quad, in an attempt to escape the inebriated and enraged Bollinger Club. Though the Club members, who have destroyed a great deal of personal property as well as attacking Paul, are simply fined for their infractions, Paul is expelled for indecent behavior.

Returning home, Paul is informed by his smug guardian that Paul's late father left it completely to his discretion whether or not Paul should inherit at his upcoming twenty-first birthday and, considering the circumstances of his expulsion from Scone, he does not believe Paul worthy of the money. With this, Paul proceeds to Church and Gargoyle Academic Agents in order to find a job as a schoolmaster. Dr. Augustus Fagan hires Paul - in spite of the young man's vast inexperience - to teach at the school of which he is headmaster, Llanabba School, South Wales.

The school itself is dingy, depressing, and seems always on the verge of coming apart at the seams. The masters, Captain Grimes, Mr. Prendergast, and Paul, are all unqualified for their positions, the students are frightfully undisciplined, and little or no learning ever takes place within Llanabba Castle's walls.

Paul does not remain at Llanabba long, however. At the end of his first term, he is invited to be holiday tutor for Peter Beste-Chetwynde, the son of Margot Beste-Chetwynde, an extremely rich society woman. Before the holidays are over, Margot and Paul are engaged to be married.

Though Paul is desperately in love with Margot and overjoyed by his engagement, their plans are derailed just before the wedding itself. Margot asks Paul to take care of some business for her in South America - business Paul knows next to nothing about. As it happens, Margot's "places of entertainment" are actually brothels and Paul is soon arrested. Though he is guilty of nothing himself, he goes willingly to jail to save Margot from punishment. Paul is sent to Blackstone Gaol and later to Egdon Heath Prison, meeting several friends and acquaintances from Llanabba in both places and not really feeling the strain of captivity at all.

In the meantime, Margot marries Sir Humphrey Maltravers, the Home Secretary, who manages to have Paul declared dead and, thereby, gets him out of prison. After a brief time in Margot's villa on Corfu, Paul decides to return to Scone College and resume his studies, after little more than a year's absence.

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This section contains 506 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Decline and Fall Study Guide
Decline and Fall from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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