As an 'outsider' looking in on a world to which he does not fully belong, Nick Guest has been compared to other literary 'outsiders' with the same first name; notably, Nick Carraway in F. Scott Fitgerald's The Great Gatsby, and Nick Jenkins in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time.
Parallels have also been drawn with Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. Indeed, The Line of Beauty as a whole bears a striking resemblance to Waugh's novel. However, Allan Hollinghurst has somewhat mixed feelings about this:
'I feel I'm a bit saddled with Brideshead. I mean I revere Waugh . . . the early Evelyn Waugh I love, A Handful of Dust and so on. Kingsley Amis said a brilliant thing . . . when Brideshead Revisited was televised, he reviewed it for the TLS where I was working then; he said Evelyn Waugh was a brilliant writer of a kind peculiarly liable at any moment to write a really bad book, which is what he considered Brideshead to have been. So, of course, I can see that there is the thing which I often do about having an outsider moving into a world which is sort of glamorous, and possibly sort of an upper-class world. And I like that thing of the outsider who brings a fresh eye to the world that he is penetrating but also retains the values of his own world . . . quite a useful device for the novelist. Yes, so, one review of The Line of Beauty said that it was just a version of Brideshead but with Thatcherism instead of Roman Catholicism, but that seemed to be fundamentally wrong because in Brideshead, Catholicism remains the unchallenged good in the author's eyes at the end, while in my own book I hope that Thatcherism has taken quite a knock.'
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