Philanthropy have left her utterly unconcerned abo

hiut her family and Harold Skimpole who is a lazy and selfish man looked after by others’ generosity and his mimicry of childish irresponsibility. In its time the novel was seen as poorly constructed despite its host of interesting characters although later critics have generally seen it as one of his very finest works despite its occasional verbosity.

Variously a parish helper to the London poor and a successful New Zealand sheep farmer, Samuel Butler did not treasure the attitudes of his time (the second half of the 19th century). His books were iconoclastic in their attitudes towards Victorian ideals and The Way of All Flesh is foremost among them. It is appropriate, then, that it was published after his death and Queen Victoria’s, in 1903. It was completed in its original version in 1885 though the second half was never revised. It depicts the lives of four generations and is narrated by family friend Overton although it focuses on Ernest Pontifex and his respect for his great-grandfather John. His father Theo is the books initial concern, though,and he grows after ordination into cruel and disciplinarian attitudes to parenthood which affect young Ernest. As the story progresses we see the latter give his money to a pregnant maid, become a priest and imprisoned for mistaking a respectable lady for a whore. Ernest is released only to begin an unwise relationship with the maid, Ellen. The tale and its conclusion question the values of Victorian society and offer the solace of the individual mind when convention fails.

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Many regard The Way of All Flesh, published in 1903, the year after Butler’s death, as his masterpiece. It certainly contains much of the quintessence of Butlerism. This largely autobiographical novel tells, with ruthless wit, realism, and lack of sentiment, the story of Butler’s escape from the suffocating moral atmosphere of his home circle. In it, the character Ernest Pontifex stands for Butler’s early self and Overton for his mature self; Theobald and Christina are his parents; Towneley and Alethea represent “nice” people who “love God” in Butler’s special sense of having “good health, good looks, good sense, experience, and a fair balance of cash in hand.” The book was influential at the beginning of the anti-Victorian reaction and helped turn the tide against excessive parental dominance and religious rigidity.

Ernest Pontifex, protagonist in The Way of All Flesh, battles his father’s iron will in a personal struggle to fully realize the potential of the self. While taking the position of an intellectual gadfly determined to attack the shams of society, Pontifex also assumes the de facto role of spokesman for the author’s unique anti-Victorian beliefs.
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philanthropy have left her utterly unconcerned about her family and Harold Skimpole who is a lazy and selfish man looked after by others’ generosity and his mimicry of childish irresponsibility. In its time the novel was seen as poorly constructed despite its host of interesting characters although later critics have generally seen it as one of his very finest works despite its occasional verbosity.


Way of all flesh
Summary
Variously a parish helper to the London poor and a successful New Zealand sheep farmer, Samuel Butler did not treasure the attitudes of his time (the second half of the 19th century). His books were iconoclastic in their attitudes towards Victorian ideals and The Way of All Flesh is foremost among them. It is appropriate, then, that it was published after his death and Queen Victoria’s, in 1903. It was completed in its original version in 1885 though the second half was never revised. It depicts the lives of four generations and is narrated by family friend Overton although it focuses on Ernest Pontifex and his respect for his great-grandfather John. His father Theo is the books initial concern, though,and he grows after ordination into cruel and disciplinarian attitudes to parenthood which affect young Ernest. As the story progresses we see the latter give his money to a pregnant maid, become a priest and imprisoned for mistaking a respectable lady for a whore. Ernest is released only to begin an unwise relationship with the maid, Ellen. The tale and its conclusion question the values of Victorian society and offer

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