Erewhon (an anagram for "nowhere") is a faraway land where sickness is a punishable crime, criminals receive compassionate medical treatment, and machines are banned (for fear they'll evolve and become the masters of man). Butler's entertaining and thought-provoking Utopian novel takes aim at such hallowed institutions as family, church, and mechanical progress; its remarkable prescience in anticipating future sociological trends adds a special relevance for today's readers.

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Erewhon (an anagram for "nowhere") is a faraway land where sickness is a punishable crime, criminals receive compassionate medical treatment, and machines are banned (for fear they'll evolve and become the masters of man). Butler's entertaining and thought-provoking Utopian novel takes aim at such hallowed institutions as family, church, and mechanical progress; its remarkable prescience in anticipating future sociological trends adds a special relevance for today's readers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486420486
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 5/29/2002
  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 806,609
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Samuel Butler (1835 -1902) was an iconoclastic Victorian author who published a variety of works. Two of his most famous pieces are the Utopian satire Erewhon and the posthumous novel The Way of All Flesh. He is also known for examining Christian orthodoxy, substantive studies of evolutionary thought, studies of Italian art, and works of literary history and criticism. Butler also made prose translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey which remain in use to this day. Butler belonged to no school, and spawned no followers during his lifetime. A serious but amateur student of the subjects he undertook, especially religious orthodoxy and evolutionary thought, his controversial assertions effectively shut him out from both of the opposing factions of Church and science which played such a large role in late Victorian cultural life. His influence on literature, such as it was, came through The Way of All Flesh, which Butler completed in the 1880s but left unpublished in order to protect his family. Whether in his satire and fiction, his studies on the evidences of Christianity, his works on evolutionary thought or in his miscellaneous other writings, however, a consistent theme runs through Butler's work, stemming largely from his personal struggle with the stifling of his own nature by his parents, which led him on to seek more general principles of growth, development and purpose: "What concerned him was to establish his nature, his aspirations and their fulfillment upon a philosophic basis, to identify them with the nature, the aspirations, the fulfillment of all humanity - and more than that - with the fulfillment of the universe . . . His struggle became generalized, symbolic, tremendous." The form that this search took was principally philosophic and - given the interests of the day - biological: "Satirist, novelist, artist and critic that he was, he was primarily a philosopher," and in particular a philosopher who sought the biological foundations for his work: "His biology was a bridge to a philosophy of life which sought a scientific basis for religion and endowed a naturalistically conceived universe with a soul." Indeed, "philosophical writer" was ultimately the self-description Butler himself chose as most fitting to his work.
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Dystopia or Utopia?

    Erewhon, as a satire and/or essay, is interesting and has some thought provoking ideas. Erewhon as a novel has a fairly thin but still interesting plot line in an intriguing environment. Unfortunately, meshing the two of these together makes for a difficult book to swallow at times.

    I enjoyed the thought provoking elements of the satire that Butler presents. He turns the world upside down in order to have us explore just how "civilized" we truly are. He maintains the same basic structure...that a society should have a government with laws that people can be punished for, education to help them in society, religion to help with their conscience. However, he turns all of these "normal" conventions on their heads to get us to think not about the conventions themselves, but about the way we approach them.

    For example, instead of being punished for what we crimes (theft, murder, etc.), the people of Erewhon are punished if they fall physically ill...sometimes being imprisoned or even sentenced to death. And conversely, if a person finds himself in the throes of robbery or some other 'crime', he is instead consoled and properly treated for the recovery of this behavior and looked on with sympathy from friends and family. In this satirical move, Butler asks us to examine our treatment of criminals. The Erewhonians provide rehabilitation for liars, thieves and murderers while simply shutting away those who commit "crimes" of physical illness. While we profess to offer rehabilitation for our criminals, what good does it do to stick them in an 8x8 box for years and then throw them out on the street with a black mark on their "permanent record?" Which system is better for helping with crime? As to illness, the Erewhonian treatment of illness is definitely ludicrous, but to a small degree it has logic in that it quarantines the truly ill and it also cuts down on people feigning illness or complaining over small headaches. In Erewhon, there is truly very little illness and no 'calling in sick', or making an excuse of "I've got a headache."

    Butler also satirizes religious devotion (he alludes to religion in terms of the different types of money in the kingdom...the "religious" type having no earthly value yet being esteemed as of great personal worth...and yet citizens of Erewhon barely go through the motions with the 'religious' currency and have a completely different value system for each type of currency).

    So in terms of the satire, Butler brings forth some interesting ideas.

    In terms of the plot, it's a fairly basic adventure novel of the nineteenth century...a man in a distant British colony seeks fame and fortune through exploration and hopefully finding either a place to gain more wealth or to find savages to convert to Christianity or both. The first 50-100 pages contain standard Victorian descriptions of the landscapes and the travels. While poetic and pretty, they did drag on and I wanted to skip beyond them. As our narrator finally gets closer to Erewhon, his travels actually have some drama unfold. Once he finally arrives at the city, he's initially thrown into prison and has some moderate adventure.

    All in all, this was an interesting and thought provoking book...but I would've preferred the abridged version and/or simply reading the "essays" as essays rather than having them interjected into an adventure novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 2 Customer Reviews

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