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The Way of All Flesh
     

The Way of All Flesh

3.3 10
by Samuel Butler
 

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The story is narrated by Overton, godfather to the central character.
The novel takes its beginnings in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to trace Ernest's emergence from previous generations of the Pontifex family. John Pontifex was a carpenter; his son George rises in the world to become a publisher; George's son Theobald, pressed by his father

Overview

The story is narrated by Overton, godfather to the central character.
The novel takes its beginnings in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to trace Ernest's emergence from previous generations of the Pontifex family. John Pontifex was a carpenter; his son George rises in the world to become a publisher; George's son Theobald, pressed by his father to become a minister, is manipulated into marrying Christina, the daughter of a clergyman; the main character Ernest Pontifex is the eldest son of Theobald and Christina.

The author depicts an antagonistic relationship between Ernest and his hypocritical and domineering parents. His aunt Alethea is aware of this relationship, but dies before she can fulfill her aim of counteracting the parents' malign influence on the boy. However, shortly before her death she secretly passes a small fortune into Overton's keeping, with the agreement that once Ernest is twenty-eight, he can receive it.

As Ernest develops into a young man, he travels a bumpy theological road, reflecting the divisions and controversies in the Church of England in the Victorian era. Easily influenced by others at university, he starts out as an Evangelical Christian, and soon becomes a clergyman. He then falls for the lures of the High Church (and is duped out of much of his own money by a fellow clergyman). He decides that the way to regenerate the Church of England is to live among the poor, but the results are, first, that his faith in the integrity of the Bible is severely damaged by a conversation with one of the poor he was hoping to redeem, and, second, that under the pressures of poverty and theological doubt, he attempts a sexual assault on a woman he had incorrectly believed to be of loose morals.This assault leads to a prison term. His parents disown him. His health deteriorates.
As he recovers he learns how to tailor and decides to make this his profession once out of prison. He loses his Christian faith. He marries Ellen, a former housemaid of his parents, and they have two children and set up shop together in the second-hand clothing industry. However, in due course he discovers that Ellen is both a bigamist and an alcoholic. Overton at this point intervenes and pays Ellen a stipend, and she happily leaves with another for America. He gives Ernest a job, and takes him on a trip to Continental Europe.
In due course Ernest becomes 28, and receives his aunt Alethea's gift. He returns to the family home until his parents die: his father's influence over him wanes as Theobald's own position as a clergyman is reduced in stature, though to the end Theobald finds small ways purposefully to annoy him. Ernest becomes an author of controversial literature.

Product Details

BN ID:
2940148315629
Publisher:
Romeo Publications
Publication date:
01/15/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Samuel Butler (4 or 5 December 1835 – 18 June 1902) was an iconoclastic Victorian-era English author who published a variety of works. Two of his most famous pieces are the Utopian satire Erewhon and a semi-autobiographical novel published posthumously, 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 Odyssey which remain in use to this day.

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The Way of All Flesh (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don¿t agree with the ranking of this book as the 12th best English-language novel of the 20th century, but it¿s certainly worth a look. It¿s Samuel Butler¿s only novel, it¿s semi-autobiographical, and it was published posthumously. Narrated by the protagonist¿s godfather, the book follows the Dickensian life of Ernest Pontifex, from his upbringing by clueless, hypocritical parents, through his schooldays as a lackluster student, to a young adulthood of poor decisions and misplaced loyalties. One cannot help but wonder how such a man went on to translate Homer for today¿s readers. (If you have a copy of The Iliad or The Odyssey, Samuel Butler probably translated it.) The title implies the author¿s belief that everyone goes through such growing pains, and, of course, he¿s right, with the possible exception of the exceedingly good fortune that awaits him. Though not a page-turner, this book is easy to read and full of timeless, insightful observations on life.
exlibrarian More than 1 year ago
this copy includes many drop out sections and replacement of letters and words with garbled sections
donnareads911 More than 1 year ago
Classic novel and so well-written, however with its dated language and all, it took me forever to read through. I had to read chapters to get myself back in the swing of this "family" tale. This is a primer on how "not" to be a family!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
book unreadable and extremely bad customer service dealing with issue
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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