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Samuel Butler

The Way Of All Flesh by Samuel Butler (Penguin Popular Classics)

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Description

“The Way of All Flesh” is a novel written by English author Samuel Butler. It was first published posthumously in 1903, although Butler had completed the manuscript years earlier. The novel is a semi-autobiographical work that critiques Victorian society, religious hypocrisy, and the strict moral values of the time.

The story follows the Pontifex family, focusing primarily on the life of Ernest Pontifex, the protagonist. The narrative traces Ernest’s upbringing, education, and his struggles to conform to societal expectations and religious dogma. The novel presents a scathing commentary on the hypocrisy of the Church and the narrow-mindedness of the middle-class society in which Ernest is raised.

Ernest’s experiences are emblematic of the broader societal pressures and moral contradictions of the Victorian era. As he navigates through various educational institutions and professional pursuits, he encounters hypocrisy, deceit, and manipulation from those who claim to uphold moral values. Through his journey, the novel explores themes of family dynamics, generational conflict, individuality, and the quest for personal identity.

One of the central conflicts of the novel involves Ernest’s relationship with his overbearing and domineering parents, particularly his father, Theobald Pontifex. The novel examines the damaging effects of parental expectations and oppressive religious beliefs on the emotional and psychological well-being of the characters.

Samuel Butler’s “The Way of All Flesh” is known for its realism, satire, and critique of conventional morality. It was considered controversial upon its publication due to its portrayal of Victorian values and institutions in a critical light. The novel’s themes and its exploration of the tension between societal norms and individual integrity have contributed to its enduring relevance and appeal.

“The Way of All Flesh” has been praised for its incisive social commentary and its ability to illuminate the complexities of human behavior. The novel’s themes of personal growth, rebellion against conformity, and the search for authenticity continue to resonate with readers interested in literature that challenges societal norms and explores the complexities of the human experience.

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