The Way of All Flesh is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Samuel Butler between 1873 and 1884 and published posthumously in 1903. It is a critique of hypocrisy in the Victorian era.
The book is intensely autobiographical, since many of the conflicts that happened in the life of Samuel Butler appear. The story is narrated by Overton, the central character's godfather. It tells us the life of four generations of the wealthy Pontifex family.
The book begins between the 18th and 19th centuries to show the previous generations of the Pontifex. It shows the rise in social class of the different generations: John Pontifex was a carpenter, his son George becomes a publisher. George's son Theobal is pressured by his father to become a minister and is persuaded to marry Cristina, a clergyman's daughter. And finally we come to Ernest, main character and son of Thebald and Cristina.
The young Pontifex is the victim of hypocritical, domineering and repressed parents. His aunt Alethea attempts to counteract this negative influence from Ernest's parents, but passes away before achieving the goal, but leaves behind a small fortune for Ernest. This inheritance will be guarded by Overton until Ernest is twenty-eight years old, at which time he will receive it.
The Modern Library ranked this book twelfth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century (in 1998).
"When I was a small boy at the beginning of the century I remember an old man who wore knee-breeches and worsted stockings, and who used to hobble about the street of our village with the help of a stick..."
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Date added: 12-07-2021
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There are two classes of people in this world, those who sin, and those who are sinned against; if a man must belong to either, he had better belong to the first than to the second.
t is far safer to know too little than too much. People will condemn the one, though they will resent being called upon to exert themselves to follow the other.
This is why the clergyman is so often called a vicar—he being the person whose vicarious goodness is to stand for that of those entrusted to his charge.
We must judge men not so much by what they, as by what they make us feel that they have it in them to do. If a man has done enough in either painting, music, or the affairs of life, to make me feel that I might trust him in an emergency he has done enough.