Samuel Butler 's The Way Of All Flesh

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When Victorian Era, England is brought up in most context’s it is used to exemplify a calm and more refined way of life; however, one may overlook how the children of this era were treated and how social class systems affected them. Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh is a novel written to take a closer look at the life of children growing up in the unfair social hierarchy of Victorian Era England. Butler’s main characters are Theobald and Ernest, who grow up during the time period; Overton, who is Ernest’s godfather, is the narrator of the novel and provides insight into Theobald and Ernest as they mature through the novel. Theobald is the son of a wealthy, strict, and abusive father who treats him with no mercy, but leaves him with a rather significant inheritance from his Christian publishing company, at his death. Ernest is the son of Theobald, who beats him with a stern fits over even the pettiest things in an attempt to keep Ernest on the proper path. As Ernest grows up he is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a career in religion. Ernest goes to Cambridge University to become a Clergyman, but finds himself lost in his study and reluctant to continue. At Cambridge, he struggles to remove himself from a particularly boisterous group of students and earns himself a six-month sentence in jail after attempting to refresh his studies and get back on track. During his sentence he gives up his career to become a Clergyman and religion all together, alienating himself from his family in doing so. After removing himself from his strict Christian household, he turns to writing and reflects on his strict upper class uprising. The novel is semi-autobiographical and serves as a true reflection of Butler’s personal l... ... middle of paper ... man just because he thought that they were acting out of turn, he would respond genuinely and attempt to reason with them unlike the fathers of the Victorian Era. With no further thought behind their decisions father’s simply thrashed their children and talked down to them like a prison warden, leaving them with no example for how one should act in public. In an attempt to go against these bad parenting skills Butler points them out in this self-reflective novel and is particularly harsh about the outcome of this parenting style. Ernest and Butler both end up atheist and very isolated from society. Butler’s book and attack of the Victorian Era was used in ant-Victorian protests that involved a strong social uprising against the social hierarchy and how unfair it was. Butler’s personal story provided the protests with an example and inspiration for their argument.

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