Conceit and Misfortune in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield Essay

Conceit and Misfortune in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield Essay

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Conceit and Misfortune in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield

From three hundred years of Ireland’s history, The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction1[1] collects a combination of complete works and samples of the works of many great Irish authors. Among the authors included in this volume is Oliver Goldsmith, an Irishman of great diversity in his writings and remembered perhaps as well for his individuality, character and generosity as for the various poems, essays, and works of fiction that he contributed to literary world. The Vicar of Wakefield, the selection chosen for the anthology, is not only significant because it is often considered his best work, but also as it is the only novel that Goldsmith ever wrote.2[2]

The Vicar of Wakefield is an amusing and captivating tale that follows the life and hardships of the Vicar Primrose and his family, as they journey from happiness, through calamity, to the bare escape of complete ruin. The story’s humor as well as its plot result both equally, and to a great extent, from Goldsmith’s creation of the Primrose family’s hot and invariable desire to rise again to happiness by finding ways to better their dire financial straits and to reverse their societal decline. Although the passage in the anthology presents only four chapters from the novel, may of the ideas there presented introduce in, comment on, or foreshadow to various themes, lessons, and events of great importance to the work as a whole. These ideas will carry through the plot, and culminate in the story’s denouement at which time, if not previously, they will all be finally understood and their significance revealed. Among them are the here apparently definite social boundaries that divides the rich from ...

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...nt in the story Primrose had lamented, “O, my children, if you could be learn to commune your own hearts, and know what noble company you can make them, you would little regard the elegance and splendors of the worthless” (p. 147). Had the rest the Primrose family ever been inclined to understand this early on, and to feel in the same way sated with the simple existence that satisfied their patriarch, many of their misfortunes may have been avoided. However, without them story’s lessons, adventures, hilarity, and glorious unexpected conclusion would have been lost as well.

[1] Tobin, Colm, ed. The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.
[2] All further references to The Vicar of Wakefield will be cited as part of the complete work:
Goldsmith, Oliver. The Vicar of Wakefield. 1766. Ed. Stephen Coote. London: Penguin Books, 1982.

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