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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The resemblance of parents to their children

Accidents which occur for the first time, and belong to the period since a man's last birth, are not, as a general rule, so permanent in their effects, though of course they may sometimes be so. (chapter 63)

One concept Butler explores in TWAF is that inherited traits a child receives from his father, however undesired, are difficult to overcome.

George Pontifex is a successful businessman that wants his son Theobald to enter the Church. Though "he had the greatest horror, he would exclaim, of driving any young man into a profession which he did not like," he strongly urges, if not forces, Theobald to become a parson by threatening to withhold his money. Theobald submits to his father, one reason being he had no inclination to any other profession. Theobold does not feel that being a member of the clergy is for him and is not a particularly good speaker, but he continues to perform his duty to the laity.

When Theobald marries and has his own children, he expects their complete submission and believes that all signs of self-will must be rooted out early on. Like his father, he chooses the Church for his son Ernest's profession, and Ernest, like his father, has no true interest in this profession but submits to his father. Ernest does display, however, an interest in music that Theobald finds appalling and discourages. Theobald also uses his money to try to control the actions, though his is ultimately unsuccessful.

Ernest resembles his father in many ways. He is gullible like his father and believes everything others tell him. He is not particularly fond of his siblings. But Ernest also has people that have a positive influence on him and encourage him in his interests. His Aunt Althea encourages his interest in music suggesting he build an organ on which he can play while at school. Overton more closely resembles a father to Ernest but doesn't interfere with any of Ernest plans. He allows Ernest to make mistakes and learns from them, occasionally supplying Ernest with money so that he may break from his parents. Althea's designation of him as her heir allows Ernest to become wealthy and financially independent. These influences save Ernest from following the same path as his father.

Painting above is "Looking out for Dad" by J. Baldwin.

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