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Monday, December 28, 2009

Butler's Religion

"Instinct then is the ultimate court of appeal. And what is instinct? It is a mode of faith in the evidence of things not actually seen." (Chapter 65)

Throughout the novel Butler shows his contempt for organized religion with repeated attack on the Church and members of the clergy. As the above quote illustrates, Butler believes that man should be guided by instinct, which directs one's faith. Man does not necessarily need to be taught what is right because one is inherently drawn to what is right. He further states that reasonable people "settle smaller matters by the exercise of their own deliberation." One's instinct can ultimately guide one to the proper solution. Therefore, faith need not be in a supernatural element of Christianity but in one's ability to derive instinctively the most beneficial way to deal with a circumstance.

According to Butler, a true Christian is "he who takes the highest and most self-respecting view of his own welfare which it is in his power to conceive, and adheres to it in spite of conventionality." (Chapter 68) Ernest's ability to see the impediment his relationship with his parents caused and his willingness to break off that relationship so that he could achieve his highest calling illustrates his Christianity. Ernest was able to make an honest assessment and, despite the pecuniary losses he would take, allowed his instinct, which had caused him to dislike his upbringing all along, to guide his way.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Victorian Parenting

Ernest has to deal with a father that doesn't like children and a mother that loves her children as long as they obey their unloving father. One way in which Ernest is to obey his father is by entering the Church. Butler contends that parents misdirect their children, not only in picking their profession but also in arranging marriages. Christina invites all of Ernest's male friends to the home in order pick a husband for her daughter but finds something wrong with each of them. Though Ernest is able to break ties with his parents, his brother and sister, Joey and Charlotte, are like robots and agree with their parents about everything. They see Ernest as a lost sheep, rebelling against the tutelage of his father.

One reason Ernest is able to escape his parents is that Butler provides him with new parents. His Aunt Althea elevates his company and encourages him to pursue his interest in music, while also allowing him to become financially independent of Theobald. Overton is like a father to Ernest and manages his money but unlike Theobald, does not constantly interfere with Ernest, but allows him to make mistakes and learn from them.

Ernest does not believe he will be a good father because of his upbringing and allows another family to raise his kids, though he sees them often. Ernest allsows his daughter to pick her husband and allows his so to pick his profession without suggesting that they do otherwise. He refuses to allow his parents to see his children, not wanting them to become tainted.

Butler upholds Towneley as the ideal type distinctly because he lost his parents at age two.


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