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Friday, April 29, 2011

Healing Social Wounds

Sunday in the Backwoods (1858) by Thomas Faed
Romney's political/social beliefs are on greater display in Book IV.  His proposed marriage to the poor and abused Marian Erle is more than a noble act; it is a symbolic union that he hopes will begin a reworking of the socially stratified English society.

though the tyrannous sword
Which pierced Christ's heart, has cleft the world in twain
'Twixt class and class, opposing rich to poor,–
Shall we keep parted? Not so. Let us lean
And strain together rather, each to each,
Compress the red lips of this gaping wound,
As far as two souls can (122-8).

By invoking Christ's death, he identifies this mission as a Christian duty.  The world is bleeding with no tourniquet to stop it.  Romney sees the world as wounded by the social divide that persists between the rich and poor.  Romney has great compassion toward the grief-stricken, "As ministering spirits to mourners" (82).  He found Marian as a "half-dead, half-live body left behind/With cankerous heart and flesh" (91-2) in need of care.  To heal the "gaping wound" Romney first plans to marry Marian in a symbolic rite of social unity.  Then he wants to set up phalansteries, utopian communities that eliminate many social distinctions.  By disrupting the Victorian social order, Romney hopes to re-institute a society favored by God.

of one clay God made us all,
And though men push and poke and paddle in't
(As children play at fashioning dirt-pies)
And call their fancies by the name of facts,
Assuming difference, lordship, privilege,
When all's plain dirt,–they come back to it at last (109-14).

Romney believes all men were created equal and should remain that way socially.

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