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The Way of All Flesh Paperback – January 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Digireads.com; Reprint edition (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1420942654
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420942651
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,729,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Greg Deane on March 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
Butler's narrator rarely asserts his identity, and it would be easy to miss his name, Overton, a named laden with overtone. But in fact he is a very valuable actor in the life of his godson, who is ever present as a safety net ready to save his godson, Ernest Pontifex, by lending him money that comes out of the inheritance due to him from his well-disposed aunt. Old John Pontifex, a simple man who earned a private fortune, bequeaths both a capacity for accumulating wealth and for enjoying the things he earns. But these capacities are corrupted in the most of the children in the generations that follow him, beginning with the brutal, hypocritical alcoholic George. Samuel Butler provides interesting insights into the cycles of child abuse that extend from one generation to another. He implies that such cycles can be broken by more abject suffering that redeems the final victim.

It is obviously no accident that Alethea's name is the Greek for truth, nor that Pontifex is a Latin word for priest. For Samuel Butler, perhaps writing as a deliberate successor to Anthony Trollop and his satire on the Church of England in "Barchester Towers". Butler's sly parody seems to undermine the claims to piety of the pastor Theobald pastor who is consumed by greed and ambition, and pretences to theological intellectualism. His wife Christina, and mother of the meek protagonist, Ernest, uses her own religiose affectations as a justification for her own vain reveries of social and spiritual elevation.

Though the generations of the Pontifexes all follow the way of flesh, it is only Ernest who truly goes on a journey of self-discovery, in quest of a genuine understanding of the nature of alethea or the truth bequeathed him in his aunt's name.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Noreen Heck on February 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Samuel Butler was a keen and accurate observer of human nature. His clever wit makes the read highly enjoyable. The reader will recognize the foibles of human nature and chuckle inwardly on how cleverly Butler has portrayed them. At the same time, the reader will observe "Truth" underlying the "Masks"of society.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. DeKalb on July 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Published officially in 1902 after having been worked on through 1884, Butler's `The Way of All Flesh' follows the familial lineage of the Pontifex Family.

A very cumbersome story to read (it took me longer than the average novel, as of late), and certainly not something that should be read too quickly by consideration of the sheer number of humanistic foibles and lessons which are drawn out and elaborated upon. For example virtue and vanity (the latter being ever present and the prior always having a tint of the other in it) and other prominent concepts such as: parental lineage and the inevitable screwing up of the children, to some degree - the study of the Oedipus complex, to another degree - nature versus nurture or genetics versus the environment and importantly a brief study of epistemology, how we arrive at the truth. Suggesting that many of our made decisions are done so with concrete knowledge and concepts but are instead a `leap of faith', somewhat akin to Kierkegaard's concept, but more encompassing and less confined to theology alone, despite the work having a heavy theological tone and the characters playing that pious part.

Commencing with the protagonist's great grandfather and focusing minutely here, the story progresses to his son George, who then bears sons Theobold and John along w. a few other children. Only Theobold and Alethea become prominent characters.

Theobold becomes a prominent character by virtue of himself being the father of Ernest, the character which the narrator, Edward Overton, refers to multiple times as the stories `hero'. Ernest comes into more prominence once he's left home and escaped the abusive tendencies of his father.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robie on October 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a bit of a slog. You have to know or be interested in the religious history of the time in order to find this compelling. The main story is full of twists and turns in the manner of the time it was written. Class and gender play a big role in the fate of the characters as does money, of course.
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