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Things As They Are or the Adventures of Caleb Williams Textbook Binding – June, 1977

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Editorial Reviews


"The originality of Caleb Williams will be obvious to the student or general reader who encounters it in this exemplary addition to the Broadview [Editions] series. The editors provide a clear, thorough introduction that places the novel in its political, philosophical, and literary contexts, as well as a chronology and bibliography. Six appendices serve up generous helpings of the fruits of recent scholarship that illuminate the fiction's relation to things as they were. Providing glimpses of Godwin at work, samples of ardent political discourse of the 1790s, and snippets of narrative by Holcroft, Wollstonecraft, Richardson, Defoe, and less well-known writers, the supplementary materials are fascinating in themselves." - Rachel M. Brownstein, The Graduate School and University Center, CUNY --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

The Broadview Literary Texts series is an effort to represent the ever-changing canon of literature in English by bringing together texts long regarded as classics with valuable, though lesser-known literature. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Textbook Binding
  • Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company (June 1977)
  • ISBN-10: 9997545095
  • ISBN-13: 978-9997545091
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,927,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By mp on December 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Having never myself been the victim of a wrongful criminal accusation, imprisonment, or torture, I was ill-prepared for the experience of reading "Caleb Williams". I once thought that Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm," or the fiction works of Camus, Kafka, or Sartre were more than adequate to address the problem of total alienation and isolation in the very midst of humanity. Even Richardson's "Pamela" carries its heroine through half the novel in a state of claustrophobic paranoia. In 1794, Godwin created a world and a mind no less frightening than the worst and most depraved of the 20th century. That we still toil through issues of basic human and legal rights entering the 21st century speaks to the complexity of these issues and casts a shadow of doubt over our ever finding a suitable solution.
In an effort to expose the hypocrisy of a legal system under the complete influence of the "long purse" and the lack of recourse of the common man to justice, Godwin has his hero Caleb suffer increasing terrors, imprisonment, and the threat of ceaseless surveillance at the hands of the ex-thief Gines. Like Richardson's Pamela, Caleb's suicidal fantasies enable him for a short while to claim control over his mind and his situation.
Unlike Pamela, Caleb fails to maintain this control, even after he forces the ruthless Falkland to admit to the murder of Tyrrel. In a scene reminsicent of ones in "1984" and Kafka's "The Trial," Caleb relinquishes what little power he has been able to garner over his torturer. Falkland, a frail, physically powerless, demoniacal 'gentleman,' through a constant and pervasive presence in Caleb's own fragile mind has unwittingly reclaimed final power over the novel's helpless hero.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Martin Asiner on August 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
In CALEB WILLIAMS, William Godwin begins a genre that will be known as the "chase" theme, one that Victor Hugo will later pick up in print and television will, much later, dramatize as Dr. Richard Kimble, The Fugitive. All chase themes involving an innocent man necessarily involve two criteria: the one being chased must be innocent and the chaser must have a credible stake in the chase. Both are present in the book. The hero is Caleb Williams, a secretary for a sullen employer named Falkland, a man who himself was reputed to be the innocent victim of a capital crime. Caleb spends considerable time prying into the affairs of his employer, who tells Caleb, that he is indeed guilty as charged and warns Caleb to be silent. Caleb refuses and Falkland has him arrested on a trumped-up charge. Caleb escapes and the chase begins. The chaser is less an individual than a collective entity. There is no Inspector Javert from Hugo or Lieutenant Gerard from "The Fugitive" who tirelessly pursues Caleb. Rather it is the unjust law itself. Godwin was disturbed over the potential of the law to torment the impoverished innocent who lacked the means to mount a proper legal defense. The ending in which Falkland admits to his crime in front of a magistrate just three days prior to his death smacks of a fabricated ending, but the message to Godwin's audience was chillingly clear. Innocence is no defense against the rich and powerful, a warning which rang just as true in Godwin's day as in ours.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By F. J. Harvey on July 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
In his study of the crime novel "Bloody Murder " the critic and novelist Julian Symons made out a persuasive case for Caleb Williams to be considered the first fully fledged crime novel to be published.As a contrast Scott Bradfield ,writing in the book " Horror ;the Best 100 books"(edited by Jones and Newman)included the book as his choice for the best horror title.
I am more persuaded by Symons categorization -although there are elements of the Gothic novel present that lend support to Bradfields assertions and it strikes me as an interesting paradox that such a pioneering work in the crime literature pantheon is one that fundamentally contradicts so many of the values espoused by later crime writers with their social and intellectual conservatism.Caleb Williams is the work of a political radical , an Anarchist and supporter of the French Revolution,many of whose friends and associates were in prison for sedition and treason at the time he wrote the book eg Tom Paine.
Caleb is a young man taken into the employ of the local squire Falkland ,a kind and public spirited man but one who harbours a secret ,which is concealed in a room that Caleb is instructed he must never visit .He disobeys and finds evidence that Falkland is a murderer ,guilty of a crime for which another man was hanged.He is forced to flee to escape Falkland's vengeance ,a flight that sees him throw in his lot with a robber gang amomgst others.
On one level it is a tale of pusuit and flight ;on another it is a swingeing critique of injustice ;an injustice Godwin sees as inherent in any oligarchial political system.
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