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The Way of All Flesh Paperback – Sep 14 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; New edition edition (Sept. 14 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375752498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375752490
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 417 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #589,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Reared on piety, repression and emotional blackmail, Ernest Pontifex follows the course prescribed for him towards Holy Orders. Yet rebellion at Cambridge, unwise theology, unwiser financial dealings, and finally prison free him from his parents' tyranny. Left with his health and career ruined, Ernest faces still more trials before fortune and his godfather rescue him from the brink. This savagely funny, iconoclastic odyssey from joyless duty to unbridled liberalism exposes the hypocrisy of nineteenth century family life. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
WHEN I was small boy at the beginning of the century I remember an old man who wore knee-breeches and worsted stockings, and who used to hobble about the street of our village with help of a stick. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul M. Burns on Sept. 25 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book after reading all the reviews on Amazon not knowing what to expect: Incredibly boring or amazing insightful? I have read many books written in that same time period. I believe this to be the most mature work to come out of England in the late 19th Century(although it was published later). I enjoy Dickens, Hardy, and Eliot very much, but Butler makes their works look like grocery store fiction. I can see how many people might be bored if they were expecting a great story. While the story is excellent, it is more a book about ideas. Butler uses his hero to voice his commentary on Victorian ideals. Most of it is still very relevant today, though. I think it will be most relevant for people that have been exposed to the religious right wing who still hold many Victorian values. I enjoyed the characters and the story was compelling. There are many beautiful passages. It was very funny at times and somewhat sarcastic. The narrator reminded me of Hemmingway born 50 years earlier in England. What impressed me the most was Butler's modern style of writing. Much less wordy than Dickens. Dickens would have taken 800 pages to express the same thoughts. I also felt a real kindred to the main character Ernest. This is ultimately a coming of age book which most people will be able to relate to in one way or another (unless you haven't grown up yet). I would recommend it to all serious readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on June 4 2001
Format: Paperback
Written in the 1870's and 1880's, "The Way of All Flesh" is a semi-autobiographical account of Samuel Butler's life as the son of a clergyman and his attempts to abandon the religious influence of his parents. The protagonist, Ernest Pontifex, is the oldest of three children of the rector of a small English town. His father, Theobald, beats and browbeats his children into learning their hymns while his mother, Christina, solemnly and unsympathetically condones the excessive discipline.
Ernest is not much of a scholar and shows a predilection for music (nothing more modern than Handel, though!), which his father deems a decadent waste of time. For lack of a better calling, he chooses to become a clergyman like his father and is ordained a deacon after completing Cambridge. As a young man, he runs into some misfortune: He gets suckered into giving much of his money to a smooth-talking charlatan named Pryer, a fellow theologian, to invest, and a turbulent encounter with a prostitute lands him a few months in jail. It is here that he decides a religious path is not for him, which is just as well since he has always chosen pragmatism over dogmatism. He becomes a tailor, but his business fails; he gets married, but his wife turns out to be a lush and a bigamist. If this indeed bears any resemblance to Butler's own life, I shake my head in pity.
The narrator is not Ernest himself but his godfather Edward Overton, a close friend of the Pontifex family. Butler probably thought such third-party commentary would provide a more valuable perspective, but it doesn't ring true for Overton to be privy to every single detail of Ernest's life which would not be so easily discovered or revealed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Dec 7 1998
Format: Paperback
The main character, Ernest Pontifex,is a pathetic weakling, variously oppressed and exploited by his parents and acquaintances. He fails at everything and relies on others to get him out of difficulties. The other primary character, Ernest's godfather (another "voice" for the author) spends his time despising Ernest's parents and saving Ernest. Yet, since this is an autobiographical novel, the author would have you believe that Ernest is actually a brilliant iconoclast whose writings disturb Victorian society. Humbug! Butler demonizes his parents so heavyhandedly (all the characters are cardboard, etched with bile) and is so smug about it, that he, not they, comes across as the Monster. Of Human Bondage, by H. S. Maugham, touches on some similar themes and is a vastly superior work. Anything by George Eliot would also be a vastly better read from 19th C. English literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "cmerrell" on July 23 2002
Format: Hardcover
A very important novel of the 19th Century. How it is included in the best novels of the 20th Century by the New York Times is beyond me. The book was begun more than 30 years before 1900. Although completed in 1872, it lay unpublished for nearly 30 years; presumably until such time as some of its anti-Victorian ideals would be more palatable to the British public.
The story principally centers around the life of Ernest Pontifex, an impreesionable and naive young man who is reared by devout Anglican parents. Their well meaning cruelty shelter Ernest and cause him to make bad decisions and derail his ambitions. As a result of the consequences of these bad decisions, Ernest learns to manage his own life and becomes a success despite his early failures.
Although important in its time, the novel is brutally slow.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bline on Jan. 27 2001
Format: Paperback
This book just didn't stand up for me. The problem with social satires is that once the culture changes its hooks and barbs lose much of their rhetorical force. As accute as it must have been a hundred years ago, Butler's critique of 19th century English culture just isn't as relevant today as it was when it was first written, and so for me the book was a disappointment.
Nonetheless, Butler's insights and (often) insults on the nature of the parent-child relationship make the book eminently readable, and occasionally quite illuminating. And the glimpse into the struggle that went into making a man during that time of industrualization was similarly fascinating. The juxtaposition of the economic realities which faced a young man then versus now was, for me, the most interesting aspect of the novel.
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