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- DescriptionFollowing in the tradition of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Samuel Butler published Erewhon privately in 1872. Arguably the first first anti-Utopian or dystopian vel, Erewhon anticipates later and better kwn works such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984. Whereas More and other utopianists were primarily interested in attacking society's ills and making the world a better place, the anti-utopians engaged primarily in either satire of the society in which they lived or in making dire predictions about the dismal fate that awaits humanity. Butler is most decidedly in the former category, since he proves in t only Erewhon but also his more famous work, the semi-autobiographical vel, The Way of All Flesh, that his main concern is in attacking the complacency and hypocrisy he saw infecting Victorian society. Like More's island of Utopia, Butler's Erewhon is a remote kingdom, t to be found on any map, which is discovered by the narrator of the vel (biographers of Butler have assumed it is modeled on a part of New Zealand, which anyone who has viewed the Lord of the Rings movies can attest has some spectacular landscapes). Cut off from the rest of the world, the citizens of Erewhon live according to their own rules and dictates. Butler breaks from the tradition of creating an idealized world in favor of a more realistic society. In Butler's world money, the rich, the poor, and even a monarchy still exist. It is when we tice strong parallels between Erewhon and the members of Victorian society that we start to see Butler's true purpose. Hypocrisy is rampant in Erewhon, where citizens think thing of agreeing with things they do t believe in and their friends kw that they do so. While the citizens pretend to worship deities that are the personification of lofty human qualities such as love, justice, and hope, they really worship a goddess, Ydrgun, and the Church of England is transformed into the system of Musical Banks. As Butler hits his stride in this vel he creates a topsy-turvy world where illness is treated as a crime (there are physicians in the country) and criminal behavior, such as theft, are seen as mir weaknesses in character. Unlike Francis Bacon's utopian work The New Atlantis, where science was seen as the salvation of humanity that would correct all ills and provide all necessities, Butler's world has outlawed machinery because they might one day become the masters rather than the servants of humanity. Clearly Butler was more enamored of the Industrial Revolution than he was of Victorian society. In many ways this is the section of Erewhon where Butler makes his most cogent arguments. It is also the point where the book's narrator, whose initial attitude of admiration turns to one of surprise, w becomes one of condemnation as the eccentricities of the citizens of Erewhon are fully revealed. Ultimately, the shortcomings Butler sees in them are the same of which he accuses British society, politics, and religion. Because Butler is satirizing Victorian society his value to modern readers remains inferior to that of Huxley and Orwell, t to mention Edward Bellamy ( Looking Backward 2000-1887 ) and Yevgeny Zamyatin ( We ). However, in many ways Erewhon is a pivotal vel in the history of utopian literature, t only because of how it sets the stage for what other forgotten writers of dystopian fiction, but because it remains one of those vels where historical significance outweighs literary appeal.
- Author BiographySamuel Butler (1835 -1902) was an iconoclastic Victorian author who published a variety of works. Two of his most famous pieces are the Utopian satire Erewhon and the posthumous novel The Way of All Flesh. He is also known for examining Christian orthodoxy, substantive studies of evolutionary thought, studies of Italian art, and works of literary history and criticism. Butler also made prose translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey which remain in use to this day. Butler belonged to no school, and spawned no followers during his lifetime. A serious but amateur student of the subjects he undertook, especially religious orthodoxy and evolutionary thought, his controversial assertions effectively shut him out from both of the opposing factions of Church and science which played such a large role in late Victorian cultural life. His influence on literature, such as it was, came through The Way of All Flesh, which Butler completed in the 1880s but left unpublished in order to protect his family. Whether in his satire and fiction, his studies on the evidences of Christianity, his works on evolutionary thought or in his miscellaneous other writings, however, a consistent theme runs through Butler's work, stemming largely from his personal struggle with the stifling of his own nature by his parents, which led him on to seek more general principles of growth, development and purpose: What concerned him was to establish his nature, his aspirations and their fulfillment upon a philosophic basis, to identify them with the nature, the aspirations, the fulfillment of all humanity - and more than that - with the fulfillment of the universe . . . His struggle became generalized, symbolic, tremendous. The form that this search took was principally philosophic and - given the interests of the day - biological: Satirist, novelist, artist and critic that he was, he was primarily a philosopher, and in particular a philosopher who sought the biological foundations for his work: His biology was a bridge to a philosophy of life which sought a scientific basis for religion and endowed a naturalistically conceived universe with a soul. Indeed, philosophical writer was ultimately the self-description Butler himself chose as most fitting to his work.
- Author(s)Samuel Butler
- Date of Publication28/12/2012
- FormatPaperback / softback
- SubjectGeneral & Literary Fiction
- Country of PublicationUnited States
- Content Noteblack & white illustrations
- Weight263 g
- Width152 mm
- Height229 mm
- Spine10 mm
- Format DetailsTrade paperback (US),Unsewn / adhesive bound
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