A Traveler from Altruria

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Novel by Howells, published in 1894. Through the Eye of the Needle is a sequel.

Mr. Homos, a visitor from the Utopian republic Altruria, founded on principles of altruism, comes to spend his vacation at a fashionable American summer resort. In a series of discussions with Mr. Twelvemough, a popular novelist, and other wealthy Americans, he applies his naïve Christian socialism to modern society. Mrs. Makely, a bourgeois intellectual, arranges for Homos to lecture on Altrurian conditions, and, though his point of view is antithetical to that of most of the hotel guests, he is loudly cheered by the impoverished farmers of the neighborhood. The local minister looks upon Altruria as heaven on earth, a manufacturer's faith in the profit system is shaken, Professor Lumen, avoiding principles, damns the republic as a rehash of famous Utopias, and Mrs. Makely is entirely unmoved by the results of her stimulating evening. The economy of Altruria, as outlined by Homos, requires all citizens to work three hours a day at manual tasks, in return for food and other goods from government sources. In this thoroughly equalitarian state, property is communally owned, most modern machinery is outlawed, family life is subordinated to civic life, and fashions in everything from dress to architecture are under the supervision of aesthetic commissioners.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

William Dean Howells (1837—1920)

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