Way of All Flesh

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A novel by S. Butler, published posthumously 1903.

In this study of four generations, dissecting the stultifying effects of inherited family traits and attitudes, many experiences of Butler's life are clearly visible. The story (narrated by a family friend, Overton) was originally called Ernest Pontifex; Ernest is the awkward and unhappy great‐grandson of John Pontifex, a village carpenter, whose natural instinctive character he comes to revere. His own father, Theo, is a tyrannical, canting parent, repeating the attitudes of Ernest's grandfather, George. After his ordination the inept Ernest, taking a respectable woman for a prostitute, is sentenced to prison, where he tries to free himself from his immediate forbears and return to the simplicity of Old Pontifex. On his release he plunges into a disastrous union with Ellen, a drunken maidservant. Fortunately she turns out to be already married, and Ernest's beloved aunt Alethea leaves him sufficient money to devote himself to literature.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Samuel Butler (1835—1902) writer and artist

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