The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler is another Top 150 novel. Published posthumously in 1903, this autobiographical story takes place in the Victorian 1800’s. It is the story of a man named Ernest who lives in England and is the son of Theobald, a clergyman. The story’s narrator is Edward, Ernest’s guardian who is well aquatinted with the Pontifex family history.
Theobald is the bane of his children’s existence. He is controlling and judgmental; not exactly a man who practices what he preaches. Ernest, being the good firstborn son, acquiesces to his father’s commands, becomes a clergyman, and it is then that his reformational ideas cause an estrangement between himself and his family.
Ernest spends the remainder of his early adulthood trying to figure out his true calling. This leads him on a wild goose chase because he was raised to believe his father knew best what was good for his children and Ernest deferred to his father’s wishes in all things.
This is a long, wordy novel which I struggled to read because the narrator goes on many pontificating tangents which bored me. However, I am grateful I didn’t give up on it! It illuminates many universal truths about parenting worth pondering. If you have a great deal of patience, I recommend this novel because it has its good points.
I particularly like this quote:
“There are two classes of people in this world, those who sin, and those who are sinned against; if a man must belong to either, he had better belong to the first than to the second.”