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You may strive to be like t There's a poem by Kahlil Gibran which goes like this: "Your children are not your children. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

There, sure enough, standing at the end of the table nearest the door were the two people whom he regarded as the most dangerous enemies he had in all the world--his father and mother. So when these creatures of their loins, seemingly like wayward arrows hit piles of dung on the ground instead of the lofty trees they had targeted, they gnash their teeth in anger and despair and their children, seeing their reaction, either undertake a rebellion or carry their burden of self-pity, unworthiness and defeat all their lives.

A recommended reading for those who have, or have had, problems with their parents along this line or are parents like these themselves according to their children. View all 6 comments. Mar 14, Moses Kilolo rated it it was amazing. After reading Theodore Dreiser's introduction to this book, I put it back to the library shelf and consciously staid away for well over two months.

I had my reasons, but one of them was not that I didn't want to 'sink my mental teeth' into this, one of the finest and simple yet complex literary pieces. My main reason was Dreiser himself. It stands that one of the books that had a most profound effect on me was Sister Carrie, one among Dreiser's masterpieces. If he, - Mr.

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Dreiser, at whatever tim After reading Theodore Dreiser's introduction to this book, I put it back to the library shelf and consciously staid away for well over two months. Dreiser, at whatever time he did his friends assignment of selecting a book that was 'simply life,' worth the reading of a well read gentleman, who was as well advanced in years too, could only pick The Way of all Flesh from a list of other masterpieces, well, I had to get my damn head ready for a lifetimes reading experience.

So I finally got down to it. The story of Ernest Pontifex is as much comprehensive of the longing, the frustrations, the dreams, the desires, the failures and the triumphs of man as any story can be. And that makes Samuel Butler's work worthy of Dreiser's introduction of this.

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This review will tell you nothing more, except ask you to read Dreiser's introduction to the book, and always, always, read, if you can find great books like this for you to 'sink your mental teeth into them. Sep 03, Brandon rated it liked it. I mean, yes it was a harsh upbringing, Butler, but did you have to take it out on us, the readers? I would have gladly taken a beating for you if you had just shortened the book by about goddamned pages. Were you supposed to be Ernest? So after all that, you abandoned your own kids to explore the world? True, you married a prostitute, so you scored a few points there with me, and you forgave your batshit mother, but you abandoned your own kids after suffering through a shitty childhood.

View all 4 comments. Feb 18, Marvin chester rated it really liked it. Flesh is what governs the soul. Much of the book contains a scathing, satirical appraisal and condemnation of church, clergy, christianity, and the hypocrisy, dogma and deliberate self-delusion of religion.

Pretty outrageous for He Ernest would probably have seen it years ago if he had not been hoodwinked by people who were paid for hoodwinking him. The book is about a slow witted bumpkin who, because of his genteel birth, must be saved from poverty by a secret inheritance. Ernest, the hero, learns at a painfully slow pace that his beliefs are mere witless prejudices devoid of truth.

The author has Ernest find salvation later in the idea that expediency of belief trumps veracity - that accepting christianity is expedient, its truth is not relevant. I'm sure Butler, the author, would exempt his personal finances from that principle - that expediency trumps veracity. Unfortunately, those not endowed with a class birthright - like Ellen, Ernest's false wife - are not worth saving.

Writes Butler: "We set good breeding as the corner-stone.. That a man should have been bred well and breed others well Thus the book itself ends up being a monumental hypocrisy. Exactly the kind of unthinking narrow prejudices that his anti-hero Theobald Pontifex has about religion, the author, Samuel Butler, has about class.

He has Ernest cured of his idiotic stupidity by having money thrust upon him. He has poor lower class Ellen condemned to be incurable from drink. To be in poverty is to be uncivilized. Ernest, upon getting money, gets back to civilization. Butler's phrase Aug 07, Greg rated it really liked it Shelves: literature , modern-library Witty, sarcastic attack on the institutions of Victorian England published in but written decades earlier.

Most of the humor still holds up, and I really enjoyed most of the book. I don't seek out novels of that period as a rule, because I generally dislike their prolixity and find their themes dated and uninteresting. This is an exception. It's on the 5 side of 4 stars. Apr 11, classic reverie rated it it was amazing Shelves: bildungsroman , , english-writer , old-time-radio-reference , philosophical-bend , religious-element-predominance , favorites , samuel-butler.

Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh was mentioned in a book I was reading some years ago and I marked it "to read" but my interest was again peaked last year while reading Christopher Morley's Parnassus on Wheels which is packed with novels and authors due to the main character there peddles used books. I have never read Butler and had no idea about this book except the title seemed risque but I found this story to be thought provoking look at family and religion which was published posthumousl Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh was mentioned in a book I was reading some years ago and I marked it "to read" but my interest was again peaked last year while reading Christopher Morley's Parnassus on Wheels which is packed with novels and authors due to the main character there peddles used books.

I have never read Butler and had no idea about this book except the title seemed risque but I found this story to be thought provoking look at family and religion which was published posthumously in This is a semi autobiography novel which centers around four generations of the Pontifex family and mostly the "coming of age" of Ernest Pontifex. He is expected to join the church but Ernest is different and he is out of sync with his fellow peers which makes him find trouble along the way.

Family relationships are brought to the forefront during these Victorian times. This book has religious questioning throughout which is the driving force of this novel but not in an overly religious way but more of a young man wondering about God and religion in his life and what path to follow. I read the Delphi collection edition which I used my beta feature to highlight many quotes that interested me.

What a pleasant surprise this book turned out to be. This is a book to be read with focus as much could be lost without careful reading. One can certainly not steamroll through this novel without missing out on great humor from its marvelous author, Samuel Butler. Each page requires longer than usual time for reading, however, the payback is w What a pleasant surprise this book turned out to be.

Each page requires longer than usual time for reading, however, the payback is well worth the effort. Ernest endures beatings from his father who then forces him into the clergy. The naive young man must learn to grow and finally rebels, only after unwittingly being imprisoned while living among the poor as a young cleric. I believe Butler did so as to not offend the many readers who could be recognized in his book. Butler claimed he was still revising the novel he had worked on from to and postponed its earlier publication and only at his deathbed did he request its being published as it were.

I think I could get into some trouble with Mr. Butler were I to meet him as I believe him to be a rebel such as myself. I believe he truly wrote from his heart and I would love to ask if he really kept little notebooks in his pockets as Ernest does in The Way of All Flesh.

Quotes: …Papas and mamas sometimes ask young men whether their intentions are honourable towards their daughters. I think young men might occasionally ask papas and mamas whether their intentions are honourable before they accept invitations to houses where there are still unmarried daughters. Practical family men know better.

It may matter to them—but I have too much money to want more, and if the books have any stuff in them it will work by and by. I do not know nor greatly care whether they are good or not. What opinion can any sane man form about his own work?

View 1 comment. Oct 07, Estott rated it really liked it. Slight spoiler I first read this years ago and it affected me deeply- and the best parts still do, though I now find it a very uneven work. As I see it after recently rereading his Erewhon books is that Butler was a divided character: he was a good writer who could tell an entertaining story, but he was also a bitter man who wanted to be didactic - and he couldn't manage to do it without the narrative grinding to a halt at intervals.

This is a very good book which could be edited into a great Slight spoiler I first read this years ago and it affected me deeply- and the best parts still do, though I now find it a very uneven work. This is a very good book which could be edited into a great one. Ernest finds it many years later and is moved when he reads it View 2 comments.

Another entertaining Victorian novel where the solution to existential and familial misery lies in inheriting a fortune from your long-dead auntie. Oct 28, Annie rated it it was ok. Honestly, this was pretty aggravating. It suffers the most criminal defect: it's plain boring. The characters aren't unique enough to make me care. It's narrated by Mr. Overton, who's friends with the Pontifex family. The first third is a dry breakdown of the past three or four generations of the Pontifex family and how they fit into their local community or don't , and how Mr.

Overton has a thing for Alethea Pontifex. Didn't care. The next two-thirds are about Ernest Pontifex, who is Alethea's n Honestly, this was pretty aggravating. The next two-thirds are about Ernest Pontifex, who is Alethea's nephew. Alethea died and gave her fortune to Mr. Overton so that he could give it to Ernest when he comes of age.


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For some reason she took a liking to Ernest. Can't imagine why. Ernest has some boring crises of faith and basically gets suckered in by some cultish Anglican priests. He tries to rape someone and gets convicted and sent to jail. Yeah, at this point, Ernest is both a creep AND he's boring. I literally could not care less what happened to him. The writing is pretty unengaging and pedantic. When this book came up as the October selection for the Classics Book Club a "real life" book club here in Toronto rather than an online one, run by Chris of Eclectic Indulgence , I was pretty pleased because it meant getting around to reading a book I've had on my shelf for about fifteen years.

The reason I had this - which, let's face it, isn't one of the more famous Classics you've heard of - is rather silly but I'll tell you all the same. I grew up watching A Room With a View - I've proba When this book came up as the October selection for the Classics Book Club a "real life" book club here in Toronto rather than an online one, run by Chris of Eclectic Indulgence , I was pretty pleased because it meant getting around to reading a book I've had on my shelf for about fifteen years.

I grew up watching A Room With a View - I've probably seen it fifty times if I've seen it once, it's a wonderful movie with countless quotable lines because the actors have such superb delivery while I'm at it, I'll confess that as a teen I had a huge crush on George Emerson, played by Julian Sands - and there's a scene in the movie, the famous nude bathing scene; I'm stunned that it's not up on YouTube. So, the scene begins when Mr Bebe, the vicar Simon Callow , and Lucy's brother Freddy Rupert Graves go to the Emerson's cottage, which they're still moving into, to ask George if he "wants to have a bathe".

Mr Bebe starts going through the Emerson's books, sitting in a packing box, picking them up and reading the title - he picks up one, says in a curious voice, "The Way of All Flesh Never heard of it. I'd never heard of it either, and then one day I came across this old Penguin edition in a second hand bookshop and I was so curious and fan-girly about it I bought it. Flipping through it, though, it looked dense and even had bars of music in it - not good fodder for a young teen who read mostly fantasy! I carted it around with all my books whenever I moved, over the years, but never honestly thought I'd get around to reading it.

Until now. And I have to say, I loved it! First, a word on the cover. The painting is called "Family Prayers" and it was painted by Butler himself. Once you know that, and know that the book is semi-autobiographical, you can see why such an ugly painting is perfect for the book. The stiff, wax-like figures enduring what is clearly a very dull Bible reading is very much a slice from Butler's life. The new Penguin edition has the larger version of the painting, and the colours are different, making it a more appealing portrait than the dowdy, drab version on my edition.

The book was first published in , after Butler had died, but it was written in , revised in , put aside in , a year before his dear friend and editor, Miss Savage, died. The last chapter is considered inferior because she never had a chance to read it. This edition is also the original, abridged edition: when Butler died, he charged his publisher, R. Streatfeild, to publish the manuscript; Streatfeild made some edits to the manuscript and it is that version that I read, though the cut paragraphs are in the notes at the back.

The new Penguin edition reinserted those cuts, but I'm not entirely convinced Streatfeild's version isn't the better one after all. The novel is semi-autobiographical, as I mentioned: the Samuel Butler character is the "hero" the story, but not the narrator. The story is narrated by a family friend and the "hero's" godfather, Edward Overton, who knew his hero's great-grandfather, old Mr Pontifex, when he was just a boy, and Mr Pontifex's successful and pompous son George. Mr Overton was of an age with George Pontifex's younger son Theobald, who took Orders, married an older woman, Christina, and had three children: Ernest, Joey and Charlotte.

Ernest is Butler. It is a harsh, honest - though certainly one-sded from Butler's perspective - portrait of a Victorian family, as well as a discursive essay on religion. Mr Overton gives a family chronicle of the Pontifex's, focusing on Theobald - a weak man who avoids committing to things, including marrying his fiance - and, once he's born, Ernest. Ernest is a deeply flawed boy who grows into an equally flawed man.

Growing up in a repressive environment at home, frequently chastised, beaten and told he is inferior, Ernest develops into a boy who is always looking for love and acceptance, is naive and gullible to the point of being taken advantage of, and imitates what he hears from the mouths of others because of his understanding, drummed into him from birth, that everyone else is superior. His mother, Christina, he wants to love but she betrays his trust, time and again.

In fact, both of Ernest's parents are the epitome of "well-meaning" cruelty, and Butler comes down heavily upon them both. They, like many Victorian parents but perhaps more so, believe in the concept of "training up" their children. They also recommend mothers hit their children if they cry for her. I'll leave you to read more excerpts from this "manual" through the link above; suffice it to say that the descriptions of Theobald and Christina's misguided parenting technique brought it vividly to mind, including this insight about Christina But she persevered.

There are many gems in this book that stand out, and speak to people in different ways as was clear at the book club meeting. Ernest's life journey to the point at which he comes into money left him by his aunt when he turns twenty-eight, and also comes into self-awareness, cleverness and a higher degree of astuteness, is one which has more lows than highs. Some seriously crappy things happen to him, most of which are his fault - or rather the fault of his repressive, forbidding childhood and parents, who, in their quest to make him dutiful and submissive to their will, created an individual who is ripe pickings for scams, swindles and other hood-winking at the hands of others.

Yet, I felt great sympathy for Ernest. He isn't a likeable character but his yearning for love and acceptance, and the influence of his parents on all his flaws, made me both sorry for him and angry on his behalf. Mr Overton dangles the words "my hero" meaning, the focal point of his story and also a character who, if you bear with him, will make it all worthwhile , and made me extremely interested in finding out how Ernest could go from this weak-willed, easily taken advantage of idiot to someone who can laugh at his own foolishness and point out his own previous flaws articulately.

Ernest isn't the only fascinating character. We are very much in Butler's hands here, but it wasn't a bad place to be. His characters will put you in mind of Dickens, I should think: larger-than-life, extreme examples and even stereotypes; monstrous. And the ups and downs of Ernest's young life, likewise, could put you in mind of young Pip.

The Way Of All Flesh

Dickens's fiction is dismissed as trash by Mr Overton, and Austen portrait of families is also referred to: "The parents in Miss Austen's novels are less like savage wild beasts than those of her predecessors, but she evidently looks upon them with suspicion I don't have ages though, and neither I'm sure do you, so I'll get right to the religious side of the novel. I liked the way Richard Hoggart expressed it in his introduction: Most of [the book's] specific causes have been won; its battles tend to look old-fashioned - interesting, no doubt, but dated.

Yet it still has a peculiarly lively appeal. It speaks to us, makes us listen, less for the particular errors it is castigating than for the way it castigates and exposes them: we respond to its temper of mind, its energy, charity and irony. While he does at times drift into long paragraphs of thought that can lose you a bit some readers preferred to skim over these passages and stick to the more clear-cut story , I found it fascinating and intriguing - but I didn't take away any new ideas. In fact, I can't clearly remember any points from these ramblings, as I can about Ernest. Still, the novel wouldn't be the same without them.

If you have some time, patience and aren't easily daunted by lengthy books - and I hasten to add here that I found this novel to highly readable, with a deep sense of irony - I highly recommend The Way of All Flesh. It's very much a product of its time, and yet there are points in here that show just how far we haven't come; some astute observations on everything from academia to families, that are still highly relevant today and no doubt will be for a long time yet to come.

And I can totally see why Merchant Ivory placed this book so prominently in the Emerson's Edwardian home. Originally published on my blog here in April Samuel Butler's posthumously published novel has been described as the first twentieth century novel it was in fact completed in the s though not published until the early s.

In its iconoclasm, it certainly marks a break with the mainstream of the nineteenth century, and foreshadows the way that the twentieth century has seen criticism and questioning of just about every conventional value. Butler's style and language are, to my mind, f Originally published on my blog here in April Butler's style and language are, to my mind, fairly resolutely nineteenth century; the novel more closely reminds me of Vanity Fair than anything else.

It is much more savage than Thackeray's work, and it should be remembered that Vanity Fair caused something of a scandal when first published. The Way of All Flesh is principally about the relationship between Ernest Pontifex and his father Theobald, and is strongly autobiographical. One of Butler's chief concerns, writing soon after Darwin's The Origin of Species the book contains material composed over a twenty year span , was with the importance in the eventual character of heredity and environment, what we sometime today call the nature vs.

Thus he puts the relationship that is his main concern in the context of Theobald's relationships with his own father and grandfather. Theobald is a harsh parent and a hypocrite, and he brings up Ernest in the strictest of orthodox Protestant homes, the smallest lapse being punished with a severe beating.

Taught to believe himself destined, like his father, to enter the church, Ernest does so, but hates his life, ending up in prison. Being cut off by his family because of this is described as being one of the best things that happened to him, and he finishes his term of hard labour, emerging into the world determined to make a fresh start as a layman.

Although few of her actions directly affect the plot, Ernest's mother Christina is even more unpleasant than his father. She for example wheedles confidences out of him as a child, which are then passed on to his father to be the occasion of further beatings; she writes Ernest letters full of pious hypocrisy.

Butler attacks the major institutions of nineteenth century England - the family, the church, the idea of class - because of their stifling effect on those people who do not - can not - fit into the accepted picture of how things are. It is in this that The Way of All Flesh is most powerful, and this is how it foreshadowed much of the writing which followed the effective destruction of these institutions in their nineteenth century form which followed the First World War.

Dec 23, Karen rated it really liked it Shelves: classics. This novel had me at the description of the wallpaper a mass of roses, in want of bees. Of course a child would imagine bees flitting from flower to flower, or crawling down the wall! There is a delight in the verbal descriptions of visual things, as well as the unfolding of the story of the Pontifex family and their generational flaws. Although some might consider it stuffy you have to d This novel had me at the description of the wallpaper a mass of roses, in want of bees. Although some might consider it stuffy you have to dig the period , I found it an absolute pleasure to read.

Mar 31, Kim rated it it was ok Shelves: classics , two-star , goodbye , r-r.

Book review: The Way Of All Flesh, by Ambrose Parry

I liked it as much as I liked Erewhon. I didn't like Erewhon. This one started OK, but after the first third I lost interest. I think by that time you knew what was going to happen in the entire book, and that's pretty much what happened very few surprises. I never cared about anyone in the book. No one with a child seemed to care about them in the least. Oh, and the narrator seemed creepy to me. Jun 21, Tryn rated it it was ok Shelves: autobiography , novel , classic.

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Is this book a biography, autobiography, or novel? This is the story of a young man, Ernest, who studies to be a clergyman but ends up leaving the faith. His life is set in context of the generations who came before him, so we learn about his father and grandfather for several chapters before we meet the main character. The whole novel is essentially a commentary on family life and pare Is this book a biography, autobiography, or novel? The whole novel is essentially a commentary on family life and parent-child relationships, as well as religion and religious upbringing.

It is hard for me to decide what to make of this book. I find myself thinking about it a lot, even now, a few weeks after I finished it. They care more about their money and see their children as a drain on their resources, but feel duty-bound to support them anyway. The father is unhappy in his own life and uses his son as a scapegoat.

He blames and teases and abuses his son in order to displace responsibility for their own unhappiness. Every mother, father, and father-figure in this story is controlling and manipulative. These parents are so unsympathetic that they are unlikable. Parents end up pushing children away from whatever they try most desperately to push their children into, in this case religion. The author implies that religious upbringing creates naive children who do not understand themselves or the world and so end up getting into more mischief than they would have if they were raised with more street sense.

Their ignorance of sin is a hindrance and a liability. In this sense, he implies that the poorer classes who live in baser conditions and are exposed to more worldly ways are smarter, in spite of or maybe because of their lack of formal education. As Ernest faces the realities of the world, he eventually comes to a crisis of faith. His missionary efforts bring him into contact with an agnostic or perhaps atheistic man who causes him to question the viability of the New Testament. His further studies lead him to the conclusion that the Bible is inconsistent in its details and that the miracles are unbelievable, especially the resurrection.

Christ was a historical figure, not a god. The implication is that any thinking young person will ultimately come to see this as well. And beyond the crisis of faith, on the other side of it, lies maturity. Here rationality is king and the goal is to avoid extremes and polarity. A mature man does not take religion too seriously, but neither does he oppose it too vocally. He does not invest himself in family life, although he does recognize its duties.

He keeps himself unattached and unbiased, so that he can examine everything from a rational standpoint. However, I think it was a valuable read because it helps me understand the mindset of those who think differently from me. It is especially interesting in historical context, since the book is set in a time period when many people began to question the faith of their fathers.

It was the advent of Darwinism. It was the beginning of the modern era. This book chronicles the first steps down a path our society has traversed a long ways by now. Aug 24, Alex Lee rated it liked it Shelves: fiction , Butler may not have adhered to any school of thought but I found in this a strange quasi-mixture of both existentialist and naturalist thinking.

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The damnest thing that Butler has done is to trace lineal history, as some kind of psychoanalytic background, in order to create a mesh that would explain the particularity of the main character Ernest's upbringing. In fact, the climax of the work, if there is indeed one, comes in pretty late when Ernest is forced into prison and nearly dies because he i Butler may not have adhered to any school of thought but I found in this a strange quasi-mixture of both existentialist and naturalist thinking.

In fact, the climax of the work, if there is indeed one, comes in pretty late when Ernest is forced into prison and nearly dies because he is forced to face the complex contradictory impulses of those around him. Ernest learns that he has to lead his life rather than relying on the life-narrative of others who would seek to justify him as being this way or that. That is to say, for Butler, coming onto his own is synonymous with being self defining. Butler fiddles with some vague notions of evolutionarism, to explain lineage, in this case, a kind of genealogy of discourse, but really, for Butler, Ernest is able to come onto his own as an enlightened figure when he steps out of the discourse of church and state; to see political domination as the goal of the very power structure claiming to be enlightened.

This seems to be enough for Butler to claim that Ernest has a kind of null point of view now; one that allows him both to see through the BS of his family and the BS of the institutions and culture that surround him in Victorian England. What's really kind of stupid about this is that of course Butler has it in for store that Ernest should become wealthy and independent. Without this kind of independence he could never come onto his own. He could never truly stand validated to write books that are reviled by critics but acclaimed by a public A real critique of Ernest's new ideas would be for him to have to live in a kind of hellish double-vision, seeing the fraud of his Victorian Era but still needing to make a living in it.

Butler avoids this complicated ending though, because he wants to establish Ernest as seeing the way out of his personal and cultural history but not ever challenging Ernest to really live up to a particular content. Because, it may be too hard to say, that for Butler just getting by was important enough He could then be rich without ever getting tied up in the validation game that others enslaved him with, all his life.

So Having, then, once introduced an element of inconsistency into his system, he was far too consistent not to be inconsistent consistently, and he lapsed ere long into an amiable indifferentism which to outward appearance different but little from the indifferentism from which Mr. Hawke had arosed him This brings us to the font of nihilism; that ghost of existentialism which lay us bare to one another.

In this, perhaps survival was enough, depending on however you wanted it. Perhaps this was too easy an ending; but then Butler didn't seem to want to set out an answer to the query; he just wanted to point out the critique of there ever being a standard answer to the question in the first place. Over all, this is a very materialist book, but one in which we can get no answer from, other than, gee, how nice is is to be rich and not care about anything New Releases.

The Way of All Flesh.

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Description Written between and and published posthumously in , The Way of All Flesh is regarded by some as the first twentieth-century novel. Samuel Butler's autobiographical account of a harsh upbringing and troubled adulthood shines an iconoclastic light on the hypocrisy of a Victorian clerical family's domestic life.

It also foreshadows the crumbling of nineteenth-century bourgeois ideals in the aftermath of the First World War, as well as the ways in which succeeding generations have questioned conventional values. Hailed by George Bernard Shaw as "one of the summits of human achievement," this chronicle of the life and loves of Ernest Pontifex spans four generations, focusing chiefly on the relationship between Ernest and his father, Theobald. Written in the wake of Darwin's Origin of Species, it reflects the dawning consciousness of heredity and environment as determinants of character.

Along the way, it offers a powerfully satirical indictment of Victorian England's major institutions--the family, the church, and the rigidly hierarchical class structure. Other books in this series. Paradise Lost John Milton. Add to basket. The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The Red and the Black Stendhal. Moby-Dick Herman Melville. Idylls of the King Alfred Tennyson. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy. The Resurrection Leo Tolstoy. Greek and Roman Lives Plutarch. Four Great Tragedies William Shakespeare. Four Great Histories William Shakespeare. David Copperfield Charles Dickens.

Ivanhoe Sir Walter Scott. The Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer. Rating details. Book ratings by Goodreads. Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews.