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“The Way of All Flesh” by Samuel Butler

“The Way of All Flesh” is one of the best novels. It was written between 1873 to 1884 though this novel was published many years later. When the novel was published in 1903, Samuel Butler was no more but it gains the attention from the world of literature. Critics say this is a novel that generally considers against Victorianism.

The way of all Flesh Samuel Butler review

This novel is considered as a semi-autobiography of Samuel Butler where he is criticizing the ‘Victorian Hypocrisy’. Here, the story is being narrated by Doctor Overton who was the godfather of the central character, Earnest Pontifex.

Characterization of the Novel, The Way of All Flesh

Here, some central characters can be seen that have taken important roles in the story. Ernest Pontifex is the lead character of the play. Here the begins when the time is late eighteenth century or early century.

The author shows here, a Pontifex family and there were four members and they are belonging from different generations.

John Pontifex was a carpenter and he is doing his works well then the next generation comes. George was the son of John, he becomes a publisher in his later life. Then comes Theobald, son of George who was forced by his father to become a minister.

So, Theobald married Christina, who was the daughter of a clergyman. They give birth to the main character, Earnest Pontifex. He is the leading character and he progresses the plot of the novel.


'The way of all flesh' book cover
‘The way of all flesh’ book cover

 Samuel Butler The Way of All Flesh Analysis

In the family, they were four people in the house. Alethea was the aunt of Earnest who knows everything of the protagonist. Thus the novel progresses and later the readers will be able to know that they do not have a healthy relationship between the son and parents.

The parents are antagonists of their son and they want to make Earnest a minister.

Earnest does not want to be a minister and he is just a young boy who loves traveling. So basically, the parents are shown very dominating and Theobald wants his son to be settled as a minister.

The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler Summary

The hypocrisy of the Victorian era has been shown in that way. Here Earnest does not have any say only the parents will talk on his carrier. When the story will progress, readers will see that his personal relationships with people are also damaged because of the parents.

Then, the parents made a deal of fortune for their son. When the son will reach the age of twenty-eight, he will get the whole property but before that Earnest will get nothing.

Here some religious aspects are being shown where Earnest is visiting a church of England. He has become a young boy with a fresh “human flesh”. When he was studying in the university he takes admiration and starts living as an “Evangelical Christian” and later he transforms into a clergyman.

Here the readers will find many important religious notes that Earnest wants to do with the church. He is thinking about theological power, sexual assault that has been occurred with women of the society.

“He has spent his life best who has
Enjoyed it most.”

In his later life, he loses his Christian faith and faith in god. So he married Ellen who was a housemaid of his parents. After that, he is living happily with the woman. But this peace of mind never lasts long to Earnest.

He can get to know the housemaid, whom she married is an alcoholic and she married some other before marrying Earnest. This works as a disaster to Earnest and he seems diminished. But every darkness has a light inside it.

'The way of all flesh' by Samuel Butler
‘The way of all flesh’ by Samuel Butler

Now, Earnest also can get to know about the deal that his parents made for him that when he will reach at twenty-eight he will get all the properties of Theobald Pontifex.

Now he everything from his aunt Alethea and after so long he returns to his own house. This is the time when he gets to know for the first that his parents wanted to give him everything of them when he will be mature enough.

So the time comes when he finds back the glory of life and later he becomes an author of “Controversial Literature”.

The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler significant Quote

There is a specific quote that is very significant is,

“The successful man will see just
So much more than his neighbours as
they will be able to see too when it is shown them,
But not enough to puzzle them”

Critical Application to the Novel

This novel,” The Way of All Flesh” is not just a novel it is also a natural sentiment of humankind. All parents have the same love for their son as here Theobald has shown.

So this is successful in criticizing Victorianism where people have a love for talking on the rich people who have power. Samuel Butler’s novel is perfectly made for the readers from where they will find a clear picture of the Victorian Age.