Book info

The Vicar Of Wakefield (2006)

The Vicar of Wakefield (2006)
Rating
3.45 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0192805126 (ISBN13: 9780192805126)
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English
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publisher
oxford university press
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The Vicar Of Wakefield (2006)
The Vicar Of Wakefield (2006)

About book: You can't get very far into Victorian literature without tripping over references to The Vicar of Wakefield. Either the novel's heroine is reading the book, making fun of the book or trying to teach her French pupils how to translate the book. Oliver Goldsmith's 1766 novel is sort of the Moby Dick of the 19th century, in that it was the book that everyone read, or was supposed to read, and thus, the default title to name drop. I'm not comparing the literary merit of Moby Dick and Vicar of Wakefield, just the fact that as for us 20/21st century folks who can't really read a magazine or watch a TV show without eventually getting a reference to the 100 year old Moby Dick, so the 19th centurty folk couldn't pass a garden gate without someone quoting the 100 year old Vicar of Wakefield.Which is why I decided to read it. After about the ninth reference, somewhere between Frankenstein and Middlemarch, I thought i might as well see what all the chatter is about.I was amused to find that scholarship on Vicar of Wakefield is still in debate as to whether it's satire or sincere. The highly sentimental and ridiculous plot, matched with the idealistic and oblivious narrator, make it difficult to imagine anyone reading the novel seriously- but people did/do. I think that's the mark of genius satire; you've satirized something so well that those whom you are satirizing actually think it's great. Thus, most of my encounters with Vicar references are tongue in cheek, winking at the reader whenever introducing a character who loves it- you pretty much know they're either simple, shallow or stupid. Which isn't to say the book is stupid- it brilliantly challenges a world-view based on romantic concepts of providence and prudence that turns a blind eye to personal responsibility and social accountability. The very fact that horrendous things keep happening to the characters, only to be turned into blissfully wonderful endings with no effort at all, points to the absurdity of expecting one's life to follow the pattern of the moralistic tales of the period. Vicar of Wakefield, painted in its its pastoral colors of goodwill and virtue, actually serves as a foil to the real hardships encountered in daily life- causing the reader, almost bitterly, to wonder why real life isn't like this. Don't let the sweet stupidity of the characters fool you- this book is actually warning you not to be as sweet and stupid as its characters. I think that's why it makes for such good inside jokes by the likes of Jane Austen, George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte- women who could not abide vapidity or surface morality.

Looking for one more summary of the plot of The Vicar of Wakefield? Why would we do that again here?Rather than waste time in that way, I wish to propose this theory. Those who most enjoy reading The Vicar of Wakefield, are those who, without realizing it on a conscious level, share many of Dr. Primrose's more problematic traits. His inability even to consider taking responsibility for his own destiny or the destiny of his family. His blindness as to the true nature of what goes on about him. His persistence in mistaking his own opinions for facts. He did not initiate a marriage and a family of six children as he claims. This simply happened to him. Fortune, if you will. A Nietzschean text it is not.To what happy accident is it that we owe so unexpected a visit?To what fortuitous occurrence do we not owe every pleasure and convenience of our lives.If you read and enjoy The Vicar of Wakefield, if you delight in Dr. Primrose's voice, as I did, then you actually believe something like this:I armed her against the censures of the world; showed her that books were sweet unreproaching companions to the miserable, and that if they could not bring us to enjoy life, they would at least teach us to endure it. I mean, that could be a praecipe of Jonathan Franzen's famous essay in the April 1996 issue of Harper's, "Perchance to Dream," could it not?Laugh at the Vicar; laugh at yourself.“And speak for youself,” you say? You are quite right. Sorry. Let me amend that.I laughed at the Vicar, and much later realized that I was laughing at myself as I had lived my life to that point. I now labor amide a different delusion--that at last I have the bull by the horns. Which makes me more Dr. Primrose than Dr. Primrose was.The plot is mundane. The voice of Dr. Primrose makes the book. Therein lies the delight.Actually, my reason for writing this particular review, other than to jack up my book numbers of course, is to create the only page on the world wide web (do we still call it that?) that will substantively answer the call of google with the search terms “vicar of wakefield friederich nietzsche.” I believe that I have accomplished that. You have therefore just visited something unique within the vastness of the internet.
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Reviews
Manny
You know that Monty Python sketch, where the guy introduces himself as "Mr. Smoketoomuch"?"Well, you'd better cut down a little!" says Mr. Bounder."I'm sorry?""You'd better cut down a little then.""Oh, I see! Smoke too much so I'd better cut down a little then!""Yes. Ooh, it's going to get people making jokes about your name all the time, eh?""No, actually, it never struck me before. Smoketoomuch..."We had a Northern English au pair once, whose father actually was the Vicar of Wakefield. She'd been brought up in the Vicarage, and she told us that she had over a dozen copies of this book. That was when she was 18. By now, I imagine that she has at least a hundred.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
A novel swimming with wise sayings, ancient maxims, aphorisms--those distilled wisdom of the old past. No wonder, since this was written about 250 years ago in a Christian setting. It has things to say about good and evil, fortune and misfortune, love and hate, sin and forgiveness, and even about books:"...I armed her against the censures of the world, shewed her that books were sweet unreproaching companions to the miserable, and that if they could not bring us to enjoy life, they would at least teach us to endure it."Of course at that time they didn't have those "great" works of postmodern, ultramodern and overlymodern literature --the Great Undecipherables-- those which reproach even the already miserable and suck dry what little enjoyment one hopes in reading them.
Jason Koivu
It's "father knows best" 18th Century style!A relatively well-off parson's family in mid 1700s England is forced into reduced circumstances and then really falls on hard times. A contemporary and friend of lexicographer Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith too was a lover of language. He was a teller of tales and The Vicar of Wakefield is essentially just that, a collection of stories tailored to fit linearly into this one novel. As such, there are occasional moments when the book veers from the main story for a moment and it becomes obvious that Goldsmith had a particular tale or some allegorical tidbit he wanted to feed his readers. But it gets back on track and finishes by tying up ALL loose ends in a comically clustered finish. Yes, it can get a tad preachy and the all-knowing father figure bores all but himself. Ahhh, but there's the saving grace! The witty and humorous Goldsmith was clever enough not to create a flawless god-like priest in the father who is blindly obeyed by his dutiful family. No, the dad is human. He makes a mistake or two and is sometimes ignored by his wife and children like most dads through out the ages. And that keeps The Vicar of Wakefield a relatable piece of work that has endured over time and influenced English writers like Jane Austen in the years following its publication.Rating: 3.5
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