Sunday, April 22, 2012


Erewhon, by Samuel Butler

This is another minor classic that has been sitting on my shelves unread for at least 10 years. I love those Dover Thrift editions and tend to buy them in bulk with the best of intentions.

Erewhon tells the story of an intrepid (if misguided in many ways) young man in an unnamed coastal colony. He strikes out for the unexplored interior, hoping to lay claim to some land and make his fortune, but finds the large, prosperous nation of Erewhon. They arrest him, and though his pocketwatch makes them very suspicious, his good health and looks get him another chance. As the months go by, he learns the language and becomes familiar with the strange Erewhonian customs: they treat crime as illness and illness as crime, learn useless things at college, and spend their time at Musical Banks that they don't believe in. Machines are illegal, and once upon a time they made vegetarianism mandatory but ate meat secretly.

Erewhon reminded me in many ways of Herland, but while they have similar setups, Butler had a different aim; Erewhon is a satire upon his Victorian society, and the Erewhonians' strange habits are distorted reflections of what he saw around him. He criticized the Church of England, the English system of education (I particularly liked the 'hypothetical language'), and lots of other institutions.

I did almost no reading this weekend--I was too busy having fun! I'll tell you why as soon as I get some pictures from my mom.


Amy said...

I've been waffling about whether I want to put this on my Classics Club list. Now I'm intrigued again; this could be interesting to compare with Utopia and Gulliver's Travels.

Jean said...

Oh, do put it on your list! Add "Herland," too--it's in the same genre.