Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
In The Way of All Flesh, published posthumously in 1903 but written during the years 1873-1884, Samuel Butler presents his Victorian world as one in crisis, unhinged by recent scientific developments. Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859 and effectively undercut most religious and theological belief structures with his argument that all species evolved gradually over time from a common ancestor. If this is so, how could the Bible's story of creation be true? Samuel Butler incorporates terminology of evolution and develops his own evolutionary views in response to Charles Darwin's throughout the novel. Butler's protagonist, Ernest Pontifex, exemplifies the evolutionary process in a bildungsroman-style text to implicitly suggest Butler's belief that man cannot successfully adapt to his environment without wealth. Indeed, wealth can be seen as a sort of religion for Butler's protagonist, replacing the position God formerly held as that which was to be worshipped.
Mills, Carla, "Samuel Butler's Ernest Pontifex, or The Way of All Flesh: Evolution, Religion, and Wealth." Thesis, Georgia State University, 2014.