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The Damnation of Theron Ware: Or Illumination

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  522 ratings  ·  66 reviews
This Faustian tale of the spiritual disintegration of a young minister, written in the 1890s, deals subtly and powerfully with the impact of science on innocence and the collective despair that marked the transition into the modern age. In its realism, The Damnation of Theron Ware foreshadows Howells; in its conscious imagery it prefigures Norris, Crane, Henry James, and t ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 7th 1986 by Penguin Classics (first published 1896)
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Frederic, Harold. THE DAMNATION OF THERON WARE. (1896). ****. I first read this novel back in 1959 for a course called “The Advent of Realism in the American Novel.” The course required reading twenty books during three months – most of them, including this one, I had never heard of before. Back then, I already knew everything and this novel, after reading it, seemed a great bore. Reading it now, I am amazed at what a landmark piece it was in America’s literary development. I don’t know if it’s ...more
Dec 20, 2014 Wanda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Karen Legge
Reading Thoughts:

22 JAN 2014 -- Having been visited upon by the "trinity of evil," Theron makes a veiled threat and, poof, the evil trinity is gone. I know they will be back!

28 JAN 2014 -- Theron is a young man feeling his way in the world. He is too naive to really understand the machinations of the narrow-minded thinking of the trinity of evil. This committee of churchmen have long forgotten the beauty of the Church.

29 JAN 2014 -- Typical man-thought! Theron is acting in an inappropriate man
Aug 08, 2012 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of American Literature
Shelves: 19th-century
Illumination is the only title this book should really have. This is not a Gothic horror of a young man's fall from grace, the sort of thing I so loved in Le Calvaire and which Octave Mirbeau depicted so exquisitely. This tale is too American for that.

What I thought about while reading is that history, as good as it is, can never give you the vivid picture of an era that a good novel can. And this novel is good. The story tells how a naive young Protestant preacher of the 1880's in New York Stat
Will Waller
Assigned for a class, this book had all the makings of being a real bore. It’s a 19th century book on a Methodist minister, written by an author I had never heard lauded, with Victorian language (flowery!). I was looking forward to reading something less dry than what I had been reading for class but given the other books assigned, this was not difficult.

Boy, I was surprised by this book. It’s ability to go into new depths regarding the troubles facing pastors in the 19th century and today was
Michael Burns
A classic American book, I wish I could give it more stars. Theron Ware is a young Methodist minister who wishes to preach at an urban city with more prestige and a higher salary. Unfortunately the Methodist Conference assigns him to the small rustic town of Octavius, thought to be based on the author's hometown of Utica, Ny. He loathes his parishioners but falls in love with the catholic culture in his community and escapes to it as much as possible. He plans to make up for his meager salary by ...more
Rex Libris
Theron Ware is a young Methodist clergyman during he late 1800's. Raised on a farm he is very innocent and traditional in his beliefs. He is moved to a new town where he falls int othe orbit of some very secular sophisticates. He falls in love with one of them, and has he puffs himself up into something he is not, he begins to lose his wife, his faith, and his grasp on reality. In the climax of the book the woman he thinks he loves rejects him, and by extenion the rest of the sophisticated crowd ...more
If more older books were as engaging as this hundred-year-old book, I'd read more of them. This was recommended to me quite a while back by my friend George Minot, and it was a good recommendation. A young Methodist minister, hoping for an appointment to a fashionable urban church, is appointed instead to a small, backward-looking, congregation in a small town. Ironically, it is there that, in spite of his ingrained anti-Catholicism and suspicion of modernism, he befriends the local Catholic pri ...more
A naive Methodist minister encounters a learned doctor and an old Catholic priest who suggest to him ideas altogether new to his intellect. He is taken by these new thoughts and reads many progressive books and quickly transforms from the audience to "backstage," where "you see that the trees and houses are cloth, and the moon is tissue paper, and the flying fairy is a middle-aged woman strung up on a rope. That doesn't prove the play, out in front, isn't beautiful and affecting, it only shows t ...more
Spike Gomes
A young, naive and idealistic Methodist preacher is posted to a church in upstate New York where he is dismayed by the pettiness and small-mindedness of his congregation and seeks solace in the intellectual and aesthetic company of a Catholic priest, a wealthy bohemian Irish girl and an agnostic scientist. His eyes are opened to another world, which shows him the hollowness of both rote religion and intellectual striving and the emptiness of his own character which is culminates in breakdown.

Ben Hallman
Once again, I've read a book that never once would've come into contact with my bookshelf had it not been for my American Lit class. I hadn't heard of The Damnation of Theron Ware until it showed up on the syllabus, but, being one never to shy away from a good story about goin' to hell, I looked forward to Harold Frederic's minor classic. And, fortunately, it turned out to be a damn fine novel. (I made a pun. I'm witty.)

Now makes for a good time to drop some knowledge gleaned from American Lit:
My journey to this book was a long and dogged one. My friend Mary first suggested it several years ago, and our local library didn't carry it. The rest of my reading list intervened, and when I put out an all-call for reading suggestions, she nudged me again. I made a purchase request to the Seattle Public Library, and they eventually saw fit to acquire four copies for the system, and probably got the first read in the city.

No classic work of American fiction has ever before made me wish I was r
H.J. Swinford
I can't decide if I totally hated this book or if I didn't really like it, but it was still well-written and interesting. I certainly didn't like it at all, but I can't say it was horrible or poorly done. I suppose I don't like a lot of realism, and that is what this book is. All I got from it was basically: conservative, blinding religion screws people up and they go crazy when they taste the outside world. I read it in a literature class, and most of the other students really liked it, so I gu ...more
The only thing interesting to me about this book was its repeated concept of degenerateness, spiritual and physical. The sins of the father becoming encoded genetically and spiritually upon the son, until ultimately a line would die out from utter decrepitude.

The plot is relatively simple. A young preacher is posted to a town. He means well but is vain and shallow and doesn't understand the larger social politics at work. Hence, certain doom for the naive idiot. His main detractor is a woman who
Frederic's naturalism paints an amazing portrait of the male American during encroaching modernisms that seemed both unfathomable and unsurmountable for those whom just started to tread the waters of being worldly. Frederic's Theron Ware is fantastically rendered, as we become aware that there is no turning back from naivety, and the horrors of modern awareness are perhaps the only means of attaining a modern world-humility. Such a frightening concept!
Tom Leland
Very good. "Evidently there was an intellectual world, a world of culture and grace, of lofty thoughts and the inspiring communion of real knowledge, where creeds were not of importance, and where men asked one another, not "Is your soul saved?", but "Is your mind well furnished?"

Would be of particular interest to Catholics and Methodists, and to a lesser degree, to people who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of New York and want to get a glimpse of life there 120 years ago.

Wikipedia note on thi
I wish we had more from Frederic, as I really loved this novel. Some might say the irony is a bit overdone, but I love the twists it adds to his tale. You can neither absolutely condemn nor admire just about any of these characters. The only one whose potential for redemption is Alice, but even then we see very little of her and her association with Theron and passive role makes it difficult to fully engage. Frederic spares no one in this tale, offering a grim outlook for a humanity which underg ...more
Several years ago I listened to a lecture series on Religion in America. This book was one of the three that they recommended at the end of the series. It presents a window onto what religion was like in the late 19th century; it is also a good story. It chronicles the slow descent of the Reverend Theron Ware into disbelief, and I think it gave a pretty accurate portrayal of self-deception and pride, as seen from the inside out. The book dragged quite a bit in the middle, but it picked up toward ...more
My son made me read this. He got pretty excited about it because of a college class that focussed on literary realism. Personally, he saw in himself similarities to the hypocrisy of Theron Ware. Oh, Philip, you're not even close. Ware was an interesting character insofar as he was completely unaware of his hipocracy. You're far too honestly introspective to be anything like him.

This is a brand of realism that I have no enthusiasm for. It's part of that tradition which examines the spiritual pove
There were parts of the writing I really enjoyed. Some of the descriptions were lovely and made the story feel more dimensional and I could picture the scene in my head. I was, however, not impressed with the characters or plot. I read this for one of my college seminar courses and while I thought it did a nice job of providing interesting discussion in class, it wasn't something that I would recommend to other people. I didn't like it.

*Taken from My Sentiments Exactly!:
This book is often considered one of the great American novels of the 19th century. It feels far more modern than that because it addresses the challenge to faith by scientific, logical and aesthetic critiques. The writing is very good although the characters quickly make one think of Elmer Gantry but with more intellectual reflection. It also recalls the opening sections of In the Beauty of the Lilies. A book that prvides a nice "slice" of life in the 1890's in America. A story that unfolds qui ...more
After reading this book I had more questions than answers about the rewards of piety, and the consequences of pragmatism. The protagonist is easy to identify with in his hopes and ambitions as well as his vulnerability to pride and temptation. Those issues are timeless, as is Frederic's prose. I recommend this especially to those with an opportunity to discuss the book with others - either a book club, or to read it with a friend. "The Damnation of Theron Ware" would lend itself to satisfying ph ...more
I first read this back in college for an assignment in obscure American realism writers and fell for it instantly. I've managed to track it down (Frederic isn't as readily in print as many of his contemporaries) and have read it a time or so since with equal enjoyment. Perfect for those who question the ideals and regimen of orthodox ethics, it gives a very human view of a good man's downfall when his life falls short of his expectations.
A fascinating look at religious sensibilities in 19th century America, from Protestant to Catholic. The standard review calls it the Faustian tale of a (Protestant) preacher's demise, but it is really an insightful look into religious beliefs and the degrees--or sincerity--thereof, or perhaps the absence thereof. The most memorable statement is the heroine's assertion that she is Catholic insofar as the culture appeals to her.
This book, despite its horrible antihero, is very well written. I got sucked into it, manly out of hatred for Theron and his despicable and ignorant selfishness, but I rushed right through wanting to know what would happen. With themes of finding your self and living to don't be a bore, this novel shines light into the annoyance of wavering and passive people. Ugh Theron, you really stink! But a great book!
Kristen Coppess
Every time I read this book, it grows new layers. The first time I was disgusted with Theron and his idiocy. The next time I felt empathy for his hardships within the church and community. The next time I read it as a commentary on female influence in the religious and secular community. This time I was entertained by the theory that German beer saved the Catholic Church in America. Read it over and over again.
It's almost impossible for me to like a book when I don't like the main character. Theorn Ware is, um, "not my favorite" person in the world. What a flip flopper!! Although I did enjoy some of the moments in the book and enjoyed the writing style (thank you Kindle Fire for automatic dictionary!), I honestly couldn't be done with this book soon enough.
John Roberson
The story of a 19th century Methodist minister's encounter with the realities of the 19th century, socially and intellectually. Stands in as a representative of the culture of the time. At the end does he find damnation or illumination, maturity or false advancement? What is on the other side of this epochal shift, and where will we go from there?
Mandy Blackburn
I read this book for a Humanities class and if I hadn't I don't think i would have appreciated as much. Theron ware is an unique character and unfortuantely I believe we can find a little of ourselves in him. Since the story is about him one has to look for for the true protagonist of the story, which is his wife Alice
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J.M. Hushour
A devastating account of a naive Methodist minister's encounter with turn-of-the-century "progressivism" and his eventual self-destruction. Or is it redemption? Absurdly forgotten, one of the best American novels I've ever read. A withering portrayal of psychological descent and obsession. Highly recommended.
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Frederic was born in Utica, New York, to Presbyterian parents. After his father was killed in a train accident when Frederic was 18 months old, the boy was raised primarily by his mother. He finished school at fifteen, and soon began work as a photographer. For four years he was a photographic touch-up artist in his hometown and in Boston. In 1875 he began work as a proofreader for the Utica Heral ...more
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