Jocelyn's Reviews > The Vicar of Wakefield

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
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Jan 21, 15

bookshelves: classics
Read in August, 2010

The Rev'd Dr. Primrose, a devoted monogamist (meaning that, should his wife predecease him, he will never marry another) and father of six, becomes a kind of 18th-century Job. He loses his fortune, his property, his home, three of his children (sort of), and his freedom. He never loses hope, however, nor does he lose his devotion to family and religion. He is not so much a character as a caricature, so that we can weep for him and laugh at him at the same time. Along the way, we also enjoy satires of religion, politics, the penal system, and Goldsmith's own career.

Most of the family's difficulties are incurred because they trust people who wind up betraying them. The vicar articulates the moral of the story: "Tho' the world may look upon your [misfortune:] with scorn, let it be mine to regard it as a mark of credulity, not of guilt." Credulity wins the day, however, because a few of the vicar's aquaintances turn out to be trustworthy.
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