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The Way of All Flesh

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  7,627 ratings  ·  396 reviews
Written between 1873 and 1884 and published posthumously in 1903, The Way of All Flesh is regarded by some as the first twentieth-century novel. Samuel Butler's autobiographical account of a harsh upbringing and troubled adulthood shines an iconoclastic light on the hypocrisy of a Victorian clerical family's domestic life. It also foreshadows the crumbling of nineteenth-ce ...more
Paperback, 315 pages
Published August 11th 2004 by Dover Publications (first published 1903)
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3.61  · 
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 ·  7,627 ratings  ·  396 reviews

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Feb 16, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a true story about me reading The Way of All Flesh. Remember how I once mentioned that I nerdily read in the elevator on the way home (for the whole two minute trip)? Well, I was reading this book on my way down one evening at my old job when an older man that I didn’t know turned to me and asked what I was reading (Modern Library version, so the cover is blank, you dig?). I smiled uncomfortably (I may be a book nerd, but I do recognize that it’s a little odd to read in the elevator when ...more
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
... δεν είναι άλλη, παρά εκείνη της λογοτεχνίας.
Η ανθρώπινη κατάσταση, όπως ξεδιπλώνεται αβίαστα μέσα από την πένα ενός μεγάλου συγγραφέα.
Χρώμα πάνω στο χρώμα, ένας καμβάς ζωντανός, ολόφρεσκος, όπως την ημέρα εκείνη που ο δημιουργός του τον παρέδωσε στην αιωνιότητα.
Ο μεν βίος βραχύς, η δε τέχνη μακρά.
Anne Hawn Smith
I've read this book at least 5 times and I always come back to it. It has seemed to have something unique to say to me no matter what age I am when I read it. I first read it in my Freshman year of college and there were very few of us who really liked it. I couldn't understand why at the time, but I think I do now.

The book is very introspective and if you are looking for some kind of action or plot, this isn't the book for you. The main action takes place in the character's minds. Butler takes
The Way of All Flesh is the anti-Victorian novel. In the clergyman’s house the daughters play cards to determine which of them will get to marry the single suitor lured in through the front door (view spoiler), there is no weeping round the death bed (view spoiler) ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Τί απολαυστικότερο για τον αναγνώστη να έρχεται σε επαφή με ένα κείμενο που γράφτηκε τον 19ο αιώνα αλλά να νιώθει σα να γράφτηκε χτες. Το απόλαυσα απ αρχής μέχρι τέλους. Το καυστικό χιούμορ και η διάχυτη ειρωνεία στιλιτεύουν με μαεστρία την κοινωνία της Αγγλίας τότε. Προτείνεται ανεπιφύλακτα!!!
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
There's a poem by Kahlil Gibran which goes like this:

"Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts.You may house their bodies but not their souls,For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.You may strive to be like t
Eirini Proikaki
Ημι-αυτοβιογραφικό και καυστικότατο κατά της ηθικής της εποχής του και κυρίως κατά της θρησκείας,τόσο που ο Μπάτλερ δεν θέλησε να εκδοθεί όσο ζούσε και το βιβλίο κυκλοφόρησε ένα χρόνο μετά το θάνατό του.
Δυσκολεύομαι να πω την άποψη μου γι'αυτό το βιβλίο.Συνήθως τα βιβλία βικτωριανών συγγραφέων τα απολαμβάνω αλλά αυτό για να πω την αλήθεια το βαρέθηκα λίγο(ή και πολύ ώρες ώρες).
Στα θετικά:το χιούμορ,η ειρωνεία,η επίθεση στη θρησκεία και την υποκρισία,κάποια κομμάτια ήταν πολύ μπροστά για την
Moses Kilolo
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
After reading Theodore Dreiser's introduction to this book, I put it back to the library shelf and consciously staid away for well over two months. I had my reasons, but one of them was not that I didn't want to 'sink my mental teeth' into this, one of the finest and simple yet complex literary pieces. My main reason was Dreiser himself. It stands that one of the books that had a most profound effect on me was Sister Carrie, one among Dreiser's masterpieces. If he, - Mr. Dreiser, at whatever tim ...more
Marvin chester
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Flesh is what governs the soul. Much of the book contains a scathing, satirical appraisal and condemnation of church, clergy, christianity, and the hypocrisy, dogma and deliberate self-delusion of religion. Pretty outrageous for 1884.

"the story that Christ died, came to life again and was carried from earth through clouds into the heavens could not be accepted ... He (Ernest) would probably have seen it years ago if he had not been hoodwinked by people who were paid for hoodwinking him." p.293

Sep 03, 2008 rated it liked it
I mean, yes it was a harsh upbringing, Butler, but did you have to take it out on us, the readers? I would have gladly taken a beating for you if you had just shortened the book by about 400 goddamned pages.

Were you supposed to be Ernest? So after all that, you abandoned your own kids to explore the world? Ugh. True, you married a prostitute, so you scored a few points there with me, and you forgave your batshit mother, but you abandoned your own kids after suffering through a shitty childhood.
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Witty, sarcastic attack on the institutions of Victorian England published in 1903 (but written decades earlier). Most of the humor still holds up, and I really enjoyed most of the book. I don't seek out novels of that period as a rule, because I generally dislike their prolixity and find their themes dated and uninteresting. This is an exception. It's on the 5 side of 4 stars.


I found the description of how alcohol destroys one poverty-stricken female character to be annoying,
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Veronica by: Modern Library's 100 Best Novels
What a pleasant surprise this book turned out to be. I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to reading a book written in the 1800′s and published in 1903 about repression and family life in mid-1800′s England.

This is a book to be read with focus as much could be lost without careful reading. One can certainly not steamroll through this novel without missing out on great humor from its marvelous author, Samuel Butler. Each page requires longer than usual time for reading, however, the payback is w
Το "Way of all Flesh" του Σάμιουελ Μπάτλερ είναι σίγουρα ένα βιβλίο που επιδέχεται πολλές ερμηνείες και είμαι σίγουρος πως δεν είμαι ικανός να το καταλάβω σε βάθος μα αυτό που με άγγιξε από αυτό το βιβλίο ήταν πρώτα από όλα το ανελέητο καυστικό "χιούμορ" ή μάλλον καλύτερα η ειρωνεία του για όλους και για όλα. Η ιστορία αυτη έχει να κάνει με τρεις γενιές της οικογένειας Πόντιφεξ, τον Τζορτζ, τον γιο του Θίομπαλντ και το γιο του τελευταίου Έρνεστ που είναι και ο πρωταγνωνιστής αυτής της ιστορίας δ ...more
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Slight spoiler

I first read this years ago and it affected me deeply- and the best parts still do, though I now find it a very uneven work. As I see it (after recently rereading his Erewhon books) is that Butler was a divided character: he was a good writer who could tell an entertaining story, but he was also a bitter man who wanted to be didactic - and he couldn't manage to do it without the narrative grinding to a halt at intervals. This is a very good book which could be edited into a great
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Άλλο ένα αριστούργημα το οποίο σου δημιουργεί θλίψη για τα σημερινά ...αριστουργήματα που κυκλοφορούν κατά δεκάδες. Δεν περιγράφει αλλά διεισδύει στους χαρακτήρες, στη διάπλαση τους, στην εξέλιξη τους αναδεικνύοντας τις κρυφές αυτές λεπτομέρειες της ψυχοσύνθεσης των πρωταγωνιστούν που δύσκολα γραφίδες της εποχής μου έχουν την δυνατότητα. Ίσως έφτασε η εποχή που καλόν είναι να διαβάζουμε τέτοια βιβλία ανακαλύπτοντας και πάλι την αίσθηση του καλού βιβλίου.
Έχουν βέβαια ένα ελάττωμα. Δεν διαθέτουν
3,5 για την ακρίβεια.
Ένας άλλος τίτλος για το βιβλίο θα μπορούσε να είναι: Δίψα για ελευθερία και ανεξαρτησία.
Evripidis Gousiaris
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orbis-literae
Είναι περιττό να πω πολλά για αυτό το βιβλίο γιατί είμαι σίγουρος ότι θα μιλήσει διαφορετικά σε κάθε αναγνώστη… Θα πω μόνο ότι πρόκειται για μια αυτοβιογραφία με δομή μυθιστορήματος που είχε σκοπό να περιγράψει με καυστικό τρόπο την Αγγλία του 19ου αιώνα. Καταφέρνει όμως πολλά παραπάνω και αποκτάει διαχρονικό χαρακτήρα.

Προσωπικά με συγκλόνισε το οικογενειακό περιβάλλον του ήρωα. Πράγματα που φαντάζουν δεδομένα ο ήρωας τα στερείται και γίνεται το εξιλαστήριο θύμα της οικογενείας του. Εκτός από τ
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
When this book came up as the October selection for the Classics Book Club (a "real life" book club here in Toronto rather than an online one, run by Chris of Eclectic Indulgence), I was pretty pleased because it meant getting around to reading a book I've had on my shelf for about fifteen years. The reason I had this - which, let's face it, isn't one of the more famous Classics you've heard of - is rather silly but I'll tell you all the same. I grew up watching A Room With a View - I've proba ...more
Simon Mcleish
Apr 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in April 1999.

Samuel Butler's posthumously published novel has been described as the first twentieth century novel (it was in fact completed in the 1880s though not published until the early 1900s). In its iconoclasm, it certainly marks a break with the mainstream of the nineteenth century, and foreshadows the way that the twentieth century has seen criticism and questioning of just about every conventional value.

Butler's style and language are, to my mind, f
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Honestly, this was pretty aggravating. It suffers the most criminal defect: it's plain boring. The characters aren't unique enough to make me care.

It's narrated by Mr. Overton, who's friends with the Pontifex family. The first third is a dry breakdown of the past three or four generations of the Pontifex family and how they fit into their local community (or don't), and how Mr. Overton has a thing for Alethea Pontifex.

Didn't care.

The next two-thirds are about Ernest Pontifex, who is Alethea's n
classic reverie
Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh was mentioned in a book I was reading some years ago and I marked it "to read" but my interest was again peaked last year while reading Christopher Morley's Parnassus on Wheels which is packed with novels and authors due to the main character there peddles used books. I have never read Butler and had no idea about this book except the title seemed risque but I found this story to be thought provoking look at family and religion which was published posthumousl ...more
Dec 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
This novel had me at the description of the wallpaper (a mass of roses, in want of bees). Of course a child would imagine bees flitting from flower to flower, or crawling down the wall! There is a delight in the verbal descriptions of visual things, as well as the unfolding of the story of the Pontifex family and their generational flaws. Sure, there are PLENTY of digressions and tangents, but you get that with this particular era of writing. Although some might consider it stuffy (you have to d ...more
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
I liked it as much as I liked Erewhon. I didn't like Erewhon. This one started OK, but after the first third I lost interest. I think by that time you knew what was going to happen in the entire book, and that's pretty much what happened very few surprises. I never cared about anyone in the book. No one with a child seemed to care about them in the least. Oh, and the narrator seemed creepy to me.
MJ Nicholls
Another entertaining Victorian novel where the solution to existential and familial misery lies in inheriting a fortune from your long-dead auntie.
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex Lee
Aug 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, fiction
Butler may not have adhered to any school of thought but I found in this a strange quasi-mixture of both existentialist and naturalist thinking. The damnest thing that Butler has done is to trace lineal history, as some kind of psychoanalytic background, in order to create a mesh that would explain the particularity of the main character Ernest's upbringing.

In fact, the climax of the work, if there is indeed one, comes in pretty late when Ernest is forced into prison and nearly dies because he i
This one sort of recalled Of Human Bondage, another autobiographical novel where the protagonist bottoms out for a good chunk of the middle portion before finally (and predictably) ascending to a state of success/contentment.

I think I'm finally figuring out that these early 20th-century bildungsromans aren't my cup of tea. Even when engagingly written, like this or Maugham's, and even when presenting philosophies with which I agree, they remain too sterile and (usually) bloated for me to greatl
Courtney H.
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
The Way of All Flesh is a scathing indictment on Victorian middle-class society, its religion, and its religious practices. The ideas contained in the novel are worth considering, and the narrator is certainly gives thoughtful voice to many of the extremes of the time. And one cannot fault Butler for wanting to indict his parents, who subjected him to the same sort of physical, mental, and emotional assaults that Ernest endured. The problem was that Butler couched his ideas in a novel, and used ...more
May 15, 2009 rated it really liked it

I enjoyed Butler’s semi-autobiographical novel far more than Sons And Lovers. (And much more than A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man. Was there some requirement that turn-of-the-century novelists from the British isles write such a work?) Although written some 30 years earlier, I found it much more accessible to the modern reader. Framing the entire story as a second-hand account from someone who was occasionally involved in the plot but in general was told about things long after the fact
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wasn't familiar with Samuel Butler prior to borrowing this book from the library, but it makes me want to dig up some of his plays. This book is an autobiography that tells the story of the Pontifex family culminating on the focus of Ernest. Butler spends the entire book mocking Victorian Era behaviors for their hypocrisy. Ernest has spent his life with some intolerable characters {namely his totally weird and self-absorbed parents}, and Butler examines what that has done to the outcome of his ...more
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For the author of Hudibras, see Samuel Butler.

Samuel Butler was an iconoclastic Victorian author who published a variety of works, including the Utopian satire Erewhon and the posthumous novel The Way of All Flesh, his two best-known works, but also extending to examinations of Christian orthodoxy, substantive studies of evolutionary thought, studies of Italian art, and works of literary history a
“All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income” 272 likes
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