When it was first published, some readers considered the novel prurient, and, as a result, it was banned by the leading lending libraries. The Ordeal of Richard Feverel. Info Print Cite.
Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Berry's pangs of guilty conscience after the elopement, Adrian manages "to satisfy his appetites without rashly staking his character" p. For him, life is a source of entertainment. It is not that Adrian fails to see beneath hypocrisy, but that unlike the true Comic Spirit he is not motivated by the aim of moral reform. His detached view is as pernicious as Sir Austin's Providential meddling, and serves his self-aggrandizement. Far from resting content with his position, he must manipulate, and in so doing he perversely confuses real life with a play or operatic entertainment; he hopes to see the last act of the opera "after enjoying the Comedy of real life" — the marriage of Richard and Lucy p.
Adrian does not altogether escape from involvement in the plot. Richard's marriage interferes with the Wise Youth's plans for continental travel, and so Adrian must content himself with a fine exit from Mrs. Berry's, carrying a slice of the cake and delivering the gloating speech of a revenger:. He dies respectably in a marriage-bed, which is more than I should have foretold of the Monster. Meantime," he gave the Cake a dramatic tap, "I'll go sow nightmares. Adrian is not the only spectator of the action, although at the outset he is one of the arch-manipulators.
Frequently characters in the novel observe other figures much as an audience observes a play.
Meredith uses the eavesdropping device to maximum advantage. The boys eavesdrop on Tinker and Speed-the-Plough while they debate "one of the most ancient theories of transmundane dominion and influence on mundane affairs" p. The names of the characters suggest persons in a morality play, but their audience heeds not the philosophical argument but an incidental illustration of it: the fact that Farmer Bollop's rick was burned down. Sir Austin spies on the boys long enough to have a dark suspicion about the fire they so gleefully witness; Clare, from behind, observes all three of them.
Lady Blandish's observation of the swimming-match demoralizes one of the performers; and in the woods, Lady Blandish and Sir Austin, "the two actors in [a] courtly pantomime ," are witnessed by the "aghast" Richard, whose imagination is set afire by the show p. Benson, Adrian, and Lady Blandish eavesdrop on the lovers in the woods; but Benson, the true believer in the reigning System, is like another faithful servant caught in his hiding place and chastised, though not fatally, by the young Prince.
Later, Benson is expelled from Raynham because, like Mrs. Berry before him, he has been the unwelcome audience at a private showing. In most such scenes the actors, at least initially, are unaware that they are performing for a public. Frequently they are revealing some true aspect of themselves, and are then flustered and disoriented by the fact that they have let down their guard. Meredith thus reminds us that in society we must, to some extent, wear masks and conceal the real person in the illusion created by the actor.
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Berry's banishment comes about because, in witnessing Sir Austin's tears, she has had momentarily "a glimpse behind the mask. He is successful. The mask is "impenetrable," and from that point Lady Blandish begins to "study her Idol Sir Austin may be an all-too-successful actor because he has found a method, a System. By contrast, the performance the artless Ripton consciously stages for his father and Sir Austin in the law-office ends in his own "unmasking," for Ripton is a bad actor who cannot conceal what he really knows.
In turn, his father has a "grimace like a melancholy clown in a pantomime" for the Baronet p. At best, as on the actual wedding occasion, Ripton can only stand silent, "looking like a Mask of ancient Comedy, beneath which general embracing took place" p. Berry is similarly unable to perform before the critical scrutiny of the Wise Youth; she blurts out the name of the honeymoon spot just as Ripton earlier revealed the secret about the ploughman in the Bakewell Comedy.
What Sir Austin has not reckoned with is that his son may also "have learned to act and wear a mask" p.
After the first attempt at the reunion of the lovers is frustrated, Sir Austin, in trying to penetrate the mystery his son has created, reflects that the "curious mask" Richard "had worn since his illness; the selection of his incapable uncle Hippias for a companion in preference to Adrian. Meredith seems to endow the last word with two meanings.
Sir Austin objects to the plot in its sense of "conspiracy," but Meredith implies that there is also a dramatic plot which has deceived the audience. Sir Austin's revelation is only partial, and the drama unfolding before his eyes has no power to reform him, for he is too much wedded to his own theory of education.
But there are two Richards, the one who "acts" and the one who expresses the inner man. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, either in the novel or in our own observation of life. Society expects roles as a matter of course, but the tragedy of Richard is that he does not finally distinguish the world of the stage from the stage of the world.
When Richard is caught off guard, as in the scene of the swimming match, the shock paralyzes his natural impulses. No longer is he the unashamed youth competing innocently in a race, but an unwilling actor for Lady Blandish.
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And so Richard becomes progressively more entangled in the roles demandedof him. At first, when he plays the young gentleman for Farmer Blaize, he is a novice, and his audience sees through the part. He passes later through a series of roles "bread-and-water," "Vegetarian," "religious" without finding the one that suits him.
His rebellions paradoxically confirm his kinship with the System all the more, and his insistence on the duel with Mountfalcon is the act of a hero in a melodrama. His father unwittingly imposes the necessity of wearing a mask.
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Just after Richard's first search for Lucy is frustrated and he is recovering from his illness, he seems "sober. The idea struck [Lady Blandish] that he might be playing a part" p.
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He does, indeed, try several. The similarities Lionel Stevenson has noted between the novel and Romeo and Juliet illuminate our view of hero and heroine, but the other Shakespearean references deepen our understanding of their plight. If Shakespeare's island is a world in which misunderstandings are repaired and disharmonies resolved and men made better, Meredith's is a world of tragic illusion, and the Adam and Eve references in the same chapter foreshadow the dark finale toward which the novel moves.
We later return to the island in a chapter entitled "A Diversion Played on a Penny Whistle," and the title puts the Enchanted Island in perspective. The chapter itself is, for the reader, only a momentary diversion in a story of pain. The scene in Mrs. Mount's rooms also exhibits the ironic possibilities of Shakespearean allusions. Later authors including E. Forster, Oscar Wild and Virginia Woolf admired and respected it. Stav Nisser and Wikipedia.
The Ordeal of Richard Feverel
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