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Critical assessment

Some critics argue that the novel champions middle classes over the lower orders; others, however, find this claim “too simplistic” and argue that the novel “highlights the shortfalls inherent to bourgeois masculinity.” Sally Mitchell argues that the novel simultaneously upholds and undermines middle-class values.

For an afternoon’s amusement, here is a challenge: Without resorting to a search engine, see if you can guess what novel is here described. The answer will be given tomorrow in this space.

For further amusement, try to list as many novels as you can think of to which this description might apply. You may wish to give yourself a time limit: as many as you can think of in five minutes, for example. Having compiled your list, award yourself a graduate degree in English Literature.


  1. To start with, everything by Ayn Rand.

  2. Being more a student of science and history than literature, I had no clue, but even I could think of literally thousands of novels this description COULD be applied to, at least by the loose academic standards of modern literary criticism. So I resorted to the cheating expedient of putting the quoted paragraph into Google.

    Nope, never heard of this novel or author before. But now I understand on a deeper level one line of dialogue in an obscure Monty Python skit. Thank you, Dr. Boli, for broadening my appreciation for 4-decade-old jokes yet again.

    • Jared says:

      I find myself in much the same situation as Martin, having cheated earlier and gained a new appreciation for the menace that was The Big Cheese. I think we all sleep better at night knowing that the British Dental Association stands guard against such rogues.

      Of course, I might have been more familiar with the novel at issue had Mr. Cleese et al not scared me away from bookshops for good. Even when they’re not fronts for rogue dentists, they don’t carry a single book worth reading. Not “David Coperfield” with one “p,” nor “Grate Expectations” spelled G-R-A-T-E, nor “Rarnaby Budge” by Charles Dikkens with two Ks, the well-known Dutch author.

      Not “Thirty Days in the Samarkand Desert with a Spoon,” or even “A Hundred and One Ways to Start a Monsoon.” And, shockingly, not even “The Amazing Adventures of Captain Gladys Stoat-Pamphlet and her Intrepid Spaniel Stig among the Giant Pygmies of Corsica,” Volume II. And if, by chance, they do carry the book you seek — let’s say, for instance, that you’re in the market for “Olsen’s Standard Book of British Birds” — good luck finding the expurgated version, the one without the gannet.

      Perhaps long-tail booksellers like Amazon change all this, but it’s too late for me, I’m afraid. The Big Cheese gets his at low tide tonight, and what is anyone to do about it?

  1. […] ANSWER TO yesterday’s literary puzzle: East Lynne, by Mrs. Henry Wood, one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth […]

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