Page 31 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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FISCH / JEWISH FAMILY CRISIS
25
ame Bovary
(1857). A man who retained his virginity was made to
appea r ridiculous (see H enry Fielding,
Joseph Andrews,
1742). As
no ted above, Protestant and particularly, Puritan family life was
based on the unquestioned authority o f the father. Martin Lu ther
emphasizes this when he states tha t the fa the r ’s role is tha t o f
udg e , teacher and moral men tor all toge ther (See Levin
Schucking,
The Puritan Family,
1969, p. 61). Children were raised
and educated within a coercive framework. Lu the r himself suf­
fered from such an upbringing . This strict environment was to
find its classic expression in
Clarissa
by the English novelist Sam­
uel Richardson (1748), where the parents, especially the father,
a ttem p t to force the ir daugh ter to marry a man whom they have
chosen for her; to this end , they to r tu re h e r both physically and
mentally, finally causing her to fall ill and die. This is, o f course,
an extreme case, as harmony and mutual love often characterized
the Puritan family, bu t the overall tendency was undoubtedly
coercive.
Such was the background for the grea t change which began to
appear du ring the period o f the French Revolution, a change
which may be designated “the Rebellion Against the Father.” The
signs o f this rebellion were clear in Goethe, Shelley and the ph i­
losopher John S tuart Mill at the beginning o f the 19th century.
T he la tter suffered a nervous breakdown after a course o f rigo r­
ous education und e r his father, James Mill, and tu rned to the
read ing o f the new romantic poetry o f his day in his search for
freedom and light. Later, Matthew Arnold, in his poem “Sohrab
and Rustum” (1853), recounts the Persian legend o f a fa ther who
kills his son by mistake. T h e re is no doub t tha t here is a projection
o f A rno ld ’s own problem and his consequent suffering as a result
o f the education he received at the famous Rugby School, where
his fa ther Thomas Arnold was headmaster. His father, while an
enlightened educator, imposed strong moral discipline on his
students, and no doub t this had its effect upon his son, Matthew.
At the tu rn o f the century, the satirist Samuel Butler, in the novel
The Way ofAll Flesh
(1903), gives us the Puritan family in its essen­
tial pattern : there is a subservient mother, a despotic fa the r and a
rebellious son; the la tter eventually throws o ff the unbearable
au thority o f his puritanical fa ther and sets himself free.
T h e re is so much literary evidence o f this familial condition
tha t the fa ther who seeks to figuratively strangle his son comes to
be something like a central figure in 19th-century literature. O f