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The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold…
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The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896)

by Harold Frederic

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» See also 23 mentions

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I read this book in a 19th C. American lit class & I wasn't too impressed by it. Harold Frederic does write some good short stories, but this book was pretty dull. ( )
  sixwoolsocks | Feb 9, 2010 |
Project Gutenberg, 19th century, American Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Decadence, Gender Roles, Religion
  Packrat | Jun 18, 2008 |
This is a hella book! It's my current unanswered prayer to HBO for a miniseries. Our father and board chair, give us next season....a period piece, like Deadwood, with a religious twist, like Big Love...a torrid tale of Methodism in fin de siecle upstate New York.

To cut to the chase - I'm actually an unabashed anti-clerical curmudgeon, so I was rooting for my young Galahad, Theron Ware, to break out of his moldy Methodist mold. I was swooning right along with him as Celia turned on the Chopin, as he got hip to George Sand, as the filter in my reading glasses turned from sepia to henna.

That's not to say I didn't appreciate the ample religious and philosophical digressions. At one point, I thought I had wandered into a chapter of the Brothers Karamazov - Dr. Ledmar, expounding on the religiosity of women, explains they require "miracles, mystery...and their dogma embodied in a man" Yo, 'sup Dostoyevsky? Duh, Grand Inquisitor!

But still, I was plowing along for the pure romance novel thrill, except maybe with Celia in the open chested pirate shirt, and Theron draped on her arm. And so I more or less was sucker-punched by the Turn-of -the-Screw ending. What I thought was a finish line victory tape to this puddle-leaping hill-climbing motocross of a spiritual thrill ride turned out to be piano wire. Thwappp! thump-thump thump.

Seriously, this masterpiece is a leather dog bone for literary types. You can gum and slobber it all day long, savoring stuff like Adamic Myth themes, 19th century realism, Faustian downfalls, the role of the ministry in American literature, Catholic and Protestant culture clashes and on and on. And you should. I suggest http://helios.acomp.usf.edu/~rrogers/index.html

But beware, I daresay this is the kind of obscure but gripping work that could turn an unsuspecting underclassman into an English major. One is intrigued and then enamored. One does research and becomes illuminated. One begins a thesis and continues to grad school. And one is damned...to a cash register in a Barnes and Noble in Oregon. Fated by intellectual pride. ( )
4 vote Ganeshaka | Apr 29, 2008 |
2635 The Damnation of Theron Ware, by Harold Frederic (read 7 Aug 1994) I was inspired to read this 1896 novel by my reading on April 29, 1994, of The London Yankees by Stanley Weintraub. I found I liked it very well, not for the reasons suggested by modern critics but for a much more atavistic reason: it tells of a Methodist minister (Theron Ware) who makes a fool of himself when he, a married man, falls in love with a Catholic girl. The girl, and the Catholic priest (Father Forbes), who figures prominently in the story, are not exemplary figures, but I reacted favorably to the fall of the preacher. The climax is on page 331:
"It is all in a single word, Mr. Ware," she proceeded, in low tones, "I speak for others as well as myself, mind you,--we find that you are a bore."
I, contrary to more tender-hearted souls, richly enjoyed the denouement involving the frustration of the minister's desire for adultery. Frederic was born 1858, died 1898. His book, Into the Valley, has an entry in my 1958 Encyclopedia Americana. If I could find the book I might read it. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Apr 5, 2008 |
Illumination (1896) has been an underground classic among serious writers and readers since its publication. Although it sold well in its day, it was largely lost to mainstream attention for most of the 20th century. Only in the 1980s did it first start appearing in school settings with the first critical edition by Nebraska Press (and Penguin Press editions around the same time). It has been called an "American classic" by more than one critic and writer.

First, an explanation of the odd title. Frederic intended the title to be simply "Illumination", which it was indeed published as in England, but due to some mis-communication at his (soon to be bankrupt) American publishers - a working draft had the internal working name of "damnation" - it was mistakingly published as "The Damnation of Theron Ware". Later publishers in the 1930s then combined the two into the full title "The Damnation of Theron Ware, Or, Illumination".

This is an important novel and can be critically approached from a number of perspectives. Probably most important and timeless (c.f. Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion" (2006)) is Theron Ware's "Illumination" about truth in religion. Is the value of religion based on the belief in a real God, or just a belief in a god that may not even exist - the existence of which doesn't matter - the value in religion comes from _pretending_ to believe. It is unclear in the end if Sister Soulsby, Forbes and others truly believe, or just pretend to believe, and if it even matters.

The narrative technique of writing from Theron's perspective, hearing in the first person about his own "Illumination" and personal growth (a positive healthy thing it seems to him) - which is then re-played at the end of the novel from other peoples perspective, is very powerful and well crafted. It really makes the reader examine times in their own lives when they thought they were on the right and true path. It has a certain Rashomon theme of subjectivity and what is the truth of events from multiple perspectives. ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Dec 22, 2006 |
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No such throng had ever before been seen in the building during all its eight years of existence. People were wedged together most uncomfortably upon the seats; they stood packed in the aisles and overflowed the galleries; at the back, in the shadows underneath these galleries, they formed broad, dense masses about the doors, through which it would be hopeless to attempt a passage.

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140390251, Paperback)

This Faustian tale of the spiritual disintegration of a young minister, written in the 1890s, deals subtly and powerfully with the impact of science on innocence and the collective despair that marked the transition into the modern age. In its realism, The Damnation of Theron Ware foreshadows Howells; in its conscious imagery it prefigures Norris, Crane, Henry James, and the "symbolic realism" of the twentieth century. Its author, Harold Frederic, internationally famous as London correspondent for the New York Times, wrote the novel two years before his death.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:21 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"A young pastor plunges into a moral decline after encounters with a priest, an atheist, and an aesthete. This classic of 19th century American realism offers a revelatory look at small-town life and an innocent's seduction by strange new ideas. Gripping storytelling and keen characterizations recapture the era's religious, scientific, philosophical, and sexual anxieties"--… (more)

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