62 pages 2 hours read

Samuel Butler


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1872

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Chapters 21-25

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 21 Summary: “The Colleges of Unreason”

After five or six months with the Nosnibors, the narrator confesses his love to Arowhena, and she returns the sentiment. The narrator comes up with a plan to escape the country with Arowhena, since Erewhonian law dictates that she cannot marry until her elder sister, Zulora, is married. The narrator moves out of the Nosnibors’ home and gets an apartment of his own, but his constitution quickly breaks down. He feels sad, and people in town and at court soon notice, claiming that perhaps he is unwell or malicious. However, he has befriended the cashiers at the Musical Banks (one of whom is named Thims, or Smith backward) and they stand by him and offer to bring him to the main campus of the Colleges of Unreason a few towns away.

Arriving in the town, the narrator is struck by the beauty of the College, and he explains the Erewhonian studies of Unreason and “hypothetics.” Hypothetics is the study of what could be, even things that cannot possibly be true. The students of hypothetics are expected to respond to situations and questions that do not have a foundation, and this study is defended as the most valuable field because it exercises the mind.