62 pages 2 hours read

Samuel Butler


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1872

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Important Quotes

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“But over and above these thoughts came that of the great range itself. What was beyond it? Ah! Who could say? There was no one in the whole world who had the smallest idea, save those who were themselves on the other side of it—if, indeed, there was any one at all. Could I hope to cross it? This would be the highest triumph that I could wish for; but it was too much to think of yet. I would try the nearer range, and see how far I could go. Even if I did not find country, might I not find gold, or diamonds, or copper, or silver?”

(Chapter 1, Page 22)

The narrator’s main characterization thus far is ambition, whether to reach farther mountain ranges, to start a sheep station of his own, or to convert Indigenous populations to Christianity. Even at the start of the novel, the narrator explicitly states that he hopes to make money from his story, centering his character on a desire for wealth and fame. Even in this passage, where the thrill of adventure is the momentary focus, the narrator quickly shifts back to material concerns like gold and jewels.

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“We next to never know when we are well off: but this cuts two ways,—for if we did, we should perhaps know better when we are ill off also; and I have sometimes though that there are as many ignorant of the one as of the other. He who wrote, ‘O fortunatos nimium sua si bona norint agricolas,’ might have written quite as truly, “O infortunatos nimium sua si mala norint;” and there are few of us who are not protected from the keenest pain by our inability to see what it is that we have done, what we are suffering, and what we truly are. Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.”

(Chapter 3, Page 29)

The Latin quote is taken from Virgil’s The Georgics, and it means that farmers would consider themselves lucky if they knew how good their lives were, while the reverse means that farmers would consider themselves unlucky if they know how bad their lives were. In both cases, the narrator is commenting that people never know their true circumstances, which allows unfortunate people to be happy and fortunate people to be unhappy. For his own circumstances, the narrator is reflecting that he could be on the precipice of a great discovery, which would justify his struggles, or he could be heading to his death alone in the mountains.