The Conscience of the Rich Essay - Critical Essays

C. P. Snow

Critical Evaluation

C. P. Snow was one of the most important intellectuals of his time. As a physicist, he was involved in the important molecular research that was being conducted at Cambridge University during the 1930’s. As a wartime government official, he so distinguished himself that he was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Snow is best remembered, however, for his third career, that of a writer. Strangers and Brothers, a series of eleven novels published over a period of thirty years, brilliantly illuminates the crucial issues of the modern era.

As Snow points out in his introduction to The Conscience of the Rich, the publication dates of his novels do not indicate their actual order in the series. In fact, he says, although a number of the novels appeared before The Conscience of the Rich, it should be the second in the Strangers and Brothers sequence. It can also be considered singly, as a work complete in itself.

Although Lewis Eliot appears in every book of the Strangers and Brothers series, either as protagonist or as an observer, in The Conscience of the Rich he serves a special purpose. Lewis is no more a part of elite Anglo-Jewish society than the author himself; by telling his story from Lewis’s point of view, instead of writing as an insider, Snow makes sure that it will ring true.

The primary conflict in the novel is a familiar one: the struggle between those who wish to preserve a highly traditional society and those who work for change or at least welcome it. As head of the extended family, Sir Philip feels it is his duty to direct the younger members in the right path, and Leonard feels a similar obligation toward his own offspring. Two of the most important decisions that a young person makes are the choice of a career, which in the early years of the twentieth century applied only to men, and the choice of a mate. In offering guidance to Katherine and Charles, their elders believe...

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