Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In chapter 1, Edmund Gosse depicts himself as a small child in a staunchly Puritan, middle-class household where stringent worship takes place daily. As he grew, Gosse enjoyed great freedom during the day, and in the evenings he was lovingly included as an equal third party in his parents’ eager, mutually enjoyable discussions of Puritan doctrine.
In chapter 2, Gosse records his life from earliest memory through age six. He emphasizes the dichotomous experience of having loving parents who had no sense of the despairing oppressiveness their religious zeal had on their small son. Some escape from the oppressive worship came when, at age six, Gosse discovered a private duality that brought a “consciousness of self, as a force and as a companion,” one with whom he secretly conversed during worship.
In chapters 3 and 4, Gosse presents events of his seventh year, chief among them his mother’s death. On her deathbed, she extracted from Gosse’s father, Philip, a promise to see that their son Edmund would dedicate himself to their Puritanism. That dedication was to remain an intolerable burden. Adjusting to his mother’s death, Gosse realized that the pain it brought finally allowed his emotions, not merely his intellect, to be stimulated; he felt, for the first time, in touch with his own humanity. His father continued indoctrinating him into Puritan beliefs, leaving no gaps “for nature to fill.”
In chapters 5 and 6, Gosse...
(The entire section is 1921 words.)
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