The Vicar of Wakefield

by Oliver Goldsmith

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Does The Vicar of Wakefield represent Christian ethical virtues? Discuss.

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The novel The Vicar of Wakefield is a representation of Christian ethical virtues through the protagonist Dr. Charles Primrose. In his impeccable conduct throughout the story, he embodies the Christian virtues, and in doing so, he acts as an example for other Christians to follow.

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As well as being a rollicking good story, Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield is also a didactic novel in that it aims to teach its readers a moral lesson.

The lesson in question is the overriding importance of acting according to Christian virtues. Goldsmith was doubtless aware that many Christians in his own time paid only lip service to the moral teachings of Christ. And so he felt that it was entirely appropriate that, through the medium of literature, he would encourage people to live true Christian lives, to lead an example of moral virtue that others would follow.

The protagonist of the story, Dr. Charles Primrose, the eponymous Vicar of Wakefield, certainly fits the bill of a moral role model, a man who in his words and actions displays all the Christian virtues. This is despite the fact that the good doctor encounters a good deal of adversity throughout the story that most of us would find incredibly hard to deal with.

At various points in the story, Primrose is subjected to unpleasant experiences—most notably being thrown in prison for not paying rent—that would test the faith of a saint. And yet despite everything, Primrose retains a firm hold on his faith and the other Christian virtues.

A prime example of his Christian virtue comes when he is in prison. One of his fellow inmates is a man called Ephraim Jenkinson, a con man who'd earlier cheated him out of a horse. Most people in Dr. Primrose's situation wouldn't give Jenkinson the time of day. But then, Primrose isn't most people. Adhering as strongly as ever to the Christian theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, he actually reaches out to Jenkinson in a genuine, heartfelt attempt to make him see the error of his ways.

In the remarkable character of Dr. Charles Primrose, a man who lives his faith on a daily basis, come what may, we see a living embodiment of the Christian virtues to which Goldsmith wants to recall his readers.

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How does the novel The Vicar of Wakefield represent Christian ethical virtues?

If we wish to see a prime illustration of Christian virtue in The Vicar of Wakefield, we need look no further than the title character himself, Dr. Charles Primrose. Though perhaps a little too prone to pontification for modern sensibilities, there's no doubt that Dr. Primrose is a good man who embodies the best of the Christian ethical tradition.

What's particularly admirable about the eponymous vicar is his remarkable ability to stand firm in his faith despite all the many problems that life puts in his way. His faith is like the rock of Gibraltar, standing as a powerful example to Christian men and women.

To many people, even those who consider themselves devout Christians, the various obstacles that Primrose has to surmount would be enough to shake their faith to its very foundations. One can reasonably surmise that becoming destitute and ending up in prison, for example, would certainly provide a test, and a very serious test at that, to most people's faith.

But Dr. Primrose is not like most people; if anything, his faith is strengthened by his various setbacks. This allows him to maintain his exalted position as a role model to his family and his flock. It also enables him to act as a spiritual guide and mentor to his fellow prisoners, whom he wishes, as a man of God, to help return to the path of righteousness.

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