Father and Son

by Edmund Gosse

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Is the commentary on Edmund Gosse's Father and Son written with a pro-Christian bias?

Having access to all necessary truth, the Jews, the Victorians, and the Fundamentalists evidence the same “congenital lack” of what Edmund Gosse called “that highest modesty,” which enables people to admit, “I do not know,” when confronted by the wideness of God’s many truths of grace.

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The commentary made available on eNotes related to Father and Son by Edmund Gosse is extracted from Masterplots, Revised Second Edition, a respected objective literary commentary compilation. It seems to me that the commentary stands off at a distance from the content while summarizing the chapters and the epilogue, with no bias in the summary of Gosse's words and ideas. This absence of bias is shown in the description of Gosse's parents as "loving" and as having "no sense of the despairing oppressiveness" of their approach toward their son's upbringing.

The critical analysis that begins after the paragraph on the epilogue seems to me to be sympathetic toward Gosse's point of view, using sympathetic language such as "companionable halves," "life's work in literature," "significant moments of need." There is also phrasing that opposes religion against personal spiritual development that puts religion in the worse light: "fading religious concepts and practices of Puritanism thrown against his own spiritual development."

The sentence you cite follows a paragraph that discusses religion's faults of "inflexible dogma" and demanding "rigid acceptance" and "rigid interpretation of Scripture." These convey a censuring tone instead of a supportive tone. It must be recalled, though, when reading such phrases as well as phrases like "God’s many truths of grace" that the commentator is discussing Gosse's concepts and ideas and themes, not interjecting ideas that Gosse hasn't address. Therefore, the phrase "God’s many truths of grace" is used in context of truths that oppose traditional religious concepts, such as Darwinism and geologic measurements of the age of the earth and the action-dominating subconscious mind of Freudianism; it's not used in a pro-religion sense.

Bear in mind that Gosse himself was a fair-minded man and gave a fair documentation of a controversial topic: religion. His fairmindedness is evidenced in the last line of the commentary: "As his life proves, to deny that right robs a person of what Scripture calls “the substance of things hoped for,” which is faith itself." In Father and Son Gosse doesn't decry religion, he approaches it with respect and uses it--although no longer adhering to it--to make his opposing point that, as the commentary says, "each person has the pertinent right to a mind—and a faith—of his or her own."

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