Critical Evaluation

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 448

T. F. Powys has said of himself that he thinks too much of God, and this novel, like most of his literary endeavors, reflects his preoccupation with religion. Like his other novels, this one presents a small English village as a microcosm of the earth’s macrocosm. An invalid for a large part of his life, Powys has had to limit his literature to his experience in a small portion of the world. It would seem, however, that his works bear out Thomas Hardy’s doctrine that the humanity of a small district can reflect the universality of mankind. Certainly, the portrayal of the Deity and His attitudes toward the earth and man, as found in MR. WESTON’S GOOD WINE, reflect an unorthodox set of religious doctrines, a position which Powys presents but does not try to justify.

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Powys is concerned with not only religious but also social themes. In MR. WESTON’S GOOD WINE, he sought to dramatize the interrelationship of the mystical and the real. Beginning on an ordinary evening, outside a familiar English village with two businessmen conferring about their sales prospects, the novel proceeds into a time gap where the usual gives way to the fantastic and miraculous. It soon becomes apparent that Mr. Weston possesses supernatural powers. Indeed, he is seen as the divine puppeteer, the arranger of men’s fortunes, directing reward and retribution in the microcosm of Folly Down; or as Mr. Weston describes himself: he is the sanctifier and nurturer of man.

The sanctification of Folly Down’s inhabitants is accomplished through the “good wine”; it is the spiritual catalyst, the sacrament, which not only accomplishes the inner regeneration of the citizens but also their social amelioration. When Mr. Weston and Michael arrive, Folly Down’s harmony has been disrupted by the wholesale seduction of the village maidens and their resulting pregnancies. Furthermore, the rector, God’s agent on earth, has been rendered ineffective by a deep melancholy over the death of his wife, which has driven him to despair. Full of sympathy, Mr. Weston grants him a peaceful death, in which he believes he will be reunited with his wife. A God of love, Mr. Weston then permits the erotic desires of both Tamar Grobe and Jenny Bunce. Finally, he brings the Mumby boys, the seducers, to the altar.

During his three hours in Folly Down, Mr. Weston has celebrated, in effect, a Mass of love. Through the agency of wine, he has transformed the ordinary events of life into significant moments, uniting some of the inhabitants with one another in a human communion and others, like the Reverend Mr. Grobe and his wife, in a supernatural union.

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