News from Nowhere by William Morris

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News from Nowhere Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

One evening after a public meeting and political discussion, the narrator returns by train to his home in the London suburb of Hammersmith. When he wakes the next morning from a deep sleep and goes for swim in the Thames River, he is amazed to find that the industrial buildings have been transformed into a pastoral landscape. Encountering a boatman named Dick, who is dressed in simple but attractive fourteenth-century-style garb, he begins to question him and realizes that he has been transported to an England of the twenty-first century.

Dick takes the narrator, whom he calls Guest, to breakfast in the Guest House at Hammersmith, which resembles a medieval hall. There they meet Robert (Bob), the weaver, and Boffin, the dustman, who asks Guest many questions. A pleasant woman named Annie serves their food. After breakfast, Guest and Dick travel by horse carriage to visit Dick’s great-grandfather, Old Hammond, who lives by the British Museum in the Bloomsbury district of London. As they ride through London, Guest marvels at the open-air markets, the attractive architecture, and the wooded areas and gardens that have replaced the tenements and industrial buildings of the nineteenth century.

Guest observes the playful children, and Dick tells him that they do not attend school but learn as their curiosity leads them. Guest and Dick stop at one of the small shops, and Guest receives an elaborately carved pipe from two polite children who are tending the shop. As when he had first tried to pay Dick, Guest finds that money is not exchanged because it is unnecessary in this society. Guest also discovers that there are no prisons, since everyone is honest and has an occupation.

When they arrive at the square in front of the British Museum, Dick escorts Guest to the living quarters of his great-grandfather, Old Hammond. A young woman named Clara appears. She and Dick, who are obviously very much attracted to each other, retire to the upstairs room. Old Hammond explains to Guest that the couple had been married, had two children, and had grown apart, but that they are getting back together. In this new England, Nowhere, there is no such thing as divorce because the courts are unable to enforce “a contract of passion or sentiment.”

Guest and Old Hammond talk for some time. Because of Old Hammond’s advanced years, he can answer many of Guest’s questions about the striking changes that have occurred in England since the late nineteenth century. He tells Guest about the freer and more equal relationships between men and women, the less structured education of children, and the fresh and new appearance of London and its environs after the “big murky places” that were “centres of manufacture” had been removed. Old Hammond explains to Guest how people left London for country villages that became peaceful, thriving communities.

Many of Guest’s questions relate to the way government operates. Old Hammond tells him that formal governmental institutions no longer exist because the people live and work in harmony with nature and themselves. The two men also speak about labor, production, and trade. Old Hammond recalls how the new order came about after an uprising of the people overthrew the government.

In the evening, Dick and Clara drive Guest back to Hammersmith Guest House, where they have dinner and spend the night. The next morning, the three of them begin a journey by boat up the Thames River. Their destination is an area past Oxford where they plan to work at the hay harvest. As they travel, they observe the beautiful landscape with cottages and people working in the fields, orchards, and forests. They make several stops, first at Hampton...

(The entire section is 956 words.)