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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 108

Phineas (FIHN-ee-uhs) was an ascetic who lived for a time in Lydda and was famous for his brilliance, piety, and ability to perform miracles. He was son-in-law of Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai and a contemporary of Rabbi Yehudah ha Nasi. He emphasized tithes to the point of fanaticism. His concern for cleanliness caused him never to accept an invitation to dine with another, including members of his family. In debate over Jewish religious law, he is reputed to have been rigid, but his saintly character and pious living overshadowed that. Subsequent generations have ascribed authorship of Midrash Tadshe to him (known as the Baraitha of Phinehas ben Jair).

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 765


*London. Great Britain’s capital city encompasses the world that the personable young Irishman with political aspirations, Phineas Finn, is trying to reach, as well as the world he is trying to leave. While the characters inhabiting this novel’s London are fictional, the novel’s places are either real or based on real places. Even though he is a new member of Parliament, Phineas continues to live as he had as a barrister in training, in lodgings in London’s Great Marlborough Street and as a member of the Reform Club. As his career advances, he eventually moves to a more fashionable street and joins Brooks’ Club, both of which better suit his rising political and social profile.

London’s House of Commons and Foreign Office are the world to which Phineas strives. Both government centers are initially forbidding to him, but as his career develops, they become comfortable to him. His experience on a parliamentary committee investigating tinned beans represents how the time of effective politicians can be wasted. However, his time in the Foreign Office shows how budding politicians can be useful when he investigates a shipping question in Canada. Ultimately, he performs his greatest political act in the House, when he votes his conscience by supporting a bill that the rest of his party opposes. His support exiles him from both places, but permits him to leave believing in the importance of his principles.

The private London homes among which Finn circulates offer political and social opportunity. The Portman Square home of Whig cabinet member Lord Brentford, for example, represents the political and titled social establishment, to which Phineas is introduced by Lady Laura Standish, Brentford’s daughter. There Phineas meets the other cabinet members and rising Whig politicians. One evening, while departing from the Brentford home with Mr. Kennedy, Finn rescues Mr. Kennedy from an assassination attempt in Park Street, thereby securing his future political success. A small home on Park Lane, the exclusive street overlooking Hyde Park, belongs to the wealthy and well-connected widow Madame Max Goesler. The welcome he receives to her home represents the intimacy which Phineas has achieved within the highest political and social circles.


Loughlinter (LAKH-len-ter). Scottish estate of the wealthy member of Parliament Mr. Kennedy, to which Phineas is invited for a political retreat that the Whig party disguises as a leisure trip to the Scottish Highlands. Loughlinter is first presented as a beautiful and warm home; however, by the end of the novel it is viewed as a chilly and confined place, mirroring the disintegration of Lady Laura’s marriage to Mr. Kennedy. The Kennedy house in Grosvenor Square undergoes a similar but accelerated transformation, as Mr. Kennedy withdraws from political life and expects Lady Laura to do so as well.

Loughlinter represents both the social and political spheres into which Phineas is advancing, for he is spending his leisure as the traditional country gentry do and he...

(The entire section contains 1144 words.)

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