Throughout Thomas Carlyle's "Hudson's Statue" the use of rhetorical and literal questions drives the satire by addressing and questioning the audience. His tone is abrasive at times as he pokes fun of English society and begs the audience to confront their cultural and social history as a way of meeting their present state. In this parody of the Old Testament Carlyle argues about heroes, statues, and honoring great men of the past with a satirical edge that allows him to pin the audience as well as imaginary people as his targets. This passage, from the beginning of his essay, demonstrates Carlyle's conversation with his audience:

If the world were not properly anarchic, this question "Who shall have a Statue?" would be one of the greatest and most solemn for it. Who is to have a Statue? means, Whom shall we consecrate and set apart as one of our sacred men? Sacred; that all men may see him, be reminded of him, and, by new example added to old perpetual precept, be taught what is real worth in man. Whom do you wish us to resemble? Him you set on a high column that all men, looking on it, may be continually apprised of the duty you expect from them. What man to set there, and what man to refuse forevermore the leave to be set there: this, if a country were not anarchic as we say, — ruleless, given up to the rule of Chaos, in the primordial fibres of its being, — would be a great question for a country!

Questions

Why does Carlyle deconstruct and explain himself by asking a question and then telling the audience what the question means? Is he talking down to his audience? Why does he include the first question ("Who shall have a statue?") if he is just going to explain it anyway?

Carlyle opens this passage with, "If the world were not properly anarchic. . .". Why does he open with a statement that may or may not be true? Is this voice purely satirical?

Carlyle ends this passage with, "What man to set there, and what man to refuse forevermore the leave to be set there: this, if a country were not anarchic as we say, — ruleless, given up to the rule of Chaos, in the primordial fibres of its being, — would be a great question for a country!" What does this mean and why does he use a confusing sentence format to get his point across? Why does he use dashes and what effect do they have on the understanding and reading of this sentence?

Why does Carlyle end with an explanation point? What is he exclaiming?

What is the effect of the questions Carlyle asks the audience in this passage? Are they rhetorical? Is he attacking the audience or is attempting a conversation?


Victorian Web Overview Thomas Carlyle Leading Questions

Last modified 3 October 2003