1. Monetary issues affect the relationship between Harriet and her family. Harsh feelings develop in Harriet's family when Harriet leaves her family in impoverished despair to start a new life for herself. At the conclusion of the novel, Disraeli writes that Harriet is "selfish and a shrew. She has saved a good deal, and has a considerable sum in the savings' bank, but, like many heiresses, she cannot bring her mind to share her money with another" (420).
2. What ties might the text be making between family connection and monetary responsibility? A person's fellow human is often called one’s "brother" or "sister" – both familial terms. How might the novel, by detailing the situation between Harriet and her family, be making an overall claim of social responsibility for all of humankind, the rich and the poor?
3. Roman Catholicism: Disraeli details the destroyed Marney Abbey and mentions the takeover of the Catholic Church's lands by aristocratic figures. Other aspects of Catholicism appear in the novel as well: the novel says that Hatton and Mr. Trafford are Catholic, and there are several references to the convent and the possibility of Sybil becoming a nun. While at Marney Abbey, a stranger tells Egremont: "The monks were, in short, in every district a point of refuge for all who needed succor, counsel, and protection; a body of individuals having no cares of their own, with wisdom to guide the inexperienced, with wealth to relieve the suffering, and often with power to protect the oppressed" (62). What is the connection between the oppression of the poor and the oppression of the Catholic Church in the novel?
The Lower Class and Aristocratic Balance of Power: Although Sybil greatly satirizes the English aristocracy and advances the cause of the poor, the novel’s depiction of Wodgate suggests disapproval of supreme rule by the lower class as well. The novel describes Wodgate as grimy, violent, and void of law, church, and school. Instead of an aristocracy based on bloodlines, the town possesses a "powerful aristocracy" of workmen. The book details that readers cannot possibly "conceive one apparently more oppressive" and that these men are "ruthless tyrants" (163).
What does the novel suggest as the ideal balance between the aristocracy and the lower classes?
Disraeli, Benjamin. Sybil. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Last modified 6 May 2009