Towards the end of the first book, Aurora pauses for one of her frequent discourses on literature (and related subjects - here, religion). In this passage, she first discusses her perception of books. Her perception of books is somewhat counter-intuitive, and plays with the concepts of authorial intent and realism. She goes on to relate the "world of books" to the nature of God, and ultimately some sort of "central truth."

I read books bad and good — some bad and good
At once: good aims not always make good books:
Well-tempered spades turn up ill-smelling soils
In digging vineyards, even: books, that prove
God's being so definitely, that man's doubt
Grows self-defined the other side the line,
Made atheist by suggestion; moral books,
Exasperating to license; genial books,
Discounting from the human dignity;
And merry books, which set you weeping when
The sun shines, — ay, and melancholy books,
Which make you laugh that any one should weep
In this disjointed life, for one wrong more.

The world of books is still the world, I write,
And both worlds have God's providence, thank God,
To keep and hearten: with some struggle, indeed,
Among the breakers, some hard swimming through
The deeps — I lost breath in my soul sometimes
And cried 'God save me if there's any God,'
But, even so, God saved me; and being dashed
From error on to error, every turn
Still brought me nearer to the central truth. [1:778-800]

Questions

1. What does Aurora's contradictory theory of books say about her character?

2. What does this theory say about the purposes and effectiveness of realism as a literary style?

3. How does this passage reflect Aurora's level of faith in God?


Victorian Overview E. B. Browning

Last modified: 19 March 2003