1. At the novel's close, Anodos concludes: "Thus I, who set out to find my Ideal, came back rejoicing that I had lost my Shadow." What does this summation of his adventures have to do with the protagonist's quest for the White Lady? with the Pygmalion legend? with the adventures of Percival and the good knight? What do these connections tell us about the way MacDonald goes about communicating his view of human nature and its limitations?

2. Why does the story take place immediately after Anodos attains his twenty-first birthday?

3. What are the functions of the all the interspersed poems, epigraphs, and stories? Figure out in particular MacDonald's purpose for including the long tale of Cosmo, which derives from a story written, incidentally, by a German contemporary, Hoffmann).

4. Who is the old woman who comforts Anodos on the island with the magic doors into experience? Why are almost all the authority figures in Phantastes women? and what does this fact tell us about MacDonald's conception of God?

5. Phantastes takes form as an episodic narrative organized by a series of tests. In Chapter XVII he passes such a test when after the goblins taunt his loss of the White Lady, he responds: "Well, if he[the Knight] is a better man, let him have her." Determine the nature of this and other tests and decide if they seem repetive, progressive, or entirely dis- parite.

6. Analyze MacDonald's settings, say, in the forest or fairy palace, and determine both their function within this fantasy and how they differ from analogous description in realistic fiction. Similarly, what does he do with physical descriptions of characters? Why?

7. What relation can you discern between Anados's shadow and his imagination? When does he lose his dark companion?

8. Two of the work's most important sections are the chapter in the fairy palace and that in the old woman's cottage. What do they mean?


Victorian Web Overview George MacDonald

Last modified 16 October 2002