Citing various social ills from transience to exclusion, in "Traffic," Ruskin laments his era's dedication to "the Goddess of Getting-on." Ruskin's scathing criticisms are structured around groupings of two terms that are often binary opposites. He also uses repetition with contrast as a mode of highlighting the important words that drive the argument. The glory of Greek and Medieval religion is posed against the market-driven incentives of the 19th century, creating an intricate structure of parallels between architectural styles of the past and present.

Pallas and the Madonna were supposed to be all the world's Pallas, and all the world's Madonna. They could teach all men, and they could comfort all men. But, look strictly into the nature of the power of your Goddess of Getting-on; and you will find she is the Goddess — not of everybody's getting on — but only of somebody's getting on. This is a vital, or rather deathful, distinction. Examine it in your own ideal of the state of national life which this Goddess is to evoke and maintain. I asked you what it was, when I was last here; — you have never told me. Now, shall I try to tell you? [246]

Sentences one, two, three, and four employ the technique of repeating a phrase with a single contrasting word. "Pallas" is contrasted with "Madonna," "teach" with "comfort," "everybody" with "somebody," and "vital" with "deathful." While the overarching oppositions of the paragraph are between the religions of the past with the ones of the present, the individual sentences three and four serve to reveal specific inadequacies of the current mode of thought. Sentence five reveals Ruskin's concern with his era being immortalized as one of meager subsistence and self-centeredness, failing to leave a legacy to compare with the previous architectural schools of page 240.


1.How does Ruskin characterize his audience in this passage? In the first sentence, "Pallas" is a complicated epithet for Athena. How does using a reference like this contrast to the tone in the last three sentences?

2.In what ways does Ruskin use point of view (the switch between second and third person), and anecdote in comparison to Samuel Johnson?

3."We ought to have an opposite word, hateliness, to be said of the things which deserve to be hated." (Page 235) In sentence four, Ruskin recalls a technique from earlier in the lecture by using the word "deathful." How does this original word function within the paragraph? Is it merely the most apt term, or is there a specific reason to recall the previous passage?


Ruskin, John. The Genius of John Ruskin. Ed. John Rosenberg. Charlottesville: U of Virginia Pres, 1998.

Victorian Overview John Ruskin Leading Questions

Last modified 16 October 2006