In Unto This Last, John Ruskin expresses a supreme frustration with the dishonesty and hypocrisy with which the men of his era conduct their lives, particularly in regard to economic life and its relationship to underlying moral principles. He says, at the close of the third essay of this four-part serial, "Qui Judicatis Terram", that

I know no previous instance in history of a nation's establishing a systematic disobedience to the first principles of its professed religion. The writings which we (verbally) esteem as divine, not only denounce the love of money as the source of all evil, and as an idolatry abhorred of the Deity, but declare mammon service to be the accurate and irreconcileable opposite of God's service: and, whenever they speak of riches absolute, and poverty absolute, declare woe to the rich, and blessing to the poor. Whereupon we forthwith investigate a science of becoming rich, as the shortest road to national prosperity.

He then closes with an epigram from Dante which declares "Christians like these the Aethiope shall condemn..." The positions that he takes, and the proposals that he offers throughout these writings are deeply rooted in traditional moral and religious principles that have guided and influenced, to greater or lesser degrees, but with a constant and palpable presence, the actions and the thinking of people in the western world for generations upon generations.

Questions

In what ways, if at all, does he use rhetorical strategies and particular tones in his essays to express his powerful discontent at the apparent decline of the influence of traditional moral principles in the world around him?

What strategies does he use to bring the presence of those principles, and the questions of moral behavior into the consciousness of his readers?

What is Ruskin fundamentally concerned about? The divide between the rich and the poor? The increasing lack of justice in the modern world? The disappearance of moral leaders? The spread of hypocrisy among the people? The inability of men even to ask the right questions about the causes of the conditions that surround them?


Victorian Overview John Ruskin Leading Questions

Last modified 2 October 2003