Of Human Bondage Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How might Thorpe Athelny be considered an example supporting the argument that free will exists merely as the ability to choose which form of human bondage you prefer?

    The existence of free will as either a real thing or an illusion which helps gets people through life or as existing in either concept or agency is a thematic argument underlying Philip’s search for meaning. Athelny’s domestic state seems to suggest the strongest argument being forwarded by the author is that free will does exist, but as a limited contingency. Free will does not carry with any agency for escaping human bondage, but does afford one to pursue fate offering a preference for the negative implications of bondage. Athelny makes himself an active agent in the exercise of free will that determines a fate of economic deficiency and all the aspects of bondage attended to such privation at the expense of living a life of dinner parties with stockbrokers and politicians in a little red house in Kensington. In short, Athelny freely chose the form of bondage which offered domestic happiness in over the form which offered economic stability.

  2. 2

    Thorpe lives under economic bondage, as indicated, and Philip at the very least believes he is held bondage to the inferiority symbolized by club-foot. Aside from the money problems leading up to her suicide, how is Fanny Price living in human bondage?

    Fanny spends most of the novel held bondage to a dream which will likely never be. While it is true that many an artist has been told they have no talent only to later be recognized as geniuses, it is also true that for every one of them there are thousands of artists who not only have been told they have no talent, but really don’t. Most eventually give and admit the truth; some don’t and waste a life racing after a dream that is never going to come true. And then there is the particularly tragic bondage to which Fanny submits: choosing to die rather than face the possibility that she really does not have the talent to ever match her ambition.

  3. 3

    Some argue that the relationship between Philip and Mildred is not really about one human being held in bondage by another. What might be the real bondage that Philip ultimately escapes as a result of his relationship with Mildred?

    Mildred, some scholars suggest, is not the real master in the master/slave relationship that develops between her and Philip. In this interpretation, as a representative of everything that Philips finds unattractive in a potential mate, Mildred is the perfect test for his philosophical adoption of idealism. She is coarse, common, insolent, physically unappealing, vulgar and ignorant. Seething within Philip is a distrust of an idealistic worldview, but he’s not yet ready to give it up and embrace the darkness that comes with being a realist because he has not just adopted idealism, he has become a slave to it, held in bondage to the temptations of believing in a world of basic goodness and human decency. And so it is only as the ultimate test of that slavish deference to a philosophy that Mildred becomes the agency of mastery and is able to hold in firmly in the grips of what is irrefutably—deny though he may—a sexual bondage. Once he reaches the point where he is finally able to reject the hold idealism has on him, her sexual mastery loses its power.

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