Of Human Bondage: Chapters 5-9

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Summary of Chapters V-IX
 
At the vicarage Philip learns more about his parents. His father was a brilliant surgeon on the staff of St. Luke’s Hospital in London. He earned a lot of money but spent it freely, for instance, on his marriage to one of his patients, a penniless but well-connected young woman.
 
The parson, seeing the lavish entertaining at his younger brother’s home in London prophesies the worst will happen. He had seen grapes in the dining room, an expense he could not even imagine! When a packet of photographs arrives at the parsonage for Philip, the parson is surprised. Mrs. Carey, fearing she would die in childbirth, had gotten out of bed and had photographs taken of her so her son would not forget her. She had beautiful blonde hair and had put on an evening dress and furs. The parson cannot understand why she had a dozen taken instead of one.
 
The vicarage at Blackstable in Kent is very dull and never changes its routine. Mr. Carey shares The Times with two neighbors and starts his day with the newspaper. Philip accompanies Mrs. Carey to the market in the fishing village of Blackstable. She is careful to patronize the merchants who are church members.
 
When the churchwarden, Josiah Graves, quarrels with the vicar over whether he can chair a committee or whether the vicar should do it, Graves resigns, and then Mrs. Carey and Miss Graves have to mend fences behind the scenes. Philip has to wait while his aunt visits with people in town and amuses himself by skipping stones on the beach. In the afternoons, Philip learns Latin and mathematics  from his uncle, and French and piano from his aunt.
 
There are few parties, and the Careys do not mingle much. They like to have tea and backgammon by themselves. Sundays are more tense because they are church days, and Philip has to attend two services while his uncle preaches and not fidget, though he is bored.
 
He begins to love the maid, Mary Ann, for she bathes him, tucks him in bed and tells him stories of the sea that touch his imagination. He spends time near her playing in the kitchen.
 
The uncle will not let Philip go home with Mary Ann, for he fears the rough fisher folk who go to chapel instead of church. The aunt wants to mother Philip, but she doesn’t know how and feels awkward around the boy.
 
When Philip accidentally makes a noise playing on Sunday while his uncle is napping, the vicar shames him as wicked for playing on Sunday and won’t let him go to service. His aunt tries to cheer him up, but he lashes out at her, saying he hates her. She begins to cry and takes him on her lap.
 
The next Sunday the vicar gives Philip prayers to memorize to keep him busy, so he won’t play. The boy doesn’t understand them and goes into panic. His aunt finds him sobbing. She intervenes with her husband, allowing him to look at picture books from their library to amuse him. This is how he gets into the habit of reading. He soon begins a course of unsupervised reading, picking out what is most thrilling. In the summer, he reads for hours in a hammock in the garden. He is not allowed to play with visiting children from London who might be a bad influence. The Careys expect Philip to take holy orders when he grows up.
 
Commentary on Chapters V-IX
 
The narrator does not comment but details the smallness of the world Philip inhabits with his aunt and uncle in the vicarage. For instance, his aunt will not look at any dissenter or non-Anglican she passes in the street. The uncle believes the fisher folk who go to chapel to be rough and wicked. This is the late Victorian period when such religious differences were important. His uncle drums into him that only gentlemen belong to the Church of England, while the lower classes go to “chapel,” run by other Protestant sects. From a larger point of view, the divisions are minute: Christian against Christian. But the various sects had doctrinal and class differences.
 
Josiah Graves, the church warden, is in a power struggle with his pastor. One of their petty quarrels concerns the vicar’s love of candlesticks and other “popish” customs. The vicar had been influenced by the Oxford Movement when many Anglicans were lured over to the Church of Rome because of its ritual, and consequently, Mr. Carey has some sympathy with lavish ceremonies. The more Puritan Anglicans, like Josiah Graves, are deeply suspicious of such practice. The Anglican or Church of England (today, Episcopalian) prided itself on being a “middle way” between the extremes of the Roman Catholic Church and the more Puritan dissenters (Methodists, Unitarians, Lutherans, Presbyterians) who did not want any images between them and God.
 
Philip is made to feel guilty over equally small things, such as playing on Sunday. The vicar shames him, saying his mother will be grieved in heaven. He feels humiliation, the beginning of his deep shame about being inadequate. His aunt tries to help him escape the restrictions the uncle puts on him, and once she introduces him to picture books and stories, he has found his refuge, his escape. He chooses books that have magic and adventure. His aunt and uncle cannot be bothered with him much, so he reads whatever books he wants. A warning note sounds when it is revealed they expect him to be an Anglican minister, like the uncle.
 
The perceptive reader sees already he doesn’t seem to fit into that mold. His sensitivity comes to the surface when he breaks down under his uncle’s harshness. His uncle is surprised, saying he gave the boy a simple task. The uncle is not really mean but very rigid and unsympathetic.  He doesn’t know how to teach or motivate a child.
 
Philip is precocious and restless, with an active imagination. His uncle and aunt bore him. His reading liberates him. However, “he did not know that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment” (Chpt. IX, p. 37). Like many sensitive people, Philip will have a great difficulty with the discrepancies  and injustices of life. This is especially compounded by the era he grows up in, for Victorian convention is very narrow and stuffy. He is too different.
 

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