Study Guide: Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy - BookNotes|
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Mr. Barton ends his sermon with a view of the future: people of the
twentieth century feel immense hope in this regard.
There is very little actual religion in this sermon. The sermon is Bellamy’s way of summing up all that has been discussed thus far with a global, world-historical view.
It is impossible to learn the exact details of religion in Bellamy’s
twentieth century. Perhaps the author did not want to isolate readers
on the basis of religion, and so he did not expand the topic. However,
Bellamy’s principal of “communal” values fits comfortably with most Christian
ideology. He emphasizes that man’s original state is one of goodness.
It is the Sunday of Julian West’s first week in the new Boston. He feels very depressed after hearing the sermon because he suddenly realizes how different he is from the people of the twentieth century. He feels utterly alone, and his feeling is made worse at the thought that the Leetes pity him more than they like him. He goes to his underground chamber and sits alone. Edith Leete shows up and tells him she has noticed he is feeling sad. He has realized that he is in love with Edith, and he is sure that she can never love him. He tells her that the sermon has made him realize that her and her family’s only emotion toward him is pity. She feels terrible that she let him hear the sermon. She assures him that Mr. Barton does not know him like she does and can therefore not know how good he is. Inspired by her compassion for him, Julian West confesses to her that he is in love with her. She blushes and then tells him she is also in love with him. He embraces her and she pulls away, afraid that he will think she has thrown herself on him when she has only known him for a week.
Inside the house, she whispers something to her mother and then goes upstairs. Mrs. Leete tells Julian West that she is Edith Bartlett’s grand-daughter, and that she named her daughter, Edith, after this ancestor. After fourteen years of mourning his death, Edith Bartlett had married. Edith Bartlett’s portrait and some letters she had kept from Julian West had been passed down to Mrs. Leete. Edith Leete had always been taken with the story of Julian West. She had often teased her parents that she would never marry until she found a man like Julian West. When they found him in the underground chamber, they also found a locket around his neck that held a picture of Edith Bartlett, and they guessed his identity.
Julian West goes up to see Edith in her room. He feels as if he has regained the lost Edith Bartlett in her great-granddaughter: “My love, whom I had dreamed lost, had been re-embodied for my consolation.” He adds that he has since always confused the two Ediths in his thinking. Edith Leete also feels this “confusion of identities” and tells him she half-believes that Edith Bartlett’s spirit has come back to finish what was left undone when he disappeared. She actually has the idea that her real name is Edith Bartlett.
When Doctor Leete comes home, he congratulates Julian West on the news
and says he has suspected that it would happen from the moment he discovered
him. He thinks of his daughter as fulfilling her great-grandmother’s pledge.
That evening, Julian West and Edith Leete stroll in the garden as they
revel in their new love. She wonders how women of the nineteenth century
were supposed to hide their emotions about love. When they part, she jokes
with him, asking him if he is jealous that Edith Bartlett married someone
else. Julian West confesses to his reader that he had felt such an irrational
emotion, but at Edith’s joke, the bad feeling dissipated, and he assures
her that he is not at all jealous.
The lightly drawn romantic plot reaches its culmination, just as the reader
would have imagined. In this utopia, the hero does not even have to suffer
a broken heart. His lost love is “reincarnated” for him. In effect, Julian
West is able to enjoy a new and improved version of his fiancée.
This Edith is an enlightened member of a superior society.
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TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Looking Backward: 2000-1887".
. 09 May 2017