Vocation and Religion

4 April 2015
A discussion on the way in which Samuel Butler satirizes the idea that one’s vocation must be religious or theological in the nature of its calling with reference to his book, The Way of All Flesh.

The following paper examines the way in which Butler suggests religion can prove an obstacle to finding an individual’s true purpose in life in his book , “The Way of All Flesh”.References are made to Robert Browning’s poem Fra Lippo Lippi. and Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall”, in which both the central characters have vocations that are not religiously sanctioned vocations.
“Before the full flowering of the Victorian Era in British society, the nature of what constituted an individual’s vocation was primarily understood primarily in theological terms. Even today, the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the word “vocation” as “a summons or a strong inclination to a particular state or course of action but especially as a divine call to the religious life.” However, the increasing interest in science, history, and secular identity caused Victorian society as a whole to undergo a profound destabilization. Both the religious and social moral structures that had prioritized religion as a means for providing an individual with his or her ideal occupation were called into question. Rather than viewing those “called” to the clergy as the only recipients of a unique gift or vocation, the idea that religion was the only “calling” an individual could experience is called into question in a number of Victorian narratives of self-understanding.”
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