Criticism: The Foundations of Modern Literary Judgment

By Mark Schorer; Gordon McKenzie et al. | Go to book overview

beings, for Engels is careful to emphasise that man's desires and actions are conditioned by his physical constitution and, finally, by economic circumstances, either his personal circumstances or those of society in general. In his social history it is, in the last resort again, the class to which he belongs, the psychology of that class, with its contradictions and conflicts, which plays the determining part. So that each man has, as it were, a dual history, since he is at the same time a type, a man with a social history, and an individual, a man with a personal history. The two, of course, even though they may be in glaring conflict, are also one, a unity, in so far as the latter is eventually conditioned by the former, though this does not and should not imply that in art the social type must dominate the individual personality. Falstaff, Don Quixote, Tom Jones, Julien Sorel, Monsieur de Charlus, are all types, but they are types in whom the social characteristics constantly reveal the individual, and in whom the personal hopes, hungers, loves, jealousies and ambitions in turn light up the social background.

The novelist cannot write his story of the individual fate unless he also has this steady vision of the whole. He must understand how his final result arises from the individual conflicts of his characters, he must in turn understand what are the manifold conditions of lives which have made each of those individuals what she or he is. "What emerges is something that no one willed," how exactly that sums up each great work of art, and how well it expresses the pattern of life itself, since behind the event that no one willed a pattern does exist. Marxism gives to the creative artist the key to reality when it shows him how to discern that pattern and the place which each individual occupies in it. At the same time it consciously gives to man his full value, and in this sense is the most humanist of all world outlooks.


ARTHUR O. LOVEJOY:
Milton and the Paradox of the Fortunate Fall*

TO MANY readers of Paradise Lost in all periods the most surprising lines in the poem must have been those in the Twelfth Book in which Adam expresses a serious doubt whether his primal sin--the intrinsic enormity and ruinous consequences of which had elsewhere been so copiously dilated upon--was not, after all, rather a ground for self-congratulation. The Archangel Michael, it will be remembered, has been giving Adam a prophetic relation of the history of mankind after the Fall. This, though for the greater part a most unhappy story, concludes with a prediction of the Second Coming and the Final Judgment, when Christ shall reward

His faithful and receive them into bliss,
Whether in Heav'n or Earth, for then the Earth
Shall all be Paradise, far happier place
Than this of Eden, and far happier days.
So spake the Archangel Michael; and then paused,
As at the world's great period, and our Sire
Replete with joy and wonder thus replied:
"O Goodness infinite, Goodness immense,
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good--more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of darkness! Full of doubt I stand,
Whether I should repent me now of sin
By me done or occasioned, or rejoice
Much more that much more good thereof shall spring--

____________________
*
"Milton and the Paradox of the Fortunate Fall" first appeared in A Journal of English Literary History, September 1937, and is reprinted here by permission of the editors, of the Manager of The Johns Hopkins Press, and of Mr. Lovejoy. Mr. Lovejoy (b. 1873) is the author of The Revolt Against Dualism ( 1930) and of The Great Chain of Being ( 1936), and is one of the editors of A Documentary History of Primitivism and Related Ideas ( 1935- ).

-137-

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