William Morris (1834-96) was a poet, designer, translator of the Icelandic sagas, writer of prose romances, founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and a pioneer in fine book design. In the early 1880s he had become a socialist, and at the time of the writing of his utopia he was in his late 50s and was one of the leaders of the Socialist League.
News from Nowhere was serialized in Commonweal, Morris's newspaper for the Socialist League. This original context is reflected in News' reference to his socialist activities, and to socialists' heated discussion of the nature of an ideal society and how to obtain it. Among other things, News is his considered statement of his views on these questions.
News from Nowhere contains many echoes of Thomas More's Utopia. It was also written in response to Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, the most popular of the period's many "utopian" projections, an American work which portrays a techno-centric, industrial and regimented society. All three of these are interested in the condition of the modern worker, and in the relationship of an empire to its colonies, though Morris is the only one to attack imperialism on moral and practical grounds.
Morris's romance is a combination of autobiography, fantasy, and political treatise--it takes place on the Thames, on a journey from his house in Hammersmith into his country residence in Oxfordshire, and follows the route of an annual Morris family outing. Ellen may be an eroticized version of his daughter May, and the dark-haired, grey-eyed, handsome woman who greets the travellers on their arrival upstream an oblique reference to his wife Jane.
This multiply-layered account has evoked many interpretations. Morris himself is a Guest figure (a reference to a character in Icelandic sagas), and as in many of his other writings presents himself as an observer and traveller.
Page numbers are from A. L. Morton, ed., Three Writings of William Morris, International Publishers, 1968 or from the Penguin edition edited by Clive Wilmer (marked W).
In the opening chapter, what are some of the unpleasant features of society the narrator wishes to avoid?
What is the effect of the collapse of the original narrators into a first person dream?
What associations would a dream-narrative have had for a Victorian audience? (among other things, it would have suggested a vision, a medieval dream-narrative, as in Piers Plowman, and the tradition of Romantic dream poems)
What are some of the pleasant sensations which the narrator describes in the opening chapters? (awakening, sleeping, coolness of air, moon, river, swimming)
What is the thematic significance of the dream motif?
When the speaker awakes in the new society, what are some of the ways the world has changed? (water clearer, 184; W46, factories have disappeared, 186; W48) What symbolism is associated with seasonal change?
Whom does the narrator first encounter, and what are they wearing? (186; W47, clothes simple but beautiful) What familiar elements of his old world have disappeared? (186; W47)
What are features of the homes of the new society? (houses sympathetic with the life of dwellers, 187, W48; suburban gardens; compare the "Garden City" movement)
What now replaces the use of money? (exchange, 188; W 49-50) What comments are made about medieval and 19th century coins?
What attitude do the Nowherians express toward examples of medieval art? (These have been carefully preserved--Dick knows the history of buildings and coins, 189; W50)
What house now stands on the site of his old dwelling? (191; W51) How has the building itself changed?
The Guest House is modelled on his own house, with its large dining room suggestive of an Icelandic communal hall (191). What is significant about the allusion to the carriage house? Are there other self-references? (195; W55, Morris was 56 years old, 197; W57)
What allusions are contained in the narrator's name of "William Guest"?
What are some reasons why the narrator experiences a sense of threatened identity? (Since he is an outsider they may discover his origins, not truly a denizen of this society.) How does his repeated sense of unease add to the narrative's meaning?
Why do the others laugh at Bob for his interest in antiquarian knowledge? (197; W56-57) Do Bob's questions about time and chronology threaten the new order? (Does the new society remain largely insulated from its past?)
What are some of his avocations? (prints, writes history) What kind of history does he write?
Why do you think Morris included a publishing weaver in his narrative? (a Chartist ideal; there were many 19th century examples of literary weavers)
What do we learn about the book's chronology? (The plaque on the Guest House was erected in 1962. Fighting had occurred at the end of the century) What does the date of the plaque reveal about Morris's view of the future?
What is significant about the reference to the great clearing of houses? (Woodford, near Epping Forest, was Morris's boyhood home. The reference to the great clearing of 1955 (195; W55) was, alas, counterfactual.)
How do the inhabitants of the new society live? (ideal of unanxious attention) All are friendly to each other. Each person performs many tasks--e. g. the weaver prints and studies mathematics, writes a history.
How is aging affected by psychological factors? Do you think there is some truth to this claim that stress and poverty accelerate aging?
What are some other features of the new society? How do its inhabitants eat? (194; W54, simple, carefully cooked, healthy food, raised in nearby gardens--"the sweet scents of the garden" create a balm, 196; W55)
Manual labor is now respected--both intellectual and manual labor are necessary for a full humanity.
What forms of art are practiced? (handcraft printing and crafts--fine printing has replaced mass production)
What has changed in the appearance of people in general? (all look younger than their nineteenth-century counterparts, 198; W53)
What has changed in women's dress? Their manners and health? (193, W53; not shy; healthy and strong)
What seem to be women's occupations? How would Morris's views here have contrasted with those of feminist reformers of the time?
Who is the best-dressed man in Nowhere? What point is made by the allusion to the Dickensian Boffin, e. g., what may be significant about the fact that it is the dustman who cares about elaborate fashions? (201; W60) Why are the well-dressed now objects of friendly condescension? (no longer do clothes make the man)
What form of architecture is practiced by the new society? (203; W62-62, both original and eclectic)
What has happened to the earlier commercial society? What new emotions suffuse everyday life? (sense of pleasure, all seem happy, 203; W61)
What sort of long-familiar people are no longer present? (204-205; W63, inherently subservient, downcast, poor people)
What significance does Dick play in the narrative? To what degree is he intended to be the embodiment of the new society?
Does Dick embody any of Morris's own traits and values? (his love of architecture and physical activity) Which of Morris's traits does he lack?
Does Dick understand something of Guest's anomalous position? What role does he play in introducing Guest to his grandfather?
What are some humorous aspects of the narrator's portrayal of "London, small and clean"?
What is the significance of the fact that Putney and Kensington are now wooded? What had been Kensington's status in Morris's day? (home of artists, upscale shops, royal residence and museums, e. g., Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum, Royal Concert Hall)
What critique does the narrator make of Victorian education? Why has formal schooling been abolished?
What form of education is practiced in the new society? Which social and educational reformers would have agreed with these changes?
How should children be taught reading, writing and languages? What forms of activity do the Nowherians consider to be natural pleasures? (reading and writing, manual skills)
According to Guest, in what periods of society do people concern themselves with history? Do you think this may be an accurate observation?
What other forms of knowledge are prized? What has happened to science? (210) What is the place of scholars in the new society? (modest, eager to teach and learn, a Chaucerian echo, 211; W68)
What is Guest's response to Westminster Abbey? (restoration, statues) How do his remarks reflect Morris's views on history? On preservation?
Why would the appearance of the Houses of Parliament have offended Morris's architectual tastes?
What has happened to the Houses of Parliament? To what new use has it been put, and how may this reflect a changed set of values? (new concern with efficient urban design; disposal sites should be near transportation)
How do you interpret Guest's dislike of St. Paul's Cathedral? What attitude toward architecture is taken by members of the new society?
What are some notable features of the scene in which a child gives Guest a pipe, a fine pouch and Turkish tobacco (217; W73, the pipe is "something like the best kind of Japanese work, but better")? What is the significance of the fact that they all drink good wine?
Does the new society suffer from the problem of refusal to work? (219; W75, in the past some of those who kept shops were afflicted with a love of luxury, but values have changed so that all enjoy work and no longer wish for servants, 220-21; W75)
What had been wrong with the Victorian ideal of female gentility? (220; W76, women in the new society are sturdy, have renounced the false ideal of delicacy)
What does Morris consider the features of an ideal education?
What tensions still remain in the new society? (quarrels over love, 216; W72)
What changes have occured in Picadilly? (221; W77, in Morris's day a busy commercial center, somewhat like Times Square, now a market with gardens and woods)
What seems Morris's ideal for urban life? How do his views differ from those of recent "new urbanism"?
What does the narrator think of the National Gallery? What is his verdict on neo-classical taste? ("a queer fantastic style not overly beautiful," 225; W80)
What "battle" had occured in Trafalgar Square in 1886? ("Bloody Sunday," on which police killed several protesters and wounded many others) What is the significance of this memory for Morris/Guest, and what predicted event does it foreshadow? (222; W78, projected revolution of 1952)
How do the old man and Dick react to his account? Why can't they believe that such a police attack was possible? (222-23; W77-78)
On what grounds does Dick argue that medieval oppressions were less harmful than Victorian ones? (224; W79) What is the purpose of making such an argument?
In his belief in the comparative virtues of the medieval social order, to which precedents would Morris have been indebted? (A. W. Pugin, Ruskin in Modern Painters and "The Nature of Gothic")
What is the new society's attitude towards prisons? Why is Dick offended at the thought of imprisonment? How is this a change from Morris's time?
What is significant about the fact that Dick doesn't understand why the Trafalgar Square art museum is called the "National Gallery"? Why is a "national gallery" no longer necessary? Would Morris be pleased at what has happened in the art museum world since his time?
What is the purpose of preserving buildings no longer considered handsome? (232; W80)
What has changed the nature of factory work in the new society? (banded worshops, dispersion, 226-27; W81) What has happened to attitudes towards manual labor (e. g. road repairing) and toward manual labor in general? (This conversation may be based on the report of an excursion Ruskin organized to take Oxford students into the countryside to mend roads.)
Why has the British Museum been preserved? What has happened to its railings and environs? (231; W85-86, railings are gone, now surrounded by trees)
What kind of buildings seem now to be considered handsome? (nineteenth-century buildings are valued less than those of the middle ages and Renaissance)
Do women participate in the heaviest labor? (228; W82) What are some of the roles they fill in the new society?
What has happened to life expectancy? (W87) How old is Dick's grandfather? (105+ years old--older than Morris would have been could he have lived until then)
What seems Guest's relation to Dick's elderly kinsman, Old Hammond? (resembles him, 233-34; W88)
What do you make of this? Could Old Hammond have in fact been a descendant? (He speaks of knowing the nineteenth-century well [W217], and of his grandfather as a man of sensibility and an artist who had suffered under the constraints of Victorian society--do the dates match up?)
What has happened to familial/sexual relations in the new society? Do both sexes suffer equally from the pains of love? What forms of marriage/divorce are practiced? (237-38; W90-91)
What forms of false consciousness have been abolished? (in the new society there is less conventional sentimentality, no feigning, 239-40; W92). These comments seem from the heart. The end of the commercialization of marriage means that no one will have to lie.
What change has there been in the valuation of romantic love? (placed within a balanced view of life's possibilities, 239; W92, "we recognize that there are other pleasures besides love-making")
What change does this represent from the attitudes and laws of 1890?
How are children cared for in the new society? What has happened to the rule of convention? (Victorian bourgeois morality has disappeared, 240; W95)
What has happened to the nineteenth century feminists' hope that women might be legislators and members of Parliament? (No Parliament!)
Under what conditions do the women of the new society bear children? To readers of 1890, how would this have seemed different? (They bear from choice, not biological or economic coercion.)
To what extent will families continue as before?
What has happened to London, as it was in 1890? How is population distributed throughout the countryside? (town and country merge, 254; W103) With what emotion have the people returned? (The city dwellers fling themselves on the land, 253; W103)
What has happened to the country's agriculture? (intensive agriculture; England is now a garden where nothing is wasted, 254; W105) Are any spaces left unplanned? (yes, spaces of natural growth permitted, natural woods left intact, 256; W106)
What contemporary reformist ideals may these changes reflect? (garden city movement, the domestic gardens and green belts of Ebenezer Howard's Garden Cities of Tomorrow; the "back to the land" movement)
How do the dwellers in the new society commemorate their history? Which features of the past do they choose to remember? (ceremonies, such as those celebrating the "Clearing of Misery," 248; W99)
What is the condition of the "City," the former business district? What has happened to Britain's position as the center of finance and empire?
What changes have occurred in the use of mechanical power, and what effect has this had on the organization of work?
What caused the city to depopulate? How did people's lives change when outside the megapolis? What kinds of buildings and inhabitants are now found in the countryside?
Has the population increased between 1890 and 2060? How do the members of the new society deal with issues of population control?
Are Nowhereans aware of the potential problems caused by emigration? (only partially--they emigrate only to places where they are "wanted")
What is the purpose of wildlands and forests in the new society?
What has happened to government?
What has happened to the army, navy, and police? Why are these little needed?
What analysis does Old Hammond give of the government and law courts of his day? What does he think is wrong with the argument that armies protect the common people in time of war?
Which nineteenth-century political groups would have agreed with these views? (anarchists believed government, laws and army were inherently repressive)
What changes have occurred in matters of passion and violence? In your view, is there evidence that an unpossessive society would be less violent?
What roles take the place of the former government in the new society? (voluntary association)
None! What is meant by "politics" in this context? What are some implications of the absence of "politics" in Nowhere?
What does Hammond think was wrong with the idea of nationalism (260; W117)? What does he see as inherently false about demanding allegiance to a centralized nation? (ignores internal differences, regions and conflicts)
In view of 20th and 21st century history, what do you think of the validity of his critiques?
What has happened to national loyalty in the new society? (has been replaced with loyalty to humankind and to one's immediate community)
What is Hammond/Morris' criticism of the Parliamentary party system as practiced in 19th-century England? (only the pretense of disagreement, W118) To what extent might these critiques be applied today?
How does majority rule work? (the apparent majority is the real majority, W 119) What would have been new about Morris's ideas in 1890?
Does Morris seem to be advocating representative democracy or something else? (direct democracy) What are some alternatives to democracy, and who in Morris' time would have advocated each? (the present system, capitalist wage slavery; government by an educated elite, advocated by Fabians at the time; and complete freedom for each person without restraint or cooperation, advocated by libertarian anarchists, W120)
Are any of these alternatives presented as desirable?
What has happened to war? Why would it no longer be necessary in Nowhere? How does Hammond respond to the claim that armies are necessary to protect the populace from foreign invasions?
How have the motives for work changed since the nineteenth century? (W122, reward of labor is life--compare Ruskin's Unto This Last)
What is the significance of the reference to Charles Fourier? (Fourier was an early French socialist who promoted the view that work should be creative and varied.)
What critique does Old Hammond give of the World Market? What kinds of products does it tend to produce, and at what cost? (creation of artificial necessities [W124]; products are shoddy, made to sell and not to use; workers are reduced to misery)
What is his criticism of imperialism? Which events of recent British history lie behind these remarks? (e. g. Stanley in the Belgian Congo; Gordon in Kartoum)
According to him, what did nineteenth century society do best? (made machines, 279; W126)
What has happened to science in the new society? (flourishes as a result of natural human curiosity and delight in the solving of problems) Are machines still used, and if so, for what? (unpleasant tasks, W127)
What with all these changes has happened to the United States?! (suffered from such an excess of commercialism/industrialism that it became a backward wasteland needing repair--this could still happen!)
What kind of food is enjoyed by members of the new society? (simple, well-prepared, not excessive, W131) What characterizes their table settings and glass-ware? (glass preserves a natural roughness)
What kind of furniture is placed in the dining hall? (284; W131) What kind of pictorial art is used there? (Folk-tales are the subjects of pictures, 283; W130, chosen from Grimm's fairy tales and other stories known by all.)
Why does the art of the new society deal with matters other than contemporary life? Would Morris have approved of socialist realism?
Why is the imagination related to childhood? (child-like sense of timelessness)
What is indicated by Clara's regrets over the loss of the old art and fashions? (She's closer to a nineteenth-century person).
What brought about change? (passionate desire for liberty, W134)
What reservations does Morris have about gradualism and what he terms "state socialism"? (W135)
What improvements have occurred under these conditions? (minimum wage standards, price controls, state factories for the production of food)
What effect is created by capitalism's boom or bust cycle? When did the "great depression" as described by Hammond occur? (1952) Did such a depression actually occur in the 20th century?
What has happened to Manchester? What is the significance of its disappearance? (295; W140, worst seat of Industrial Revolution)
Which aspects of Morris's predictions seem to have come true? Which of the tactics employed by the ancestors of the Nowhereians do you recognize as having been used sometime in the late-nineteenth or twentieth centuries?
The sole mention of a Victorian politician by name in News from Nowhere is this chapter's reference to Gladstone. In what context is he introduced? (W139)
How violent is the revolution as described here? Who is responsible for most of the violence and bloodshed? Can you see aspects of civil disobedience and non-violence as practiced in the 20th century by followers of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and others?
Which aspects of Morris' projections do you consider realistic or unrealistic?
How long did the war which preceded the new world last? What was destroyed and what was preserved during this period?
What attitudes characterize the new society? What are the spiritual aspects of the new life? (delight in the life of the world, 317; W158) What prompts the beginning of a new art? ("a craving for beauty began to awaken in men's minds," 319; W160)
How have religious beliefs changed? (belief in heaven and hell gone, 317-18; W158-59)
What was the chief obstacle people in the new society had to confront? (their inability to imagine a fuller life and to take hold of it) What breaks the impasse?
How has the work of society been transformed? (increase in art, music and ornament, 319; W160)
What prophecy does the old man make concerning Guest's/Morris's future mission? (321; W161) Will this metanarratological insertion be realized? (321; W161, Old Hammond as it were speaks to Morris's own audience and to us as readers) What ominous conclusion to Guest's visit does he foretell? (W162)
What new ideal is advanced for women's work? How would the belief that farm work will make Clara more attractive have challenged nineteenth-century ideas for ladies' work?
What does Guest notice about the clothes of those he meets? What defense does Clara make of the practice of wearing brightly colored and ornamented clothes? Would this have accorded with Pre-Raphaelite ideals?
They return to the Guest House. What is different about the art of the new society? (art freed from thought of misery, 326; W166)
What does he find pleasant and admirable in the behavior of Annie?
What clothes does Guest don for the trip, and how are these significant for him? (dressed in new clothes which resembled Morris's work garb, simple blue cloth) What emotions does he feel in prospect?
What do you make of the fact that Guest recognizes the verses he reads on the walls of the Hammersmith Guest House? (W167)
What activity is Dick especially eager to perform, and how does this reflect a change in society's values?
What is the importance of the Nowhereans' trip to participate in hay-mowing? (W166) What is the significance of the fact that inhabitants of the new society dress up for work?
What use is made of the former royal residence?
How are the visitors to the countryside housed? (mostly in tents, some in Hampton Court and the houses nearby)
What are some features of the society of the countryside? (sense of ease, W171, hospitable, W171, visitors are invited to spend the night)
Where does Ellen live and in what setting is she introduced? (pastoral setting with hay-mowing and a lovely garden W172) What significance may attach to her name?
What is her grandfather's occupation? (She is the granddaughter of an elderly unemployed farm laborer who would have been poor in the nineteenth century.)
What does Ellen's grandfather believe was better about the 19th century? (period of competition, struggle gave zest to life) How does his granddaughter explode his views?
What is Ellen's critique of the bourgeois novel? (337-38, protagonists survive on the labor of others, W175-76)
What is their evening occupation? (singing, W177)
How are the river and its wildlife/animals described? (fish, W178)
As they go to the hay-field, what imagery is associated with Ellen? (fairy in a garden, W179) What generic implications may this have for the plot?
What is the significance of the reference to the cap of darkness which makes Guest invisible? (W179, a metaphor for his situation as well as predictor of his fate)
How do Ellen and Guest respond to the old man's claim that in past years the river had been more beautiful? (W180)
What changes along the riverbank especially arouse Guest's ire? (building of "cocknified" houses, W180)
What does Ellen believe would have been the fate of rural laborers such as her grandfather and herself had they lived in past times? (would have been forced to live in a poor cottage; suffered premature aging; grandfather would have feared the workhouse, W181)
What irony is inherent in the allusion to Thackeray's Vanity Fair as a "good old book with plenty of fun in it" (W181)?
What is Dick's criticism of the education formerly granted at Eton College? (instead of teaching something to poor boys, rich boys were taught nothing, W183)
What seems to be Morris' criticism of the private schools for boys of his time? Since he attended Marlborough College himself, may this be a reflection on his own education?
To what use has Eton College been converted? How does this change reflect the Nowhereans changed views of education? (W184)
What has happened to the former royal residence at Windsor Castle?
What kind of bridges do they see? (handsome oak and stone, 183) What do they notice about the woodlands and forests?
What difference does Guest note in the way barges are propelled? (W185) What forms of energy do the Nowhereans seem to prefer?
What are the occupations of those they meet along the way? (agricultural workers, two elderly men, a literary man) What does this suggest about the flexibility of work in the new society? What seems indicated by the hospitality of the literary man? (W186)
What is the sign that old-style factories have been removed from the area? (lovely scents, W186) What has happened to the city of Reading? (mostly rebuilt in the last hundred years, W187) What judgment on nineteenth-century Reading may this represent? (an ugly industrial town)
At this point what emotions does Guest feel? (a deep content, new-born, W187)
What provision has been made for travellers to the countryside? How do those not housed in guest houses provide for themselves during summers in the country? (guest houses built, many camp in tents, W187)
Of what sad event does Dick's friend Walter Allen tell him? What seems notable about his grief over the recent death? (all are concerned for others; there are so few crimes that any seem more shocking, W188)
What is meant by the expression, "sending to Coventry"? (W189, ostracism)
How is the issue of a murder in self-defense dealt with? (disappointed lover attacked successful one and was killed by the latter, W189-90) What is Guest's first reaction to this? (W190)
What argument is given for not imprisoning the manslaughterer? Why does Guest decide that the Nowhereans' practice is the best one? (without prisons, those who commit violent acts feel responsibility for their actions; slayer is already overwhelmed by shame and grief)
As they discuss ways the manslaughterer can recover, what seems to be their attitude toward healing, and do you think their views are reasonable? What provision is made to counter the offender's sense of isolation? (he will be accompanied to his new dwelling)
What is shown by the fact that others will vacate a dwelling desired by the offender as a place of recuperation? (seems to indicate a widespread desire to help, W191)
What has happened to system of locks and dykes along the Thames? (has returned to earlier system, W191, notices Maple Durham lock)
How have the houses along the river been designed? Does this suggest any of the principles associated with modern architecture? (designed to complement river, W193, suggests Frank Lloyd Wright, vernacular architecture and desire to blend building into setting)
What are the traits of the country folk they meet along the way? What are their interests? (concerned with each others' welfare, well-informed on specifics of the region, taking an eager and informed interest in the life around them, 359, W193)
How is this a change from the condition of rural laborers in past times? (used to know little of the country aside from their daily work, W193)
Why are there more birds than previously along the river? What is meant by the comment that the days of the gamekeeper are over? (W194)
What kind of house are the builders constructing? (an attractive house of square hewn stone, a bit like Kelmscott Manor, in fact, W195) Why is there a need to construct new houses in the countryside?
What is the purpose of presenting an episode in which the house builders are so keen on their work that they decline to join the others? (skilled work is pleasant; the new society permits flexibility)
Is it significant that the chief carver Mistress Philippa and her daughter are women? (W196, perhaps an allusion to Philippa Fawcett, who in 1890 had placed ahead of the chief wrangler in mathematics at Cambridge).
They meet another old historian, Henry Morsom (Morsom means "amusing" in several Scandinavian languages; and it has been also suggested that the name resembles Morris'). What kind of history do he and the other members of the new society find most useful to preserve? (record of the transition between the period of the change to the present, W198)
How, according to Morsom, had the crafts been revived after the change? (people watched the operations of machines, W199) What type of skills had died out, and which of these were revived?
What objects are preserved in the local museum? (articles of manufacture, makeshift made by machines from the past, W199; compare the museum of machines in Butler's Erewhon)
What attitude toward the use of machines in the past does the old historian find especially puzzling and abhorrent? (the hope that machinery could free an especially intelligent elite for intellectual pursuits, W200)
What's wrong with this belief, according to the principles of the new society? ("It was strange, was it not, that they should thus ignore that aspiration after complete equality which we now recognize as the bond of all happy human society?" W200; also, "only slaves and slave-holders could live solely by setting machines going").
How has the attitude toward "nature" changed? (not separate from humanity, no need to subjugate nature, W200)
What new forms of work have resulted from the change? ("work that was pleasure began to push out the mechanical toil," and this pleasant, partly physical labor became so attractive that its role expanded, W201)
How do the products of the new forms of work differ from that done by machines? (rougher, become works of individuality and art, W201; compare John Ruskin's "The Nature of Gothic") What has become the goal of labor? (to produce works of art)
What answer is given to Guest's question of what will happen to the new society in the future? ("we will meet it when it comes," W201) Will the new society be static?
In what vehicle does Ellen seek out the visitors? Is her arrival symbolic? Is it important that she seeks to join them? (small green boat--woman in boat a Morrisean motif, cmp. Birdalone and the "sending boat" in Water of the Wondrous Isles; as the spirit of nature, Ellen is consistently associated with green, W202)
What draws Guest to Ellen? (she seems the most unfamiliar of all in that society, 203) What traits distinguish her? (keen look in eyes, W205) What interests and perceptions do they share? (both have knowledge and deep love of Thames; she senses his origins)
What tone is set by the allusion to Tennyson's "The Lotus-Eaters"? (W204)
How have Oxford and its university changed since the nineteenth century? (once again beautiful, W206) What ancient remains do they pass? (mounds near Sinodun, earthworks of Whittenham, W206)
Is there any significance to the fact that Ellen helps row their boat, and that she is a better oarsperson than he? (W217)
How does Guest feel? (young, W207) May this sensation be ominous?
How is the boat in which they travel described? ("the green toy," 207)
Why has Ellen chosen his company? (She finds him unusual and wants to hear of past times, W207)
What secret does he confess to her? And in return, she to him? (he, his nineteenth century origins; she, the fact that she lives in this remote setting in part to avoid troubling men who may be attracted to her, W208)
What do they both appreciate about the small scale of the river Thames? (beautiful, W209)
What has motivated her desire to travel up the Thames? Where will she be moving to? (a farewell journey; she will be moving with her grandfather to Cumberland, W210)
Does Ellen like to travel? (She prefers staying in one place; there is an increasing emphasis on home.) Is the new society one of constant relocation? (No, travel is common but moving is not, W210)
Chapter 29: A Resting Place on the Upper Thames
How are the workman's houses in the countryside described? (tasteful, lovely, W211-12) Why had earlier buildings been so ugly? (conditions of labor produced ugliness, W212)
What mental relationship seems to exist between Guest and Ellen? (they ventriloquize each other, W212; she understands him, W213)
Why do you think this might be the case? (each represents a kindred spirit of his/her society straining toward the other--he reaches out to the future and she to the past--she is that voice of the future which cares about the past)
Can this state of affairs last? (we know it must end, for the future and present cannot co-exist indefinitely; he feels anxiety, W213)
Why do you think Morris chooses a young woman to represent the spirit of the new society?
Why does Ellen believe that we should desire to understand the past? (one of her most eloquent passages--"people are too careless of the history of the past," 383, W214) What wisdom is gained by a knowledge of history?
What does this woman of the new society desire to transmit to her children? (her beliefs, W214)
In its farewell tone, this portion of the book resembles last portion of the Gospels.
What seems different about the Thames to Guest? (now clear, well-tended, its trees carefully not rapaciously culled, W215; Ellen cannot imagine that people have ever mistreated the river.)
What is unusual about their admiration for a mill? To what is it compared? (Gothic cathedral, W215; compare Morris' work for the SPAB)
Why, according to Guest, had the rivers come to be less used as waterways in the era of railroads? (railroads demanded that they be no longer used in order to eliminate competition, W215)
What does Ellen think had been the purpose of some of the castles built on the Rhine? (similar, to gather tolls, W216)
What had its nineteenth-century guardians [the Thames Conservancy Board] done to alter the condition of the river? (worsened it, W216)
Who welcomes Ellen and Guest to the hay festival? (Dick, who has just arrived; and a dark-haired woman with grey eyes—could be a reference to his wife Jane, W217-18)
What has changed in the condition of rural workers? (no longer poverty-striken, brightly dressed, W219)
What is Guest's summary evaluation of this change? ("this happy and lovely folk, who had cast away riches and attained to wealth," 219)
What is Ellen's response to the seasons and the earth? (celebratory statement on love of seasons and earth, 391-92, W220-21)
What are signs that Guest belongs to the house at which they have arrived? (long and loving descriptions of house and garden, W219-20); his feet turn automatically to it; has deep experience of fusion of present and past)
Which aspects of the house are suggestive of Morris' Kelmscott Manor? (walls, gate, garden, attic, tapestries, simple furnishings)
Who leads him into the house, and is this symbolic? (W221)
What are Ellen's responses as they enter the old house? What characterizes
its interior furnishings?
(simple furniture and ornamentation, tapestries, W221-22)
What does Ellen believe would have been her life in an earlier world? (would have been poor, and sold to rich men, 394, W223)
What thoughts are prompted in Guest by his entrance into the old house? ("all the waste of life that has gone on for so many years," W222)
What do you make of the deep reverie into which Guest seems to fall, and for which Ellen chides him? (has come to his dream at last, and is about the be expelled?) What are hints that this state cannot last? (she makes the ominous suggestion that they must "lose him," and that he must go "back again," W222)
What does Guest fear as he leaves Ellen for a swim with Dick before the evening feast? (fears he will never see her again, W223) Is his fear realized?
Who comes to the hay making and its festival? (in addition to the main workers, scientific men and students who wish some recreation, W224) What feast is being celebrated? (the haysel, W224)
What is Dick's attitude toward the changing of the seasons? ("a beautiful and interesting drama," W225, of which he feels himself a part: "It is not done for me by somebody else . . . , but I myself do my share of it," W225)
How does this reflect the attitude of the citizens of the new society toward nature? How may this be a change from former days? (intellectual persons had felt a distaste for the changes of the seasons, and looked upon life as a thing to be borne, W225)
What seems ominous about Dick's reference to his mood being caused by an evil charm? (Guest dwells in world of sorrow; another suggestion of magic, W225) What sensations does Guest feel as he enters? (oppressive heat, W226)
Has this church been the victim of "restoration"? (no, W226)
What symbolism is associated with the feast in a church? (W224)
Why is it appropriate that Guest is unable to enjoy it? At exactly what moment does he disappear? (unable to sit at feast, feels pang, W227)
By what stages does he return to the present? What difference is made in the degree of recognition which the others give him? (Ellen shakes her head mournfully, W227)
What emotions does he feel? ("I felt lonely and sick at heart past the power of words to describe," W227) What is shocking to Guest about the presence of the man who touches his hat to him? (poor, prematurely aged, servile, W227-228)
What is the symbolism of the black cloud which rolls to meet him? (Ruskin's "storm-cloud of the nineteenth century," W228)
What prevents the narrator from feeling despair? (dream itself comforts, holds hope of future, W228)
Who proclaims the book's final message, and what is this? (some blend of the narrator and Ellen, as he records "what Ellen's last look seemed to say," W228; the message of the dream itself, and not merely that of a single person)
What is necessary to ensure that Guest's experience becomes "a vision and not a dream"? (those who have seen new world must strive, "with whatsoever pain and labour needs must be, to build up little by little the new day of fellowship, and rest, and happiness," W228) Is this a comforting ending? (conditional--we may or may not attain the vision)
Is this appeal for endeavor a common form of literary ending?
What is the relationship of architecture and nature in the new society? Why is architecture important?
What view of history is taken by members of the new society? By the author/narrative voice?
Can you see this romance as a commentary on the process of aging? The relationship between youth and age/present and past?
To what extent is the metanarrative created by a series of liminal experiences in time and consciousness?
What tensions propel the narrative forward? Is Guest's attraction to Ellen used effectively to embody the desire for utopia?
What purpose is served by constructing a literary utopia?
Is utopia a place? a state of mind? a process?