The Way of All Flesh By Samuel Butler Character Analysis Christina Pontifex

Of the many characters in the novel, Christina is possibly the most memorable. From gaining exclusive rights to Theobald by winning a game of cards to envisioning herself as the mother of the two most distinguished public servants in England, Christina is from first to last a slightly dotty, vainglorious, and delightfully deluded builder of castles in the air. Unlike Theobald's faults, however, hers are amiable and usually self-redeeming. Ernest inherits his tendency toward priggishness from his father but clearly is indebted to his mother for many of his lesser weaknesses. Christina's one serious flaw is her blind devotion and loyalty to her husband. Ernest, time and again, suffers from confiding in his mother during a "sofa talk" only to be delivered to his father immediately thereafter for punishment. On leaving prison, therefore, Ernest is compelled to include his mother when he instructs his parents "to think of him as one who is dead."

Even when she is on her deathbed, Christina retains her comic identity. Consistent to the end in her inconsistency, Christina implores Ernest's assurances of her saintly character while, at the same time, she is contemplating her imagined fame as the mother of sons who will occupy the offices of Prime Minister and Archbishop of Canterbury. Ernest's new wealth, of course, has so excited her imagination that she frets about the right choice of portrait painter for the mother of two such illustrious sons.

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