Through the Eye of the Needle

Last updated
Through the Eye of the Needle
ThroughTheEyeOfTheNeedle.jpg
First edition
Author William Dean Howells
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre Utopian fiction
Publisher Harper & Brothers
Publication date
1907
Media typePrint

Through the Eye of the Needle: A Romance is a 1907 Utopian novel written by William Dean Howells. It is the final volume in Howells's "Altrurian trilogy," following A Traveler from Altruria (1894) and Letters of an Altrurian Traveler (1904). [1]

Like the second book in the trilogy, Howells casts the third and final book in the form of an epistolary novel — a form favored by some other Utopian and dystopian writers. (For examples, see: The Republic of the Future ; Caesar's Column .) In the final book, Aristides Homos, Howells's Altrurian protagonist, writes a series of letters home to his friend Cyril. Homos is now located in the densely urban environment of New York City, where he confronts the contrasts between America c. 1900 and his own pastoral and agrarian Utopianism in their most extreme forms.

The dramatic center of the book is the love affair between Homos and Evelith Strange, a wealthy widow of the American plutocracy. Evelith has chosen the life of a socialite because she is frustrated by the limited effects of "good works" — though her routine of idleness conflicts with her Christian values and her conscience. Evelith must decide whether to abandon her social position and her fortune to follow Homos back to Altruria. Eventually, Evelith marries Homos, and both she and her mother return with him to Altruria. Curiously, the mother-in-law finds the adjustment relatively easy, since she realizes that she has returned to the simpler life she knew in her youth.

Howells gives the moral writings of Leo Tolstoy an important role in the book [2] — though not with naive acceptance. At one point, Evelith tells Homos that "Tolstoy himself doesn't destroy his money, though he wants other people to do it. His wife keeps it and supports the family."

The story also includes Homos's travels abroad, and his commentaries on the societies he visits.

Related Research Articles

Edward Bellamy American author and socialist

Edward Bellamy was an American author, journalist, and political activist most famous for his utopian novel, Looking Backward. Bellamy's vision of a harmonious future world inspired the formation of numerous "Nationalist Clubs" dedicated to the propagation of Bellamy's political ideas.

Patrick OBrian English novelist

Patrick O'Brian, CBE, born Richard Patrick Russ, was an English novelist and translator, best known for his Aubrey–Maturin series of sea novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, and centred on the friendship of the English naval captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish–Catalan physician Stephen Maturin. The 20-novel series, the first of which is Master and Commander, is known for its well-researched and highly detailed portrayal of early 19th-century life, as well as its authentic and evocative language. A partially finished 21st novel in the series was published posthumously containing facing pages of handwriting and typescript.

William Dean Howells author, critic and playwright from the United States

William Dean Howells was an American realist novelist, literary critic, and playwright, nicknamed "The Dean of American Letters". He was particularly known for his tenure as editor of The Atlantic Monthly, as well as for his own prolific writings, including the Christmas story "Christmas Every Day" and the novels The Rise of Silas Lapham and A Traveler from Altruria.

<i>The Blithedale Romance</i> novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Blithedale Romance (1852) is Nathaniel Hawthorne's third major romance. Its setting is a utopian farming commune based on Brook Farm, of which Hawthorne was a founding member and where he lived in 1841. The novel dramatizes the conflict between the commune's ideals and the members' private desires and romantic rivalries. In Hawthorne (1879), Henry James called it "the lightest, the brightest, the liveliest" of Hawthorne's "unhumorous fictions," while literary critic Richard Brodhead has described it as "the darkest of Hawthorne's novels."

<i>Oryx and Crake</i> novel by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is a 2003 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. She has described the novel as speculative fiction and adventure romance, rather than pure science fiction, because it does not deal with things "we can't yet do or begin to do", yet goes beyond the amount of realism she associates with the novel form. It focuses on a lone character called Snowman, who finds himself in a bleak situation with only creatures called Crakers to keep him company. The reader learns of his past, as a boy called Jimmy, and of genetic experimentation and pharmaceutical engineering that occurred under the purview of Jimmy's peer, Glenn "Crake".

<i>Looking Backward</i> 1888 novel by Edward Bellamy

Looking Backward: 2000–1887 is a utopian novel by Edward Bellamy, a journalist and writer from Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts; it was first published in 1888.

<i>A Hazard of New Fortunes</i> book by William Dean Howells

A Hazard of New Fortunes is a novel by William Dean Howells. Copyrighted in 1889 and first published in the U.S. by Harper & Bros. in 1890, the book was well-received for its portrayal of social injustice. Considered by many to be his best work, the novel is also considered to be the first novel to portray New York City. Some argue that the novel was the first of three Howells wrote with Socialist and Utopian ideals in mind: The Quality of Mercy in 1892, and An Imperative Duty in 1893. In this novel, although Howells briefly discusses the American Civil War, he primarily deals with issues of post-war "Gilded Age" America, like labor disputes, the rise of the self-made millionaire, the growth of urban America, the influx of immigrants, and other industrial-era problems. Many critics consider A Hazard of New Fortunes to be one of Howells' most important examples of American literary Realism because he portrays a variety of people from different backgrounds.

<i>The Whole Family</i> collaborative novel told in twelve chapters, each by a different author

The Whole Family: a Novel by Twelve Authors (1908) is a collaborative novel told in twelve chapters, each by a different author. This unusual project was conceived by novelist William Dean Howells and carried out under the direction of Harper's Bazaar editor Elizabeth Jordan, who would write one of the chapters herself. Howells' idea for the novel was to show how an engagement or marriage would affect and be affected by an entire family. The project became somewhat curious for the way the authors' contentious interrelationships mirrored the sometimes dysfunctional family they described in their chapters. Howells had hoped Mark Twain would be one of the authors, but Twain did not participate. Other than Howells himself, Henry James was probably the best-known author to participate. The novel was serialized in Harper's Bazaar in 1907-08 and published as a book by Harpers in late 1908.

Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence is an epistolary novel by Nick Bantock, published in 1991 by Chronicle Books in the United States and Raincoast Books in Canada. It is the first novel in The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy and was a bestseller in 1991. The story is told through a series of removable letters and postcards between the two main characters and is intended for an adult audience, as some sources describe the artwork as disturbing.

Aristopia: A Romance-History of the New World is an 1895 utopian novel by Castello Holford, considered the first novel-length alternate history in English.

Altruria was a short-lived utopian commune in Sonoma County, California, based on Christian socialist principles and inspired by William Dean Howells's 1894 novel, A Traveler from Altruria.

<i>A Traveler from Altruria</i> book by William Dean Howells

A Traveler from Altruria is a Utopian novel by William Dean Howells. It was first published in installments in The Cosmopolitan between November 1892 and October 1893, and eventually in book form by Harper & Brothers in 1894. The novel is a critique of unfettered capitalism and its consequences, and of the Gilded Age.

The Republic of the Future: or, Socialism a Reality is a novella by the American writer Anna Bowman Dodd, first published in 1887. The book is a dystopia written in response to the utopian literature that was a dramatic and noteworthy feature of the second half of the nineteenth century.

<i>Unveiling a Parallel</i> Novel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant

Unveiling a Parallel: A Romance is a feminist science fiction and utopian novel published in 1893. The first edition of the book attributed authorship to "Two Women of the West." They were Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant, writers who lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Earth Revisited is an 1893 utopian novel by Byron Alden Brooks. It is one entrant in the large body of utopian and speculative fiction that characterized the later 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sub-Coelum: A Sky-Built Human World is an 1893 utopian fiction written by Addison Peale Russell. The book is one volume in the large body of utopian, dystopian, and speculative literature that characterized the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

<i>A Crystal Age</i> book by William Henry Hudson

A Crystal Age is a utopian novel/ Dystopia written by W. H. Hudson, first published in 1887. The book has been called a "significant S-F milestone" and has been noted for its anticipation of the "modern ecological mysticism" that would evolve a century later.

A Prophetic Romance: Mars to Earth is an 1896 utopian novel written by John McCoy, and published pseudonymously as the work of "The Lord Commissioner," the narrator of the tale. The book is one element in the major wave of utopian and dystopian literature that characterized the final decades of the nineteenth century.

<i>With Her in Ourland</i> book by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

With Her in Ourland: Sequel to Herland is a feminist novel and sociological commentary written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The novel is a follow-up and sequel to Herland (1915), and picks up immediately following the events of Herland, with Terry, Van, and Ellador traveling from Herland to "Ourland". The majority of the novel follows Van and Ellador's travels throughout the world, and particularly the United States, with Van curating their explorations through the then-modern world, while Ellador offers her commentary and "prescriptions" from a Herlander's perspective, discussing topics such as the First World War, foot binding, education, politics, economics, race relations, and gender relations.

Lillian B. Horace

Lillian Bertha Jones Horace was an African American author, educator, and librarian from Fort Worth, Texas, best known for her novels Five Generations Hence (1916), Crowned with Glory and Honor, and Angie Brown. These are the earliest novels on record written by an African-American woman from Texas. Horace married and divorced twice, and continued to teach, travel and write throughout her life. At the time of her retirement, she had been an educator for over thirty years.

References

  1. William Dean Howells, The Altrurian Romances, Clara Kirk and Rudolf Kirk, eds.; Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press, 1968.
  2. Jean Pfaelzer, The Utopian Novel in America 18861896: The Politics of Form, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh University Press, 1984; pp. 64-9.