I didn't locate many references to symbolism in The Vicar of Wakefield
but I've located a few. Goldsmith wrote one of my favorite plays, She
Stoops To Conquer, so I'm glad to be able to assist you in Goldsmith
research. The Vicar of Wakefield is primarily symbolic of the trials
of Job in the Christian bible but with a happy ending. I've compiled
a list of resources that should be helpful to you.
"Charles Primrose, the protagonist of Oliver Goldsmith's "The Vicar of
Wakefield," is a living symbol of the combination of ingenuousness and
bad luck; a man so naive and unfortunate yet so deadpan and earnest,
he would not only be suckered into buying the worst lemon in the used
car lot, but walk out of the salesman's office with a "Kick Me" sign
taped to his back. What keeps him going is an infectious cheerfulness,
an almost quixotic faith in human virtue, and a devotion to the
integrity of his family, even though they are often the cause of his
troubles...This is a picaresque novel, somewhat in the spirit of "Don
Quixote" or "Tom Jones," featuring an intentionally flawed hero who
undergoes improbable adventures..."
Please read the entire piece of this - it begins about two-fifths of
the way down the page.
"Goldsmith's only novel, The Vicar of Wakefield, is, as another
reviewer pointed out, a modern (1766) version of the book of Job."
[from the above link
Goldsmith and His Solitary Novel by Cheryl McDonald
"The Vicar of Wakefield is no exception to Goldsmith's ability as a
writer. This didactic novel houses two very interesting religious
themes, which are interrelated and depicted in two creative manners.
The first is shown through a parallel with the Book of Job in the Old
Testament, the vicar's life being symbolic of the trials Job endured.
Just like in the Book of Job, the vicar is presented with a multitude
of trials testing his faith, and is rewarded with a quick, almost
unrealistic restitution in the end (Battestin 233)."
"The story of The Vicar of Wakefield, a portrait of village life, is
narrated by Dr. Primrose, the title character, whose family endures
many trials -- including the loss of most of their money, the
seduction of one daughter, the destruction of their home by fire, and
the vicar's incarceration. The novel's idealization of rural life,
sentimental moralizing, and melodramatic incidents are countered by a
sharp but good-natured irony."
A literary tendency of the late eighteenth century which found
pleasure in sympathising with suffering. The emotion was soon derided
and considered pathetic, but the benevolent concern with human
goodness can now be seen as a way station on the road to a more humane
and just society. Prime examples of sentimental novels are Oliver
Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield, Henry Mackenzie, The Man of
Feeling, Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey."
"Sentimental novel. A type of novel, popular in the eighteenth
century, that overemphasizes emotion and seeks to create emotional
responses in the reader. The type also usually features an overly
optimistic view of the goodness of human nature. Examples: Oliver
Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield..."
"In the eighteenth century, the novel arises as a new and important
literary form. Richardson, Pamela, and Goldsmith, The Vicar of
Wakefield, both tell stories of virtuous individuals who win out over
calamity and bad fortune."
"Fancy portraits were also satirized by Oliver Goldsmith in chapter 16
of The Vicar of Wakefield"
"or like the story of the Cosmogony in the Vicar of Wakefield"
"cosmogony: The creation of the world or universe; a theory or account
of such creation; as, the poetical cosmogony of Hesoid; the
cosmogonies of Thales, Anaxagoras, and Plato."
A Report on The Vicar of Wakefield by Miranda Blonde
"Well, there is a family and the Brunette Mommy is a Doctor named Dr.
Primrose and the Blonde Mommy is named Deborah and they have six
children, but the most important one is Olivia who is abducted and
tricked into a false marriage and then deserted, and that starts a
whole chain of bad luck. My best friend Ariadne says bad luck comes in
groups of three, that if one unlucky thing happens to you, watch out,
because two more are coming. But for the Primrose family, bad luck
comes in a lot bigger batch than just three...So, lots of bad things
happen to them, but everything is all right in the end, with true love
happening in all the right places to all the right people."
Amusing Absurdities - Some phrases from The Vicar of Wakefield, Oliver
The Vicar of Wakefield [free essay]
"Eliot follows the scene of seduction with these lines:
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
And puts a record on the gramophone. (lines 253-256)
These lines parody a song from Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of
Wakefield, in which a woman who had been seduced earlier in the play
mourns the loss of her virginity as something precious and meaningful
-- so much so that its untimely loss is cause enough for her to desire
death. For the typist, however, the only emotion experienced is
summarized by her "half-formed thought," "'Well now that's done: and
I'm glad it's over.'"
The Goldsmith poem:
"When lovely woman stoops to folly,
And finds too late that men betray,
What charm can soothe her melancholy,
What art can wash her guilt away?
The only art her guilt to cover,
To hide her shame from every eye,
To give repentance to her lover
And wring his bosom, isto die."
"A book may be very amusing with numerous errors, or it may be very
dull without a single absurdity. OLIVER GOLDSMITH, The Vicar of
"Oliver Goldsmith opens his famous Vicar of Wakefield with the words:
"I chose my wife as she did her wedding dress, for qualities that
would wear well." How often the bemused young man is ruled by his
untrained emotions and the equally bemused young woman has probably
been nurtured on a diet of romantic and sentimental absurdities and is
expecting, as so many young women do, a fairy prince on his knees
continually before her."
"He will sometimes resemble the Vicar of Wakefield in being "tired of
being wise," and when he prefers the alternative of irresponsibility
he will be capable of wise self-emancipation from the chains of
Should you require any clarification of the links or information I
have provided, please request it before rating and closing the
question and I will be happy to respond.
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