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A comparison of Matthew and Tabitha

Based on the initial brainstorm on the benefits of the epistolary form, I’ve come to appreciate it. Many great stories have been revealed through multiple perspectives, each layer peeling back to reveal the truth. This is in fact the method by which the law finds truth, as each person’s perspective is skewed based upon their personal history, wishes, desires and perspectives. What could be seen as subjective is now more of a grey area, as is seen throughout numerous topics throughout the novel. For example, Bath is a stop on the journey that creates polar interpretations. To look at this, I have chosen to focus on Matthew and Tabitha. Matthew notes on Bath:

“These, however fantastical, are still designs that denote some ingenuity and knowledge in the architect; but the rage of building has laid hold on such a number of adventurers, that one sees new houses starting up in every out-let and every corner of Bath; contrived without judgment, executed without solidity, and stuck together with so little regard to plan and propriety, that the different lines of the new rows and buildings interfere with, and intersect one another in every different angle of conjunction (Smollett, 99)”

Matthew takes a dislike in his surroundings which I think is an interesting contrast to the usually welcoming demeanor we have come to expect from him. By contrast, we see Tabitha embrace Bath:

“He did us the favour to dine with us, by my uncle’s invitation; and next day squired my aunt and me to every part of Bath; which, to be sure, is an earthly paradise. The Square, the Circus, and the Parades, put you in mind of the sumptuous palaces represented in prints and pictures; and the new buildings, such as Princes-row, Harlequin’s-row, Bladud’s-row, and twenty other rows, look like so many enchanted castles, raised on hanging terraces (Smollett, 107)”

Tabitha is enamored with high class culture as evidenced by her pursuit of a wealthy husband. This is an example of how class and location are linked in the novel. Tying this to the issue of the body, I felt that looking at this novel through Matthew’s travel was most applicable. He is seeking aid for his body, but this brings up issues of status tied to notions of what is healthy. Many of are clearly foreign to us in the modern age, and I believe its something taken for granted.

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2 thoughts on “A comparison of Matthew and Tabitha

  1. I think it is interesting that you too found this type of writing helpful but question is based on what you said after that; each person can find a different answer and meaning based on their past experiences essentially creating personal bias. This is, in fact, how our legal system is run and how people get away with certain crimes. Is there a point at which we can draw stating there is only so much bending people can do through perspectives making the system fairer? I think so and if I’m correct there is something in place. But as far as writing a novel in this fashion I think it’s neat to be able to see each characters adventure as the story continues on. I would have to agree with you that Tabitha has grown up around wealth and in searching for a husband she wishes to stay in her current status. However, I’m not sure if it connects location as much as showing human nature and our want for the finer things in life.

    wc 175

  2. I love your connection to the epistolary form and the law (or truth if we want to expand to a larger philosophical category). I wonder if I might ask you to follow through in your reading a bit more. I appreciate your observation that Matthew is put off by Bath while Tabby embraces is — what do you suppose we, as readers, gain by recognizing this? Why does Bath leave a foul taste in Matthew’s mouth? What insights to his perspective of reality (or to his values/fears/hopes/etc) might that offer?

    Also, this novel is titled Humphry Clinker, yet we don’t meet Humphry until the second book. Further he is the only character to never compose a letter — if we never receive his point of view, what might that mean? Why would he be the eponymous (title character) figure of the novel?

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