Cruelty of the Human Species in T.H. White’s The Book of Merlyn

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It rather is a flashback to the episode in the first book, The Sword in the Stone , when Merlyn educated Arthur with animals. In the introduction of the novel T.

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White recapitulates the preceding course of events in the pentalogy until that point. His marriage to Guenever suffered from this adultery and she began an affair with Sir Lancelot, who was his most important knight and member of the Round Table. This is the point, when the actual plot of The Book of Merlyn begins. Merlyn encourages him not to give up on his strive for creating a civilised kingdom. He got to know them in his youth, when Merlyn took them to them in order to learn something about the kingdom of animals and their politics.

Arthur and the member of the Committee are very happy to meet again and after a warm welcome scene the attention is abruptly drawn to the reason for this gathering. The Committee tells Arthur what their actual aims are. In the following chapters they talk about the different political systems one can find not only in human but also in animal societies.

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Furthermore they argument about a proper scientific name for the human race for they do not appreciate the epithet sapiens. This causes three alternative suggestions which are ferox , stultus and impoliticus.


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The reasons for these descriptions are all plausible to him, but discourage Arthur in his endeavours as a king and he sees no reason why one should occupy with the problems of the human race anyway. However, the Committee assure him that there only aim is to help and offer some kind of foundation to solve his problems and puzzles.


  1. Tutti pazzi per Mario (Italian Edition).
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  4. 1 Introduction?
  5. In order to support his education, Merlyn wants Arthur to transform into two kinds of animals, the ant and the goose. When Arthur is turned into an ant he finds himself as part of a social system in which every member of the nest is a dedicated work force, whose only task and purpose is to do its work and that always in the same way and accurately. Actually they do not know much about anything except what is right or wrong. There are fixed patterns and images in their brains and they cannot be verified.

    When Arthur is retransformed, he tells his impressions to the others and they talk about the kind of system the ants live in. The result is a discussion about War, when Merlyn suggests that ants are living in a Communist state, but the badger disagrees for ants do fight wars and Communists would not, because they are striving for the world being a union and if there is only one union there cannot be war. Finally, Merlyn avoids a political classification and states that ants deny the right of the individual.

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    The second transformation brings Arthur into a group of White-Fronted Geese. He is instantly thrilled by being a goose, because of a great feeling of peace, harmony and comradeship. He enjoys the flying that gives him the possibility to perceive the whole beauty of nature and to float in the wind. He talks to her about him being actual human and enjoying this new feeling of peace and insouciance. He asks her about war among geese and she is instantly shocked by the idea of whole groups of the same sort killing each other.

    They talk about their political system, which is very simple. It is based on individuality and free choice.

    The leader is not elected but just becomes a leader based on the fact that he is the one who knows the air routes best. Their main objective in life is just to be alive. Additionally they enjoy living in comradeship, flying, eating, singing, being healthy and living in honour. Potts, one of his tutors who, ironically, White initially "disliked to the point of rage for about a year. Potts raised enough money to send White to Italy to recuperate; it was there that White composed his first novel although it was not his first published work , They Wintered Abroad.

    The volume was favorably received, although he made no great impressions as a young Eliot or Auden. He graduated from Cambridge with distinction that same year, and for the next six years he taught at different academies and published seven books, among them a murder-mystery Dead Mr. Nixon , an experimental historical novel Farewell Victoria , and a philosophical yet slapstick comedy Earth Stopped.

    In , White compiled and edited England Have My Bones , a memoir taken directly from White's own daybooks in which he recounts his life between March 3, and the same day a year later. The book, a collection of anecdotes and scenes about White's hunting, fishing, and piloting experiences mixed with some philosophical speculation , was a bestseller and allowed White to resign from teaching in order to devote himself full-time to writing.

    Reading Malory purely for pleasure rather than for an assignment made White look at the Arthurian myth in a new light; he found the story exciting and relevant to modern life. White was unable to shake off its allure; in a letter dated January 14, , he wrote to Potts, his tutor: "I was thrilled and astonished to find a that the thing was a perfect tragedy, with a beginning, a middle and an end implicit in the beginning, and b that the characters were real people with recognizable reactions which could be forecast.

    It is more or less a kind of wish-fulfillment of the kind of things I should have liked to have happened to me when I was a boy. Later that year, White published his "wish-fulfillment" as The Sword in the Stone.

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    Cruelty of the Human Species in T.H. White's 'The Book of Merlyn'

    It was selected as a main selection of the Book of the Month Club and received glowing reviews. Scudder, writing in The Atlantic Monthly , remarked, "If you are a boy, you can find here the best battles and enchantments going. If you are a serious-minded adult, you will savor the suggestions of an advanced educational theory. Like its predecessor, The Witch in the Wood was favorably reviewed, although some critics found the story of Arthur battling rebellious Gaels less effective and more tedious than The Sword in the Stone. Writing in The New Yorker , for example, Clifton Faidman argued that "the novelty of [White's] special brand of humor, that of anachronism [is] pretty well exhausted by the first book.

    Beatrice Sherman, writing in The New York Times , called this installment "a more thoughtful, adult and subdued piece of writing" than its two predecessors. After The Once and Future King was finally released, readers on both sides of the Atlantic praised White's grandiose and accessible retelling of Malory's story.

    The Once & Future King: Book Review

    Although White had nothing to do with the production, he approved of and enjoyed it. The play was made into a film in In , Disney released an animated version of The Sword in the Stone. The Book of Merlyn , which White had intended as the fifth installment of his series, was not published until According to John Mullin, who reviewed the novel for the journal America , World War II was responsible for the delay in the book's release: White's pacifism as well as the paper shortage ruined its marketability. Mullin notes in his review that this fifth volume of the story differs from the first four in its " saeve indignatio , a fury at the persistently cruel and pompous human race, which White expresses through argument and satire rather than romance.

    After moving to Italy in , White wrote at a less frenetic pace than he had during the war years. He began an American lecture tour, however, in which he delivered a very Merlyn-like talk on "The Pleasures of Learning" and another on Hadrian, the Roman Emperor who constructed a famous wall of defense in England.