Review: Caleb Williams by William Godwin

Caleb Williams William Godwin

 
This review will look at the entirety of the books contents because it is a classical piece. I don’t, however, what to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book so if you wish to continue it is at your own risk with the knowledge that spoilers will occur.
Caleb Williams follows the protagonist through his discovery of a big secret his master, Falkland, has kept from the world. It also looks at how this affects Caleb’s life after this discovery and also focuses on the power of the mind, especially when he is imprisoned. Caleb is framed by Falkland because of his discovery (which I will avoid mentioning if at all possible so there is still an air of mystery to the novel) and taken to jail, where his character grows and learns how his curiosity lead him to this point.
One of the big parts of the book is that the main characters in the novel all have a different hubris. For Caleb it is his curiosity; for Falkland, his pride; and for Tyrrel, it is his anger. These dominant characteristics are what leads to the downfall of each character and they are all very human, very ‘sinful’ flaws. But the difference lies in Caleb’s self-reflection during his time in prison, where he maintains his homosocial affection for Falkland despite their disagreement.
One part of Caleb’s personality that I find oddly admirable is his loyalty towards Falkland. It isn’t until the very end of the book where he reveals the secret, which inevitably leads to Falkland’s death. He keeps this despite all of the torment he is being put through and this is something that I find both very stupid but very loyal.
The book is sectioned into three parts and the first details many circumstances that led up to the happening of the secret and in this time, I grew to favour the character of Emily. She is Tyrrel’s ward and her personality is very kind and likeable but also very passionate. She defies Tyrrel when he wants to marry her off, to the extent where she runs away. However, this ordeal leads her to fall ill and unable to recover. I sympathise with Emily because she stands up for her beliefs in a true feminist fashion but she is persecuted by Tyrrel for doing so. This could also be where my dislike of Tyrrel comes from.
Overall, this book illustrated to me the power of wealth and the mind but also that pride can be a melancholy attribute.

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