The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

When reading the latest bestseller, you’re sure to notice whether it possesses fresh perspective, condensed description, and swift plot. If the pages don’t turn themselves, the book must compel you with something worth your while. Oliver Goldsmith’s classic The Vicar of Wakefield isn’t a nightstand thriller but offers wisdom and delight for a short investment of your time.

The story’s roughly 160 pages present the trials of an 18th century English pastor and his family through the pastor’s eyes. Parson Primrose serves as a sort of assistant pastor in his parish. He is well off for a vicar of his time due to financial investments he has made. When those investments are lost, the Primroses move to another parish where they fail to mentally adapt to an impoverished life. The family continues to live as closely to their former life as possible. When a wealthy young gentleman notices their eldest daughter, they encourage her relationship with him in order to better their social standing.
The gentleman’s intentions are not honorable and when Parson Primrose crosses the gentleman, the family is cruelly wakened from its vain dreams as it begins to face one calamity after another.

Throughout the story the parson shows kindness and concern to all the people he meets. His love for his family is exemplary. Most importantly he stands by his convictions no matter what the cost and never loses hope that all will turn out right. So much so that he is able to convert a prison full of ruffians.

At its base, Vicar gives a strong case for standing up for what you believe in. The parson not only tells us what he believes but attempts to do it as well. Of course he makes some very human mistakes and falls short of his own admonitions, yet he continues trying to do what he knows is right. On a deeper level, the book is filled with the irony of vain thoughts and actions. The Primroses obtain their prize gentleman, but pay dearly for him. In a charming ending, justice is served all around and almost everyone one is happy.

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