Wilder, Thornton: The Eighth Day
(researched by Matthew West)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Published by Harper & Row, Publishers New York, Evanston, and London 1967 Copyright 1967 by the Union & New Haven Trust Company
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First edition printed in blue cloth and navy blue binding with lines and crowns pattern alternating with the title, then lines and crowns followed by the last name of the author, and at bottom of binding is name of publisher. With illustrated dust jacket.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
223 leaves, 6 donít count for page numbering. All pages in middle unnumbered sequences mark chapter pages and the backs which are left blank. [unnumbered] [4] ix [3] 3-22 [23-4] 25-101 [102-4] 105-203 [204-6] 207-280 [281-2] 283-306 [307-8] 309-392 [393-4] 395-435 [436-8] Chapter pages are all on right hand side of book with a sketch of the sun on the horizon and the chapter number, with the back of the page left blank. All pages of equal paper quality.
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The book is not edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There is no illustration, however it is designed by Etheredges. Dust jacket is also replicated on the fifth unnumbered page, a sun on the horizon. Chapter pages contain same illustration. The back of the dust jacket contains a photo of Wilder taken by Paul Conklin.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
21.5 cm x 15 cm. One inch font on the front of the dustjacket. Average print size. Generous 1 inch side margins. Page numbers 2 cm from top of page and words end 1 1/2 inches from the bottom. The type is 90R. The book has a simple style, as it looks like an older novel, but not aimed at a too mature audience. The dust jacket is blue with the authorís name in white and the title in yellow. The illustration of the sun and horizon is in a simple yellow and orange and the words ìA NOVELî are printed in white. The color scheme is not too elaborate. And the illustration is not very detailed, but is a common motif inside the book. The sketch on the cover has in small signature the name Woods. The writing on the dust jacket is also very large and in simple Roman font.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
A thick paper of equal consistency on every page. It has equal wearing in the way of rough edges of pages and discoloration.
11 Description of binding(s)
Book is a total of 1 1/2 inches thick with cover. The pages are individually roughly cut. The binding itself is 3 mm thick. The pages are stitched to one another in fourteen sections, and blue construction paper quality is glued to the binding all the way across from left to right. On the front book side of the binding and the back cover side of the binding all of the pages are stitched to it from top to bottom. Poor job of binding, the pages are all uneven at the open end of the book. The outside of the binding is in excellent condition.
12 Transcription of title page
Thornton Wilder/THE EIGHTH DAY/Harper & Row, Publishers/New York, Evanston, and London
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
No information available.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Inside of the dustjacket contains the Book of the Month Club Selection (blue print)/ Trademark of Book of the Month Club Inc./Req. U.S. Pat. Off. and in Canada/Thornton Wilder(black print)/ THE EIGHTH DAY(orange print)/ A short description of the story follows and continues on the back flap of the dustjacket. On the inside of the cover is glued a small collection sticker. On top in cursive letters it reads "Hic Fructus Virtutis" Then a picture of a tree and the family coat of arms, and underneath is in cursive the words "Clifton Waller Barrett" (both are written in black type) The first unnumbered page states the title "THE EIGHTH DAY" 3 inches from the top of the page, and 5 1/2 inches from the bottom. The third unnumbered page states, "BOOKS BY THORNTON WILDER", with subheadings of "NOVELS, COLLECTION OF SHORT PLAYS, PLAYS" The fifth unnumbered page is the title page, the sixth is the copyright information. The seventh unnumbered page is a dedication, "For Isabel Wilder", who is Thornton's sister. The last leaf of the novel is a full blank leaf. The back of the dust jacket is a large photograph of Wilder, the bottom one inch contains the photographer's name (Paul Conklin)-Pix then "THORNTON WILDER", and the number "0617"
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
1. Wilder, Thornton, 1897 1975 Title: The Eighth Day Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Incorporated, Publ. Date: 1967 Binding: Trade Cloth Language: English Status: Out of Print Currency: US Dollars Price: 11.95 2. Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day EDITION: Limited ed. PLACE: New York : PUBLISHER: Harper & Row, YEAR: 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: ix, 435 p. 22 cm. NOTES: "Of the first edition of The Eighth Day, five hundred copies have been printed from the original type, on special paper, specially bound, numbered, and signed by the author. This is copy number 242."-- Preliminaries. Issued in slipcase 3. Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day PLACE: New York : PUBLISHER: Harper & Row, YEAR: 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: ix, 435 p. ; 29 cm. NOTES: "Large type edition." SUBJECT: Large type books. 4. Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day. EDITION: Large type edition. PLACE: New York, PUBLISHER: Harper & Row YEAR: 1974 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: 22 cm. 0200 5. Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day EDITION: Large type ed. PLACE: New York, PUBLISHER: Harper & Row YEAR: 1969 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: ix, 435 p. 29 cm. End - AUTHOR: Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day. PLACE: New York, PUBLISHER: Harper, YEAR: 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: 381 p. 18 cm. SERIES: Popular lib
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
Of the first edition of The Eighth Day, five hundred copies have been printed from the original type, on special paper, specially bound, numbered, and signed by the author. There were 70,000 copies of the book in any form as cited in the May 15, 1967 edition of Publishers' Weekly (Vol. 191 No. 20)
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Author: Wilder, Thornton, 1897 1975 Title: The Eighth Day Edition: Large Type, Reprint Publisher: National Association for Visually Handicapped, Publ. Date: 1990 Binding: Trade Cloth Type Type: Large Type Language: English Status: Out of Print Product Code: Large Type Books in Print Author: Wilder, Thornton, 1897 1975 Title: The Eighth Day Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Incorporated, Publ. Date: Dec. 1987 Binding: Trade Paper Page Count: 381 Language: English Status: Out of Print Price: 4.95 Product Code: Paperbound Books in Print Author: Wilder, Thornton, 1897 1975 Title: The Eighth Day Publisher: Amereon, Limited Publ. Date: Date not provided Binding: Trade Cloth Language: English Currency: US Dollars Price: 26.95 Wilder, Thornton. TITLE: The eighth day PLACE: Harmondsworth : PUBLISHER: Penguin, YEAR: 1968 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: 396 p. ; 18 cm. NOTES: Originally published, New York: Harper; (B67-9260), Harlow: Longmans, 1967. Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day : a new novel PLACE: [London] : PUBLISHER: Longmans, YEAR: 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: 109 p. ; 34 cm. NOTES: Cover title. "Uncorrected reading copy." Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day PLACE: Harmondsworth : PUBLISHER: Penguin Books, YEAR: 1987 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: 396 p. ; 20 cm. SERIES: Penguin modern classics Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The Eighth day PLACE: New York : PUBLISHER: Avon, YEAR: 1976 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: 374 p. ; 18 cm. NOTES: A Bard book. Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day PLACE: New York : PUBLISHER: Popular Library, YEAR: 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: 381 p. ; 18 cm. Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day. PLACE: [London] PUBLISHER: Longmans YEAR: 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: 6 p. l., 3-435 [1] p., 1 l. 21.5 cm. NOTES: First English edition. Bound in black paper boards; printed in gold; top edges stained red. Dust jacket.
6 Last date in print?
One edition was published as a paperback by Carroll & Graf in 1987, but is now out of print. It sold at $4.95. According to the information available, the Amereon Ltd. edition is still in print, but no date is given for its publication. It sold for $26.95. (Books In Print 1997-8 vol. 8 50th edition. R.R. Bowker. New Providence, NJ. 1997)
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
70,000 copies in print stated in the May 15, 1967 Publishers' Weekly (PW) Vol. 191 No. 20. Last appearance on bestsellers in PW was Nov. 20, 1967 Vol. 192 No. 21 and there had been no update in copies printed.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Original Price of First Edition $6.95 (1967)
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
N/A
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
N/A
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day YEAR: 1979 PUB TYPE: Recording FORMAT: 6 sound cassettes : 15/16 ips, 2 track, mono. NOTES: Judy Herrick, narrator. Recorded at the Litchfield Audio-Book Production Unit for the Connecticut State Library, Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 1979. Text originally published: New York : Harper & Row, c1967. OTHER: Herrick, Judy, narrator.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
N/A
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975. TITLE: The eighth day : a new novel PLACE: [London] : PUBLISHER: Longmans, YEAR: 1967 PUB TYPE: Book FORMAT: 109 p. ; 34 cm. NOTES: Cover title. "Uncorrected reading copy."
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
for overview of Author see: The Woman of Andros by Katrina Vickerman Wilder wrote The Eighth Day in 1967, one of the last works of his career. His works at this point seemed reminiscent of his earlier plays and one acts in their ethical and religious themes (Burbank, 115). His religious feelings come from his family, his grandfather a Presbyterian minister, his father a devout Congregationalist, and his older brother a distinguished professor of theology at Harvard University. Some of his early plays were published as The Angel That Troubled the Waters (1928) that seemed to lay out his moral, religious and esthetic themes that his later works embodied. "These plays-and most of his subsequent works-are attempts to bring fresh life and meaning to the ?terms of the spiritual life.'" (Burbank, 115). Wilder began teaching at The Lawrenceville School in 1921 and there met C. Leslie Glenn, with whom he became a lifelong friend with whom Wilder could share his religious sentiments (Simon 35). In the 1960's Wilder was beginning to receive recognition for his works. In 1960, Wilder accepted the MacDowell Colony's First Edward MacDowell Medal. On April 20, 19623, he went to the State Department Auditorium in Washington to read some of his work for an arts program sponsored by the Kennedy Administration. Shortly thereafter, however, Wilder drove to Arizona to get away from "civilization". He settled down in Douglas, Arizona, with a population of 12,500. where he eventually moved into an apartment and shared acquaintances with neighbors and especially Spanish-speaking bartender Albert Morales. Here he began writing The Eighth Day, his most comprehensive, serious novel about American life and family (Burbank 116). In Arizona, he would wear his seersucker suit, white shirt and tie despite the desert heat, some nights going to bars, some making the 115 mile trip to the University of Arizona to check out books from the library. This was a place that he said, "is going to be my ideal of getaway quarters- a little white frame house with a rickety front porch where I can laze away in the shade in a straight backed wooden rocking chair". He returned east in December 5, 1963 to receive the Medal of Freedom from Lyndon Johnson and to attend his brother's graduation from Harvard Divinity School. Meanwhile, his plays were acclaimed nationally and being performed and adapted to outstanding popularity (Simon 240). He took a voyage to Europe to concentrate on finishing The Eighth Day, but came back without much accomplished. Wilder began experiencing difficulties in his health. In 1964, he had to be hospitalized to treat a hernia. Later that year, he also had a malignant wart removed from his cheek. However, he appeared at the White House on May 4 to receive the National Medal for Literature, held before 150 esteemed guests. After another trip to Europe without much finished, he limited his schedule and for one more time retreated to Arizona to complete this extensive work. Eventually, his health declined where he was in bed and he died in his sleep on December 7, 1975. He had a calm, accepting, and quiet look upon his face (Simon 258). Simon, Linda. Thornton Wilder: His World. Doubleday & Company, Inc. New York, 1979. Burbank, Rex J. Thornton Wilder. second edition. Kenneth Eble ed. Twayne Publishers. Boston, 1978.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Contemporary criticisms of this work have been able to point to it as Wilder's obvious attempt to summarize all other works; his attempt to culminate all he's tried to say his entire career. Of his local color, Oberbeck says, "he can still make a powerfully sweet celebration out of simple country kindness' and the patchwork of people and ideals by which America grew, before folks got so sophisticated." Although he doesn't buy into a reality that we are children of the eighth day, Oberbeck says that many Americans enjoy Wilder's novel because he can find a way to believe in a design of life in the face of the modern thinkers of his day. To the effect of Wilder's novel, he writes, "...some folks'll be glad to find an old-timer like Mr. Wilder who can look back over the vast American story just the way a small child looks up at the starry evening sky. A more critical review is given by Josh Greenfield of Newsweek. Not failing to overlook Wilder's excellence as a writer and storyteller, Greenfield says the work contains his characteristic flaws. The most critical stance Greenfield takes is on the treatment of the "jewel", or meaning, of the novel. He praises the jewel itself, but accuses Wilder of "worthless bauble". He is also critical of the point by which Wilder is most praised by other critics of this work. While elegantly bringing up the larger questions of life he, "shies away from pointing toward definite answers" (Greenfield 8). University of Virginia publications didn't spare Wilder harsh criticism of his work, but they also praise him in the long run. Praise, however is bestowed upon Wilder for character construction and the writing itself is termed mastery. As a contrast to the above, The Christian Science Monitor gives a more thorough treatment to Wilder's work and takes another step in commendation upon his thematic pursuits. In the parable of the tapestry towards the end of the book, Maddocks, the critic, believes deciding which side is the correct side of the tapestry as a symbol for life is the unspoken question looming throughout the novel. The whole novel, he says, is a historical tapestry as Wilder shifts focus between times, places, and characters in each of the sections. Maddocks says that Wilder, "then proceeds to define Ashley in almost classic terms as the tragic hero-a man whose domestic happiness approaches hubris." (Maddocks 11) His exile into South America is here interpreted as a faith "hardening", love enriching experience. The significance here is debated in later treatments of the novel. Finally, "...he has raised the ultimate questions and sent them whirling their deep spirals with a wit and learning and felt intelligence no other American novelist of the moment can match," (Maddocks 11). For Maddocks, however, the answer to the question, what we must take out of this novel, of what side of the rug is the correct symbol of life is left open for the reader to answer. Greenfield. LIfe. Mar. 31 1967, p. 8. Oberbeck. Newsweek. Apr. 10, 1967, p. 103-104. Virginia Quarterly Review. Summer of 1967, (civ) Maddocks, Melvin. "Thornton Wilder: Master designer". The Christian Science Monitor. Thursday, March 30, 1967, p. 11.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Contemporary criticisms of this work have been able to point to it as Wilder's obvious attempt to summarize all other works; his attempt to culminate all he's tried to say his entire career. Of his local color, Oberbeck says, "he can still make a powerfully sweet celebration out of simple country kindness' and the patchwork of people and ideals by which America grew, before folks got so sophisticated." Although he doesn't buy into a reality that we are children of the eighth day, Oberbeck says that many Americans enjoy Wilder's novel because he can find a way to believe in a design of life in the face of the modern thinkers of his day. To the effect of Wilder's novel, he writes, "...some folks'll be glad to find an old-timer like Mr. Wilder who can look back over the vast American story just the way a small child looks up at the starry evening sky. A more critical review is given by Josh Greenfield of Newsweek. Not failing to overlook Wilder's excellence as a writer and storyteller, Greenfield says the work contains his characteristic flaws. The most critical stance Greenfield takes is on the treatment of the "jewel", or meaning, of the novel. He praises the jewel itself, but accuses Wilder of "worthless bauble". He is also critical of the point by which Wilder is most praised by other critics of this work. While elegantly bringing up the larger questions of life he, "shies away from pointing toward definite answers" (Greenfield 8). University of Virginia publications didn't spare Wilder harsh criticism of his work, but they also praise him in the long run. Praise, however is bestowed upon Wilder for character construction and the writing itself is termed mastery. As a contrast to the above, The Christian Science Monitor gives a more thorough treatment to Wilder's work and takes another step in commendation upon his thematic pursuits. In the parable of the tapestry towards the end of the book, Maddocks, the critic, believes deciding which side is the correct side of the tapestry as a symbol for life is the unspoken question looming throughout the novel. The whole novel, he says, is a historical tapestry as Wilder shifts focus between times, places, and characters in each of the sections. Maddocks says that Wilder, "then proceeds to define Ashley in almost classic terms as the tragic hero-a man whose domestic happiness approaches hubris." (Maddocks 11) His exile into South America is here interpreted as a faith "hardening", love enriching experience. The significance here is debated in later treatments of the novel. Finally, "...he has raised the ultimate questions and sent them whirling their deep spirals with a wit and learning and felt intelligence no other American novelist of the moment can match," (Maddocks 11). For Maddocks, however, the answer to the question, what we must take out of this novel, of what side of the rug is the correct symbol of life is left open for the reader to answer. Greenfield. LIfe. Mar. 31 1967, p. 8. Oberbeck. Newsweek. Apr. 10, 1967, p. 103-104. Virginia Quarterly Review. Summer of 1967, (civ) Maddocks, Melvin. "Thornton Wilder: Master designer". The Christian Science Monitor. Thursday, March 30, 1967, p. 11.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
The Eighth Day is written as a history, a narrative describing the story of a family affected by an unusual event. The focus is on the plan of life and how the people fit into it, even though those people cannot see the whole of the plan. Living life in this way is the definition of faith. Wilder, however, doesn't seem concerned for the individual characters and their fate; however, he focuses on how each individual affects the next and this cause and effect creates a story of its own. This treatment of his characters can be witnessed in the tracing of their genealogy and in their fate of open finality. We must ask ourselves, however, why Wilder concentrates on just one family in one small town if he is trying to convey a theme applicable to all of humanity. The plot is about a murder in a small community named Coaltown, Illinois followed by an assisted escape in which the accused and convicted man was rescued on his way to his execution without ever lifting a finger. John Ashley is accused of killing Breckenridge Lansing and later rescued, only to continue his escape journey in South America and perform many virtuous and "faithful" acts. More central to the novel, however, is the development of characters directly and indirectly involved with this event. A chapter is devoted to Ashley's son Roger as he goes to Chicago to make money for the family since the normal breadwinner has been unnaturally taken away. Even the characters' histories were traced in the narrative in an attempt to give a picture with much breadth. For instance, Wilder gives us a portrait of Eustacia Lansing, the wife of the murdered man, her family life before marriage, and her parents' backgrounds with their families. The characters are followed before and after the unnatural phenomenon by the author, and the events of life are tied together in a culminating philosophy that is lurking underneath the fabric of the story throughout. His choice of subject for this novel is a family that easily relates to all families. He obviously sees some importance in the everyday activities of life and interactions with others, as much or more than the unusual or extraordinary circumstances (the murder of Breckenridge Lansing) that chance their way into life. After covering the facts of the murder and miraculous rescue, other details of characters' lives became more central to the plot-line. The way in which facts were revealed about the story is another aspect of life that fascinates Wilder as he writes this novel. The event of the murder and rescue was the constant throughout the novel, but as we found out more about the details, the more we could decipher God's hand in it all. In The Eighth Day, just as humans could not see beyond their sphere of influence, narrative became the way that the reader could not see past the sphere of influence that he/she is given. We were limited in our knowledge of events only in what was left out of the narrative. Thornton Wilder used this technique to simulate the experience of being in this family, living this life. He refrained from giving an omniscient point of view because we would not have been able to understand the futile struggle his characters must endure from their limited viewpoint. The idea of the tapestry itself came from the novel. While talking to the Native American priest who John Ashley left a letter for him, Ashley heard a parable about a tapestry. On one side of this was a mess of tangled knots and unorganized fabrics. On the other, was a beautiful design that you could step back and see. The priest told Roger that only some are able to get even a glimpse of the design side of that tapestry. The rest are only able to discern tangles and knots out of life. And only God in his infinite wisdom can forever know what lies behind the meaning of the design in the tapestry. A glimpse, however, is enough to give us faith to continue our lives. By studying the characters' relation to the parable, we can see that it was in the playing field of life that God has worked out his destiny, and the players became less important. Not knowing the other side of the tapestry is what proves our faith as human beings, and being able to live out our lives believing that a design exists is our greatest task. Personalities are formed by their abilities to see that design and their ability to wait patiently for the answer that lies within its pattern. We see Constance crumble in her inability to keep the faith of the pattern, Lily survives with a disillusioned faith, not about the things most important to her, but to her secondary concerns. Sophia has a grasp on life, but she is holding on to hopes of the past instead of continuously looking for new opportunities in life. Felicite, to be shown in greater detail, is an example of sublimity ruined by circumstance. Eustacia is a woman who could always perceive the presence of a design. Beatrice is a character much like Sophia, but even more attached to the past days, and cannot see any pattern in the future. Roger Ashley, much like his father, is the one person who has been able to live his life in the present with the full assurance that he has become part of the tapestry of God's plan. It is Wilder's unique appeal to American life that brings his readers back to the shelves for another story. What they witnessed in "Our Town" left a lasting effect on the people of America, and he brings that small-town flavor back to Coaltown, Illinois in The Eighth Day. Wilder has not just looked at American life as a casual observer, he has been bold enough to impose his spirituality on his characters as well. This spirituality was an element that attracted readers in the late 1960s. The connection that Wilder makes is one that has never been attempted on as large a stage, that is the connection to the spirituality of people and those people's routine activities of life. The focus on the peripheral events and consequences that occur in the lives of characters in this novel was his way of downplaying the importance of the central event, the murder and miraculous rescue, to show his readers the design in the plan instead of one thread in the tapestry. By observing of one group of people, Wilder detailed his vision of spirituality by demonstrating the investment he has made into the lives of Americans to embody the essence of spirituality. Readers recognize this as one of Wilder's strengths and they praise him in his mastery of capturing the spirituality of life once again. Many non-fiction and fiction books on the bestseller list were of a religious theme at a time that could have very easily influenced Wilder's writing style and the themes of his novel. For the most part, however, Wilder proved to be an individual in thought, gathering his ideas from his family background, his teachers at school, and philosopher's with whom he came in contact. The subjects of his novels looked towards religious themes around the time when other books became popular for the same reason. For instance, books by G.A.O. Armstrong and Fulton Oursler, Catherine Marshall, and Tim Bishop topped the non-fiction bestseller list in the 1950s. Books by Chaim Potok repeatedly made appearances on the fiction bestseller list. With the Cold War in full force, a mixture of cultures and ideas around the world allowed Wilder to form an his ideal spirituality based on a generic form of Christianity, Buddhism, Native American nature worship, and Greek mythology. All can be seen in The Eighth Day at particular points shaping the two most important characters' thoughts Wilder's novel The Eighth Day represented an atypical novel on the bestseller list in its reasons for popularity. There are a couple others that followed this particular style. Wilder became wildly popular for his play "Our Town" and for his other bestseller The Woman of Andros. After many years of working on other projects, Wilder released this book as his final capitulating novel. The book was popular for about six months but then virtually disappeared. Part of the reason for its initial success was that the first edition was a book of the month selection. This shows the confidence that the public had in the writer, not the book. Another selection that followed this format is Joseph Keller's Something Happened. Heller became a well acclaimed author for his novel Catch 22, but his next book was somewhat of a disappointment to his fans and critics. It is the author's own popularity that sold these books as soon as they reached the shelves. Wilder's popularity can be attributed to the way he showed virtues of the grand sense in the small-town personalities of the characters created in his novels. For instance, Roger Ashley went to Chicago after his father's escape to find a job with the goal of earning enough money to support his family at home. There was no greed in his goal, nor selfishness in his means. Wilder explicitly said how Roger didn't care much for ways to get excessive amounts of money even if the opportunity presented itself. When contemplating his work ethic while breadwinning in Chicago, Wilder says, "Roger seldom thought of his father, but his father was serving him as the measure of a man. He had never known him to be guilty of acting." Also showing Wilder's view on his character's work ethic-for the sake of the ethic, not the want of money, "Crowds make you think of money... Represents a certain amount of money of work and the quality of the work. Biggest lie under the sun." This showed Wilder's mockery of the greed that prevails in modern big cities and even in the mainstream culture of America. Roger's immunity to that pitfall was his redeeming characteristic. This was one of the virtues cleverly abstracted from life that many average Americans can look up to in Wilder's writing. In being realistic, and to show contrast to the figures of extreme virtue in The Eighth Day Wilder had members of the family that were not the perfect men and women of faith as Roger, John, or Eustacia were. Lily, for instance, was a woman who would refuse to look beyond her own happiness into the life of her mother, brother, or father. She always sook to further her career (she became a singer and moved to Chicago to pursue it further) and looked out for her personal happiness. She demonstrated this when she had children out of wedlock, which may hurt the reputation of her family, and her mother could become upset. She does fairly well when she moves to Chicago in her career, but it appears as if she could not reach true happiness in her position. A failure to achieve happiness is an indicator that a character has not been able to perceive the design of life, which usually is revealed to those with unselfish goals. Those that do realize the design are aiming for the promotion of the design, not of themselves. Sophia, to demonstrate the previous idea, had reputable motives and is a very dedicated girl, but she was short sighted in her goals. She aimed to make her brother happy, and what she does, she believes, will bring back her father sooner or else will cure her mother of her depression. It was her goals that were lacking, she had faith only in her brother's plan that the two of them could keep the family surviving through this ordeal. She lacked the faith to see the design beyond her brother, and she lacked faith because she couldn't see that design. Whether she couldn't see the design for lack of faith or not is a question left up for the reader to decide. Her mother's depression, similarly cannot be cured because she only had eyes for John Ashley. She loved her children but not in any way near the soul encompassing feelings she had for her husband. Leaving the Elms was probably the hardest thing that Beata Ashley had to do, because it meant giving up the idea that her husband would come home, the very thing she had been living day in and day out with the hope of happening. The frustration of life in this episode is also something with which readers can identify. It reinforces our own doubts about purpose, faith, and perseverance in what we live for. The everyday struggles that Sophia and her mother endured are some of the most prevalent shortcomings in Americans all over the country. No matter what walk of life you are, you forget your purpose as you get wrapped up in providing for a family, your own self-interests, and believing in a dream that isn't your own. Only the characters whose motives are rooted in the sound principles of life will find happiness in Thornton Wilder's novel. George Lansing was a character that was able to see the design in the tapestry, even if it was ill-timed and ill-fated. He was weary all the time for the interests of his mother, Eustacia, because of the unsound relationship between her and Breckenridge. Without the whole truth, his father's fault, George thought he was doing a service to his mother who wouldn't stick up for her own well-being. George was a boy whose energy was misdirected partly from growing up alongside Roger and his family. George was friends with John Ashley, which is ironic because that was the father that he most needed, and instead he grew up under the hands of Breckenridge Lansing with his "method of ?making a man' out of George." (331) George was very attached to his mother, perhaps to seek parental love which he could not find in his father. In one passage, Wilder says a lot about George's protective nature for his mother and his overall position in the tapestry of life. George had gotten sick and needed to have his tonsils removed and Ashley was out of town. His mother told him of her home: "She talked of these things with no one else. It was understood that she would someday take him there; he would take her there, in fact. George was devout... he wanted to kneel at the very spot where she had knelt." (333) Wilder admitting that one of his characters is devout is as close as he comes to telling us that George held the gift of vision. The proximity of this statement to a mention of his caring for his mother is not coincidental. Wilder is showing us that George has seen his purpose in the care for his mother. She tells him these stories because she wishes she were there and knows the mistake she has made. George senses this in her and wants so badly to pull her out. He is tragically mistaken, however, to the source of her depression. The importance lies in the heart of he who cares so much to realize that he must make his mother happy because of the deficiency in character of his father. The conclusions before made are not those which Wilder makes. He gives us the characters situations and their position in the ranks of high virtue, but he leaves for the reader to imply the reactions in life that allow the virtues to manifest themselves within each of the characters. The reader is happy to know that he has entered into the world that Wilder has created and the mystery is the problem of life and virtues, not of a murder in small town, America. Events such as that occur everyday, but exceptional men of exceptional virtue are a rare find. This is the Wilder that created the characters of "Our Town" and The Bridge of San Luis Rey that brought readers, and the Book of the Month Club back for Wilder's final comprehensive novel. Eustacia Lansing was a character that has seen the design in the mess of her own life. Her history is given so that we can see from what kind of family she came, and how her position at the present seems unbearable without a glimpse of the bigger picture. She comes from the beautiful island of St. Kitts, and lived a life of a girl in the sun, a picturesque princess childhood. She was won over to Breckenridge much like Don Juan, he a fair skinned young crowd pleaser, and she an innocent island girl. She, for a large part due to events in her parents marriage was looking outside her own race. "They extended her knowledge of what could be expected by women married to a dark-haired, dark-eyed male." (319) Breckenridge was a man of appearances, very well at first meetings, but his determination and perseverance were not his best traits. "Among the women he won all hearts, including that of Eustacia Sims. For years, thereafter, Eustacia was to ask herself, tormentedly: how? why?" (317) This was Eustacia's position. She had been deceived by first appearances, and had the virtue to stay in her marriage to a man who was not unbearable, but was not the expected continuation of her princess-quality lifestyle. He was not John Ashley. Her dedication to her husband remained steadfast in mind and heart as well as her actions, even at the point on his sickbed at which he was calling to question her loyalty to him. These are all virtues which make her a woman of faith, one fit to see the design of the tapestry. She even saw in Breckenridge, and helped bring out in him just before his untimely death, the love for and remorse for the way he acted towards his wife and children. She fits this description of people of faith, "They assemble and inspirit the despairing." (107) That was her devotion that gave her the esteemed status so uneasily afforded by Wilder. Finally, John Ashley was the man of faith in the novel, although he never makes it back to his family. The reunion of the Ashley family is the happy ending that everybody expects in a novel of this type. Wilder, however, flips the coin of life and doesn't allow that to take place. Ashley then had to find his niche elsewhere. He had always figured himself a family man, but now on the run he took to what came natural to him. He always sook to improve the conditions of others. He forgot himself and his own troubles and allowed himself to help those with whom he came into contact. The description that fits Ashley in the people of faith is, "They know themselves, but their self is not the only window through which they view their existence. They explore daily the exercise of freedom. Their eyes are on the future." (107) Ashley only looked to the future in his opportunities that he was given in his exodus. He also used his freedom to choose not to dwell on his own problems, but to perceive how he could solve the greater problems of the sphere in which he lives in all places. His vision is what drew other people to him, just like the work ethic of Roger drew people to him. Both of the Ashleys were able, however, to separate their feelings for the very people they worked with and helped, because they recognized that they were performing for a higher order rather than just those with which they interacted. John Ashley was shaped by his environment just like any other person in life. His Grandmother Ashley showed him the love which became his dominant good trait in life. Another, which Wilder half facetiously called unimportant he adapted from his father. His father was a miser, a very tight budgeted man. "...he made his contribution to the church; but any financial demand that exceeded his precise budget tortured him." (148) John Ashley had actually become the opposite, a trait that didn't help his family much after he had been taken from them, but also seemed to help mold his children's characters. Roger took after his father and as is before noted, his indifference to money helped him to concentrate on the joys of life and the fulfillment of his station in life. This is one example of the many efforts Wilder made to weave character traits, virtues, and vices throughout the history of the characters' backgrounds to create the effect of one plan and many actors performing for the purpose of unfolding that plan. Those character traits, at the same time, are those which are easily recognizable in friends and people that we come into contact with every day in life. They are also not just puppets acting out the traits, they are breathed to life by Wilder in his attempt to make real for us his final thesis of this book. That is, one character trait cannot be applied to any person to make that person virtuous or worthy of seeing the design in the tapestry. His thesis states that we are all these actors, real people in every sense that live our lives for the purpose of fitting into that plan and performing our role well. The next conclusion Wilder leaves for us is now that we've seen one group of people finding their place in the tapestry, for us to find our own place. "There is much talk of a design in the arras. Some are certain they see it. Some see what they have been told to see. Some remember that they saw it once but have lost it. Some are strengthened by seeing a pattern wherein the oppressed and exploited of the earth are gradually emerging from their bondage. Some find strength in the conviction that there is nothing to see. Some" (435) These last words of the novel give the challenge of the novel back to the people who enjoyed it for what they read. For enjoying Wilder's ability to find the everyday virtues and vices of life in each of his characters, they must now look inward and examine their own virtues and vices and see if their walk is a walk of faith. They can look at Roger and see if their work ethic and ability to avoid greed helps them to look toward a vision or hinders them from that vision. They can look at Lilly and see if their own self-interests are preventing a wider perspective on life. They can look at Sophia and see if nearsightedness is infecting them and preventing them from looking past the task at hand to the overall importance of their lifelong task. They can see if they have become dependent on someone in this world for a vision instead of looking for a personal mission in fulfilling the plan for their life. They can observe Eustacia and her son George in their devotion to loved ones and see if there really are pure motives for their love and dedication. If not, it may impede a further vision to what is most important for happiness, that glimpse in the design. And lastly they could look to John Ashley to see if they can look past their own problems to those of others around them and forge into the future to seek out the next step in the pattern for themselves. In all of this, the readers are reminded, by Wilder's style of historical review from a timeless position as God would have, through these families that the characters' lives are only "a hand's-breadth" of the tapestry, which is important on a much grander scale. To appreciate Wilder's novel for the way it characteristically points out these particulars in representative lives implies by his last words that the reader must live its meaning and aim to fulfill his/her part of the design. Wilder's fans came back to his novel for his style, seen in his earlier best-selling novels and plays. They got what they asked for and more. Wilder came out with a novel that spoke to his readers and that seems to have received mixed reactions. Wilder's name recognition afforded him the opportunity to write a book to the bestseller list and tell millions what was on his mind. Book of the month club picked up his book on recognition of an author that had a reputation with audiences for his ability to analyze life of the average Americans and comment on it implicitly. This book has done that in a new and unique way. Wilder, Thornton. The Eighth Day. Harper & Row Publishers
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