Major literary works are, as is generally admitted,
a mirror in which multiple currents of any particular
age are faithfully reflected. Upon reading
Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield (hereafter
referred to as The Vicar, 1766), one cannot resist an
impression that this is especially true of the work.
What strikes us is a pervasive atmosphere of harmony
between man and nature and a keen sense of
poetry to be enjoyed heartily in the characters' daily
life. These are reflected in the narration by
Primrose the protagonist and Anglican clergyman.
True we see in the work signs of an uneasy relationship
between the haves and the have-nots due in
part to the abuse of power by the former at the sacrifice
of the latter; and due in part to the age's legacy
of surviving brutality, the miserable condition of life,
and the resulting social ills in the lower order of
society. Also, we discern in it signs of the incipient
decay of the traditional village community. Still, the
village life retains its wholeness and integrity in the
fabric of a close-knit human network based on its
agricultural way of life.