Reading progress update: I've read 228 out of 414 pages.

The Longest Journey - E.M. Forster

Funny, I've just been pondering my issues with Heidegger's praise of tradition and nationalism (inspired by MbD's post), when Forster offers his mockery of the same - 20 years before the publication of Being and Time:


‘Yes. Tradition is of incalculable value. And I envy those schools that have a natural connection with the past. Of course Sawston has a past, though not of the kind that you quite want. The sons of poor tradesmen went to it at first. So wouldn’t its traditions be more likely to linger in the Commercial School?’ he concluded nervously.

‘You have a great deal to learn – a very great deal. Listen to me. Why has Sawston no traditions?’ His round, rather foolish, face assumed the expression of a conspirator. Bending over the mutton, he whispered, ‘I can tell you why. Owing to the day-boys. How can traditions flourish in such soil? Picture the day-boy’s life – at home for meals, at home for preparation, at home for sleep, running home with every fancied wrong. There are day-boys in your class, and, mark my words, they will give you ten times as much trouble as the boarders – late, slovenly, stopping away at the slightest pretext. And then the letters from the parents! “Why has my boy not been moved this term?” “Why has my boy been moved this term?” “I am a dissenter, and do not wish my boy to subscribe to the school mission.” “Can you let my boy off early to water the garden?” Remember that I have been a day-boy housemaster, and tried to infuse some esprit de corps into them. It is practically impossible. They come as units, and units they remain. 

Worse. They infect the boarders. Their pestilential, critical, discontented attitude is spreading over the school. If I had my own way—’

He stopped somewhat abruptly.

‘Was that why you laughed at their singing?’

‘Not at all. Not at all. It is not my habit to set one section of the school against the other.’ After a little they went the rounds. The boys were in bed now. ‘Good night!’ called Herbert, standing in the corridor of the cubicles, and from behind each of the green curtains came the sound of a voice replying, ‘Good night, sir!’ ‘Good night,’ he observed into each dormitory. Then he went to the switch in the passage and plunged the whole house into darkness.

Rickie lingered behind him, strangely impressed. In the morning those boys had been scattered over England, leading their own lives. Now, for three months, they must change everything – see new faces, accept new ideals. They, like himself, must enter a beneficent machine, and learn the value of esprit de corps. Good luck attend them – good luck and a happy release. For his heart would have them not in these cubicles and dormitories, but each in his own dear home, amongst faces and things that he knew. Next morning, after chapel, he made the acquaintance of his class. Towards that he felt very differently. Esprit de corps was not expected of it. It was simply two dozen boys who were gathered together for the purpose of learning Latin.


I have the sad feeling that the MC, Rickie, will eventually be ground down by the institutionalism he's opposing.