Philip Carey, the central character of this early 20th century Bildungsroman, is both an orphan and afflicted with a club foot. He is sent at age nine, after the death of his mother, to live with a childless uncle--a deeply religious Vicar--and his submissive aunt. They have no idea how to be parents, so send Philip away to a boys' boarding school where the child begins to learn what it means to be less than physically "perfect." The remainder of Philip's development is cast in this light.

He roams about looking for himself and his place--to Germany to learn languages, to London to learn a trade, to Paris to study art, and finally, as a last resort, a default decision to follow in the steps of his father the physician. A major part of Philip's maturation is based in making decisions about women and about sensual love. The most painful portions of his story are those that evolve around his stumbling and frequently failed attempts to find security in his personal relationships.


In addition to being a classic tale of the psychological evolution of a talented and sensitive boy/man, this long, linear and very clearly rendered novel allows the reader a glimpse into the educational methods of the turn of the twentieth century, the grip of formal Christianity, and the struggle of a young man without loving parental guidance to find his way. In the course of the tale the reader finds detailed descriptions of the laboratories and clinics of the English medical schools and hospitals and of the ordinary people of the streets of contemporaneous London and Paris.


First published: 1915



Place Published

New York



Page Count