Looking Backward | Study Guide

Edward Bellamy

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Course Hero. (2017, October 25). Looking Backward Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 20, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Looking-Backward/

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Course Hero. "Looking Backward Study Guide." October 25, 2017. Accessed November 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Looking-Backward/.

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Course Hero, "Looking Backward Study Guide," October 25, 2017, accessed November 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Looking-Backward/.

Looking Backward | Chapter 20 | Summary

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Summary

Edith Leete asks Julian West if he wants to visit his bedchamber from the 19th century where he had been found. He says that he has "shrunk thus far from doing so, lest the visit might revive old associations rather too strongly for my mental equilibrium." But he now reconsiders and they go together. Julian tells Edith he is surprised to feel very little as he looks around the bedroom. He believes his experiences in the 20th century have allowed him to view his old life as if he had been separated from it for a very long time, almost as if he had lived "a hundred years in four days." He shows Edith the picture of Edith Bartlett, his one-time fiancée, in the locket around his neck. The two think of what she must have suffered and Julian is overcome by emotion. Edith remarks that the other Edith's sorrow for Julian ended many years ago and that she is at peace in heaven. Julian regains his composure and considers his relationship with Edith Bartlett as "a hundred years ago."

Julian notices his safe box in the corner of the room and tells Edith that he never would have thought he could travel to a land where all its gold and securities would not even "procure a loaf of bread." Edith fails to understand why that should be remarkable.

Analysis

The author ties up Julian West's old life rather neatly in the visit to Julian's old sleeping chamber. He revisits memories of his family and Edith Bartlett. But he realizes that everything he has been through since he awoke in the 20th century has made his old life and acquaintances seem as long ago as if he had really lived "a hundred years in four days." Although he tears up, thinking about the pain Edith Bartlett must have felt at his disappearance, he thinks of his love for her as a thing of the distant past, too. He is free from his ties to that life now. Readers will shortly understand why the author takes pains to show that Julian has closure about his old life and relationships.

The precious metals that served as his security and insurance against disaster in the 19th century mean nothing in this new world order. It is an idea that seems just as strange to Julian as it does to Edith Leete, but for opposite reasons. He could not have imagined a world in which those materials could not be used for purchasing everything he needs to live. Edith, on the other hand, does not see what connection materials such as gold could have with necessary items, which the state provides to all.

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