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Looking Backward | Study Guide

Edward Bellamy

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Looking Backward | Postscript | Summary



Edward Bellamy responds as author to a review of the novel in the Boston Transcript, which criticized the novel for the rapidity of social transformation, suggesting it would be more believable set 75 centuries in the future. Bellamy calls the novel "a forecast ... of the next stage in the industrial and social development of humanity," and protests the critique, arguing history supports the assertion that "great national transformations of history" come about "with a rapidity and resistless momentum proportioned to their magnitude." He cites precedents, including the American Revolution, and argues that what they should be discussing is not how fast such transformations can occur but whether or not there exist "any special indications that a social transformation is at hand." As "all thoughtful men agree that the present aspect of society is portentous of great changes," Bellamy stands by his assertions in the novel that "the Golden Age lies before us ... and is not far away."


Edward Bellamy rejects the criticism of the novel as unbelievable because of the drastic changes accomplished in such a short period of time. He is unapologetic in his position that the book is his "forecast" for what humanity could accomplish. Bellamy counters the criticism by asserting that social transformation can happen quickly if the situation is right. He gives examples from history of momentous social changes that came about quickly, such as the formation of the United States. Just a few decades before the Declaration of Independence, many would have doubted a revolution would soon create an entirely new country out of the British colonies. In this reference, the author implies that just as rebellion and revolution grew from the resentment of government tyranny, so, too, social revolution will likely erupt from oppression and abuse of laborers. He says the reviewer should focus not on the amount of time he imagines is required to accomplish radical social change but on the environment from which it is birthed. In this, "all intelligent men agree" the world is ripe for revolution.

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