Commutation Across the Social Divide

Rodney Stenning Edgecombe


This article records how, even in times of social inertia and repression, writers have found ways of redressing the inequalities of the status quo by plot devices or in mental exercise. Taken together, these add up to a motif of sorts--a moral and qualitative commutability between the privileged and the dispossessed, and of their narrative or actual commutation, as when a god disempowers himself to experience human life, or when a ruler sloughs the gown of office and enters the slums of his capital. This motif was nurtured in part by the radicalism lodged in the Christian gospels, even though the church establishment sought to efface it.

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