Godwin Caleb Williams

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In the novel Caleb Williams by William Godwin Caleb, the protagonist, is accused of stealing from Mr. Falkland, the gentleman that he serves. The reactions of Caleb’s peers to the discovery of his alleged theft of goods from Mr. Falkland suggest that the crime that he has committed is equivocal to murder. It is clear from Quentin Bailey’s article that there was no lack of crime in 18th century England and much of the legislation at the time was geared toward combating the perceived rise in criminal activity. Yet, in every instance of someone discovering Caleb’s crime he receives a violent reaction that seems disproportionate to the crime he allegedly committed. He even gets a particularly strong response from a thief who has perpetrated similar…show more content…
He articulates to Caleb when voicing his first warning against betrayal that he “might as well think of escaping from the power of the omnipresent God, as from mine” (Godwin 225). He manipulates the legal system, the authorities and the print media of the time to further show Caleb in an unflattering way. He uses the newspapers to add Caleb to a “salacious store of tales about highwaymen, murders, and adventurous rogues” (Bailey 531). By placing Caleb alongside stories of other, arguably greater, crimes he is categorizing him as a person of equal immorality. He is often given away by the stories about him. These stories only serve to further the public’s hatred of him and make his alleged crimes appear all the more villainous. These articles betray him, either directly or indirectly, to the thieves, Mr. Spurrel and Laura. Laura even completely refuses to hear his side of the events that transpired because she is so undoubtedly sure that he is guilty because he has been “blasted and branded in the face of the whole world” and is “a monster and not a man” (Godwin 404-405). The reward of one hundred guineas for his capture helped raise the offense of his crime as well because it instigated the additional circulation of the story and the added transmission allowed for details to be lost and embellished through time and…show more content…
The repercussions for Caleb are unimaginable because they are the result of theft. Caleb has successfully been divested of former and future friends during the course of the novel. With one small accusation Falkland managed to turn the entire public against Caleb and those who were personally acquainted with Caleb. Caleb’s crime was labeled as the worst possible thing he could have done. He apparently betrayed his master which is understandably traitorous in its own right. He then outwardly seemed to make an attempt to besmirch his master’s reputation in an effort to alleviate himself of guilt, but only succeeded in making himself look all the more guilt-ridden and making his crime more offensive by speaking ill of a man so praise worthy, honorable and respected as Mr. Falkland. Falkland used his power and influence to defame Caleb in the printed media of the time and turn the entirety of the country against him. Each of Caleb’s actions only made him seem guilty which made his accusations against Falkland more upsetting and made his crime more deplorable to the public. The elevation of him from common thief to something less than human happened quickly, but continued happening throughout the

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