At Play in the Fields of the Lord Summary
Peter Matthiessen

Everything you need to understand or teach At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiessen.

  • At Play in the Fields of the Lord Summary & Study Guide
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At Play in the Fields of the Lord Summary

At Play in the Fields of the Lord combines several ideas Matthiessen had explored in his earlier novels — the ambiguous nature of political commitment in Partisans (1955), for example, and the quest for human recognition and belonging in Raditzer (1961) — reworked into a complex and intriguing totality. The novel tells the story of the Martin Quarrier family's abortive missionary expedition to the Niaruna Indians in the Peruvian wilderness.

Through the dissolution of this mission, and of the ideals that had impelled it, Matthiessen presents a powerful indictment of smug, hypocritical proselytizers, and of the pretensions to cultural superiority that underlie the white man's burden. But Matthiessen extends his project beyond the boundaries of a mere sociological treatise: As the social constraints bolstering the characters gradually dissolve in the heat of the South American jungle, the focus of the novel shifts from an analysis of cultural relativity to...

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At Play in the Fields of the Lord Short Guide

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