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Church, City, and Labyrinth in Brontë, Dickens, Hardy, and Butor

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Marilyn Thomas

Historically city and church have a common origin in the mythic labyrinth - tortuous, walled passageways enclosing a space considered sacred to the demigod. Gradually both concept and fact changed. By the end of the nineteenth century the city is perceived as a labyrinth, but labyrinth as a place of confusion and chaos instead of order. Man, the builder of cities to transcend the profane, becomes man, the demon who is trapped in his own creation. Brontë, Dickens, and Hardy, whose novels span the nineteenth century, and Butor, who presents a culminating expression of the theme on the twentieth century, portray the changing relationship of church and city.