In Ruskin's Essay III of Unto This Last he includes a biblical narrative as a complement to his argument. However he never refers to the title or origin of this story — which seems problematic. In the first two essays, his argument takes the form of a very straightforward idea proceeded by example to prove his argument. For example, in the second essay defines wealth in the following way:

And this power of wealth of course is greater of less in direct proportion to the poverty of the men over whom it is exercised, and in inverse porportion to the number of persons who are as rich as ourselves, and who are ready to give the same price for an article of which the supply is limited. If the musician is poor, he will sing for small pay, as long as there is only one person who can pay him; but if there be two or three, he will sing for the one who offers him most.

The arguments of the third essay work quite differently:

He says for instance, in one place: 'The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death'; adding in another with the same meaning (he has a curious way of doubling his sayings: 'Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but justice delivers from death.' Both these passages are notable for their assertions of death as the only real issue and sum of attainment by any unjust scheme of wealth. [190]

My questions:

1. Does the biblical narrative disrupt the structure and flow of Ruskin's argument?

2. Wouldn't the structure of the second essay seem more effective and logical?

3. Because Ruskin does not make mention of where this biblical narrative is derived, wouldn't that make the audience question the validity of the story, and of Ruskin himself?"

Last modified 26 February 2002

6 May 2019