Water … to its closer and higher kin”

            Water Babies presents aspects ofevolution in relation to morality and religion with a very distinct approach;it is structured as a fairy tale. To provide some context, the piece ofliterature was written in a time period marked by the infancy of Darwin’sTheory of Evolution. Charles Kingsley, the author, was a proponent of thistheory. He was also a theologian which influenced his beliefs in how the roleof God worked into the theory. He utilized his skills as a respected writer toconvey his beliefs in a children’s book. Furthermore, Kingsley made referencesto debates he’d had with a colleague, Thomas Huxley. Huxley was less convincedof the presence of a God than Kingsley was; consequently, Kingsley utilized thebook to continue his conversations with Huxley. For example, it was suggestedthat the apparent drowning and resurrection that Tom had alluded to Tom’sbelief in the afterlife as debated between him and Huxley following the deathof Huxley’s son.

             The bookfollows the life of a chimneysweep named Tom. Tom was on track to grow up to beslightly more civilized than an ape; his development was described as have anegative trend (he was becoming a less and less evolved individual). When Tomencountered someone who forced his attention onto his flaws, he ran to a streamin an attempt to clean himself. Tom fell into an intense slumber and waseventually taken away by three fairies. Tom metamorphosized into a “water baby”which prompted the appearance of “gill folds”. This was meant to represent whenTom was in the lowest evolutionary stage; he would eventually evolve into morecomplex forms of life. This was similar to the law of embryologicalrecapitulation which stated that “the embryological development of an organismproceeds in an orderly sequence, beginning with stages that represent its mostremote ancestors … to its closer and higher kin” (Kingsley 142).  The beginning of his new life after fallinginto the stream was a religious allusion to a baptism.

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The three fairies Tomlearned from were Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby, Mrs. Bedoneasyoudid, and MotherCarey; the latter fairy represented God while the former two represented theintentions of God.

The responsibility of the fairies was to teach Tom lessons aboutthe importance of studying nature, of moral purity, and of putting effort intolife. As it was also debated between Huxley and Kingsley whether the God thatmight exist was benevolent or malevolent, Kingsley included a story about the”Doasyoulikes”. The Doasyoulikes abandoned “the Land of Hard Work … to settlein the Land of Readymade…” (Kinglsey 144). This civilization was handedeverything; they didn’t have to scour for food, or build shelter, or concernthemselves with the creation of tools. As a consequence of the effortless livesthey led, they never took the time to understand the nature around them.

Theywere eventually selected against when volcanoes in their vicinity erupted; theremaining citizens evolved into apes. This portion of Water Babies not only explains, in simple terms, the basis ofevolution, but also provided an argument as to how God was actually acting inbenevolence when he provided resources in scarce numbers. In order to solve theproblems presented by the scarcity, humans resort to higher thinking. Thismessage was further emphasized by the interaction between Tom and Mother Careywhen she explained to Tom that she doesn’t “trouble herself to make things…she makes them make themselves” (Kingsley 147). While some aspects of theliterary piece have been changed or edited to suit modern thinking, the morallessons presented by the book remain relatively untouched as its popularity isconsistent.                                     

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