Chapter 07 – Columbus and Galileo

Caesar, Gauls, Britons, Romans

Neverbend is reminiscing about the days before he entered politics, when he was a businessman and quite happy with his life.  Once he began to govern Brittanula and legislate the Fixed Period, he had to deal with political enemies.  He compares himself to Caesar, whose enemies ranged from those in foreign nations, such as the Gauls and the Britons, to political opponents in his own Rome.  He imagines that Caesar’s political difficulties, much like his own, kept him from being happy.  Caesar was eventually assassinated and overthrown from his dictatorship, so this reference may be foreshadowing Neverbend’s removal from office.  [CD 2012]


vi et armis

Neverbend is pondering ways in which he can bring Crasweller to submit to deposition.  He believes it impossible, either because of the law or popular opinion, to deposit Crasweller vi et armis, “by force and by arms.”  This is a Latin legal phrase that describes a trespass or assault involving the use of force or weapons. [CD 2012]

Source:  Garner, B. A., and H. C. Black. Black’s Law Dictionary. 8th ed. St. Paul:  West Group, 2004.


Caesar and Gaul

Neverbend is considering what his reputation will be if he enforces the deposition of his friend, Gabriel Crasweller.  Many on the island of Brittanula have already called him cruel because of his support of the Fixed Period.  Neverbend compares his reputation of cruelty to Caesar’s conquering of Gaul for Rome.  Caesar would have been thought cruel by the Gauls for waging war against them, but Caesar would have thought that he was bringing civilization, or progress and sophistication, to a barbaric country.  Like Caesar, Neverbend will be thought cruel for enforcing the Fixed Period, but in his mind he will be bettering his country.  [CD 2012]


Romans and filial disobedience

Jack Neverbend’s opposition to his father’s belief in the Fixed Period is one of the president’s main sources of frustration.  He wishes to force Jack into submission, to make him at least be silent about his disapproval of the Fixed Period.  Neverbend compares the respect he demands to the respect due the Roman paterfamilias, the male head of the family who had complete authority over his wife’s, son’s, and daughter’s bodies.  “Filial disobedience” is punishable by the paterfamilias, and President Neverbend seems to think it within his rights as a father to punish his son to some extent.  Yet, he feels compassion for his son, doesn’t believe he is capable of being so harsh to him, and speculates that even the Roman paterfamilias couldn’t have punished his own son very severely.  This may be a way of drawing attention to Neverbend’s usually unmovable adherence to the dictates of the law, especially in regard to the Fixed Period.  He can’t bear to punish his son, but he can euthanize his best friend since it is the rule of the land.  [CD 2012]

Chapter 06 – The College


The place where those who have lived out their “Fixed Period” are to be deposited is referred to as “the college.”  This recalls Roman collegia, or recognized legal entities having to do with a particular trade or group of people.  Several collegia were concerned with organizing funerals.  This is an example of a Latinate word being used euphemistically to soften what would be a stark reality when described by Anglo-Saxon or Germanic vocabulary.  [CMC 2012]


sanguine hopes for euthanasia

President Neverbend says that his hopes for Crasweller’s deposition are sanguine.  This English adjective means “cheerful” or “optimistic,” but its basic Latin element (sanguin-) literally means “blood.”  Given the method of euthanasia that Neverbend hopes to employ, it is likely that Trollope is using the etymology of the word “sanguine” to express humor (albeit dark humor).  [CMC 2012]



The name decided upon for the college is “Necropolis,” a Greek term that literally means “city of the dead.”  Here, the Greek word is being used as a euphemism to obfuscate the nature of the college and lessen the anxiety of the citizenry of Brittanula surrounding the Fixed Period.  Further, the London Necropolis Company was controversial in Trollope’s time for constructing a massive cemetery complex, complete with multiple railway stations, a telegraph station, and different areas for different religions.  This caused debate in London, as many were reluctant to move away from the traditional churchyards within their respective cities and towns.  [CMC 2012] 

Source:  Encyclopedia Britannica, electronic edition.



This was the name that President Neverbend had proposed for the college, which is finally named “Necropolis” instead.  This Latin noun means “an access” or “entrance.”  It is probable that Neverbend considered the name appropriate on multiple levels:  the college being an entrance for those deposited into a year of peace before a calm departure, and the Fixed Period being the entrance into a new age of rationality and civilization.  The proposal of a Classically inspired name could be considered part of Neverbend’s overall language program that attempts to acclimate Brittanula to the Fixed Period through words of Classical origin.  [CMC 2012]



The place within Necropolis where the deposited are to die is referred to as “the temple” by President Neverbend.  It is likely that Neverbend is calling it this because he sees it as a place built to glorify not only the Fixed Period, but also his society’s enlightenment and rationality.  More ominously, as Trollope would have been aware, Classical temples are invariably associated with blood sacrifice.  [CMC 2012]


wisdom wrapped in candied sweets

President Neverbend explains the need for making the college look as nice as possible by stating that children need wisdom given to them in candied sweets.  This motif is possibly taken from Lucretius, who was a Latin author of Epicurean poetry.  His poetry attempts to enlighten people to not fear death.  In his De Rerum Natura, he says that the truth needs to be sweetened in the same way that a doctor would mix honey with medicine given to a small boy to get him to drink it.  Trollope uses this motif here because Lucretius and Neverbend both seek to dispel a fear of death by using external sensory perceptions.  [CMC & RR 2012]

Source:  Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.1-25.



Mr. Exors is one of the oldest men in Brittanula and is scheduled to be deposited not long after Crasweller.  His name is derived from the Latin exsors, meaning “chosen one.”  He is mentioned in a group of others who are due to be deposited.  All have said in their own way that they will not set foot in the college.  The idea of “chosen one” has an almost sacrificial connotation in The Fixed Period, as though Trollope is signaling that Exors is chosen by Neverbend’s law to be sacrificed and lead Brittanula and the world into a new age of enlightened living (and dying).  [CMC 2012]


ploughing across the waves…to be drowned or succeed

President Neverbend is attempting to self-motivate by reminding himself that he is intellectual kin to Galileo and Columbus, that he must plough on through the sea and succeed or die trying.  The image of ploughing across the sea may be taken by Trollope from the opening of  Vergil’s Aeneid, where Aeneas and his crew are described as ploughing (ruebant) the sea in their ship.  The connection between Neverbend and Aeneas may be worth considering:  both have travelled away from their mother countries to found new societies, and just as a glorious future was foretold for Aeneas, Neverbend imagines that the establishment of the Fixed Period will bring him fame.  [CMC, CD, & RR 2012]

Source:  Vergil, Aeneid 1.35.

Chapter 05 – The Cricket-Match


President Neverbend is describing how Mrs. Neverbend has been constantly at Jack Neverbend’s side, urging him on with regards to pursuing Eva Crasweller.  He states that he “had known that for the last month Jack’s mother had been instant with him to induce him to speak out to Eva.”  However, Jack has proven too bashful in Eva’s presence to say anything of substance.  Trollope uses the word “instant” here, relying on its original Latin meaning of “close at hand, pressing.”  [CMC 2012]


a girl…shouldn’t get herself talked about

Mrs. Neverbend is expressing dismay that all of Gladstonopolis is discussing Eva Crasweller and Sir Kennington Oval.  She states emphatically that no woman should be so talked about.  This mirrors what Pericles says during his funeral oration in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.  Pericles states that the highest praise of the women of Athens comes in the fact that the men simply do not discuss them.  The domestic sphere and the women who occupy it should not enter into the public discourse of Athens or Brittanula.  [CMC & RR 2012]

Source:  Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 2.45.2.


Minerva and Pallas

During the cricket match, players on both teams are described as “Minervas” and Jack Neverbend’s helmet is described as his “Pallas helmet.”  Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and warfare, while Pallas Athena was her Greek counterpart.  Like the cricket players in The Fixed Period, Minerva and Athena are depicted in armor with helmets.  In addition to enlisting this image as a visual aid, Trollope may be employing humor in using a cross-gendered reference.  When Trollope uses female mythological figures to describe male characters, it is usually done to poke fun at the character (as, for instance, the presentation of Dr. Grantly as Juno in Barchester Towers).  Here, Trollope may be suggesting that it is a bit ridiculous to take the cricket match as seriously as the British and Brittanulans are by likening their “warriors” to a female goddess.  [CMC & RR 2012]


the mother’s true Roman feeling

Mrs. Neverbend has come to the cricket match, saying “with true Roman feeling” that she is determined to watch her son, whether he win or lose.  This phrase could be a reference to the mother of Euryalus in Vergil’s Aeneid.  Euryalus’ mother continues to Italy with her son instead of staying behind in Sicily with the other women.  Like her, Mrs. Neverbend goes willingly to see her son fight in a “battle” instead of remaining at home.  Unlike Eurylaus’ mother, Mrs. Neverbend does not have the misfortune of seeing her son die.  Indeed, Jack is victorious and elevated to the level of national hero by the Brittanulans.  [CMC 2012]

A similar maternal sentiment is famously expressed in Plutarch’s Moralia, where a Spartan mother is recorded as telling her son to return home with his shield (victorious) or on it (wounded or dead)–but if Trollope were mustering his readers’ recollection of this dictum, he should have had Neverbend write “the mother’s true Spartan feeling.”  Neverbend perhaps refers to a strong Roman mother as part of a consistent tendency in The Fixed Period to compare his familial dynamics to Roman ones.  [RR 2012]

Source:  Vergil, Aeneid 9.
Plutarch, Moralia 241f.


cocks fighting on our own dunghill

After the cricket match, the Brittanulans are overjoyed at having beaten Britain.  Jack, while at first sharing in their jubilation, later moderates his joy.  While many are treating the simple cricket match as if it were a military victory, Jack reminds them that they are simply cocks fighting on their own dunghills.  This image is taken from Seneca, who uses it to illustrate that every man is most confident and successful upon their own ground (regardless of whether or not they are successful in absolute terms).  [CMC 2012]

Source:  Seneca, Apocolocyntosis 7.

Chapter 04 – Jack Neverbend

prosperity and obedience

President Neverbend sees a correlation between a society’s prosperity and its obedience to the rule of law.  We kind find Creon, the ruler of Thebes in Sophocles’ Antigone, expressing a similar view.  This would not be the only similarity between the two rulers; see commentary for Chapter 2 for a possible connection between Neverbend’s name and advice given to Creon in Sophocles’ play.

Source:  Sophocles, Antigone 666-676.


a meeting had been held in the market-place

The opposers of the Fixed Period meet in the market-place to discuss public matters. This has a Classical ring to it as it was very common for Greeks to discuss public matters in the agora or for Romans to meet in the forum, which were both open market-places.  [KS 2012]


Roman paterfamilias

Neverbend is growing frustrated with his son, Jack, as Jack becomes one of the leading vocalists against the Fixed Period.  Neverbend considers the possibility that he might have to punish his son for his civil disobedience, but concludes that he would not be able to “ape the Roman paterfamilias,” the male “father of the family” who held considerable legal and cultural authority.  For instance, Titus Manlius Torquatus had his son executed for fighting against the Latins without permission, even though his son had fought bravely and successfully.  President Neverbend knows that he would not be able to take such an action against Jack.  [KS & RR 2012]

Source:  OCD.



Neverbend attempts to remain obdurate in his beliefs by recalling a number of “great men” and what they accomplished in spite of the opposition they faced.  Socrates is at the head of Neverbend’s list.  Socrates was condemned to death by his fellow citizens, but his ideas shaped the development of Western philosophy.  Socrates’ exceptional dedication to his ideals is evidenced by his decision to obey the laws of his city and drink the hemlock as dictated by the court.  [KS & RR 2012]



Neverbend expresses his grief that Crasweller, who is so healthy and still fit for society, has to be the Fixed Period’s “first martyr.”  Neverbend does not invoke the idea of Crasweller being a “martyr” in the Christian sense of the word; instead, Neverbend utilizes the original meaning of the Greek martyr, “witness.”  Neverbend views Crasweller as a witness or testament to the greatness of the Fixed Period.  [KS 2012]

Chapter 03 – The First Break-Down

prepare…for the day which we know cannot be avoided

Neverbend is discussing with Crasweller the difficulties of betaking oneself into the college. Crasweller, doing whatever he can to avoid being deposited, attempts to change his age and talks with Neverbend about how he is not be ready to enter the college. Neverbend’s argument for being ready for death has echoes of Seneca’s Epistulae Morales.  In Letter 26, Seneca states:  “‘Think on death.’  In saying this, [Epicurus] bids us think on freedom. He who has learned to die has unlearned slavery.” Death, for Seneca, is something that will liberate the old person.  Neverbend holds a thought in a similar vein as he believes Crasweller’s deposition will liberate Crasweller from his old age and the world.  [KS 2012]

Sources: Seneca, Letters 26.10, translated by Richard Motte Gummere.


to obliterate that fear

Neverbend and Crasweller’s discussion about Crasweller’s deposition has taken a pause and Neverbend ponders the fear that Crasweller is feeling.  Neverbend notes that it is not because of greed that Crasweller does not wish to be deposited, but rather because of Crasweller’s fear of death, which Neverbend notes as a “human weakness.” Neverbend believes the Fixed Period will liberate people “from so vile a thraldom.”  In striving to eliminate a human fear of death, Neverbend has Roman philosophical precedents:  the Epicurean Lucretius and the Stoic Seneca.  Both Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura and Seneca’s Epistulae Morales contain multiple arguments against the fear of death.  [KS & RR 2012]


what duty required of me

As Neverbend mulls over a response to Crasweller, Neverbend posits that his personal feelings should not take precedent over his duty.  There are several examples in Classical antiquity of a man believing that his own feelings and interests should not be set above his duty.  Cincinnatus, who was a Roman citizen-farmer, was called upon to serve as dictator.  In Book 3 of Livy’s History of Rome, Cincinnatus is portrayed as a man who does not want to take upon the duties as dictator, but who knows that, as a citizen called upon by his people, he must serve.  [KS 2012]

Source:  Livy, The History of Rome 3.26.


Cato and Brutus

Crasweller believes that humans have never viewed suicide in a positive light, but Neverbend thinks of Cato and Brutus, who are honored and respected even after committing suicide. Cato, who supported Pompey, chose suicide after Pompey’s defeat, despite being offered a pardon from Caesar.  Brutus, after being defeated by Octavian, also chose death.  For Neverbend, these two men chose death rather than old-age and defeat.  Cato and Brutus exemplify the sentiments that Neverbend wishes upon Crasweller.  [KS 2012]