in Fixed Period

Chapter 01 – Introduction


The name “Brittanula” contains two elements.  The first, “Brittan-,” comes from name of the country Britain.  The “-ula” is a Latin diminutive ending, which denotes smallness.  “Brittanula” means “Little Britain,” in the sense that it is a small colony founded and peopled by former British subjects, and also in the sense that its cultural framework has, to an extent, been founded by Great Britain, e.g., its English language, cricket, etc.  Brittanula is the means by which Trollope sets up his satirical look at Great Britain’s reform policies.  [CD 2012]



President Neverbend repeatedly uses Classically derived words to refer to concepts associated with the Fixed Period.  He often says “departure” instead of “death.”  Not only does this euphemize the practice of the Fixed Period, but it also elevates it by linking it to the Classical past.  Henry Hitchings uses President Neverbend’s euphemizing to open his chapter on linguistic purism in The Language Wars.

Source:  Henry Hitchings, “Our blood, our language, our institutions,” The Language Wars:  A History of Proper English.  New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011, p. 161.



The society of Brittanula in The Fixed Period made it a law to euthanize its citizens once they reached a certain age.  While this practice doesn’t directly parallel any practice in the Classical world, there are perhaps some ancient models on which Trollope builds the perspective of President Neverbend, who sees euthanasia as a duty to country.  In Plato’s Crito, Socrates is waiting in prison for the day of his execution.  Crito, a friend of Socrates, comes to him and attempts to convince him to escape his death and live in exile.  Socrates refuses to do this, saying that while many of the Athenians who convicted him may be unjust, he lived under the laws of Athens and expects to die under them.  If he were to flee from his death, Socrates says that he would be repudiating the laws that formed him.  Plato’s Phaedo recounts the last hours of Socrates, who drinks hemlock to kill himself.  Although Socrates was ordered to die by the Athenian court system, he administers the means of his death himself.  Much like Socrates, the citizens of Brittanula are required by the law to give up life at a certain age, and are expected, at least by President Neverbend, to submit voluntarily to the process.

The term “euthanasia” fits within President Neverbend’s attempt to  use vocabulary that positively references the “deposition” and “departures” of Brittanula’s citizens.  President Neverbend uses Classically based vocabulary when referring to this process in order to ennoble it and separate it from Anglo-Saxon terms that may have negative connotations.  [CD 2012]

Sources:   Plato, Crito and Phaedo.



In The Fixed Period, the college is the structure in which those who have reached the age of 67 will live for a year.  Upon turning 68, they will then be euthanized.  During the stay at the college, the ones awaiting their death will live together in a community.  The college is roughly based on ancient Roman associations known as collegia.  During the early Roman Empire, some collegia allowed members to claim a stake in a burial place.  The college, like some ancient collegia, builds community around end-of-life practices.  [CD 2012]

Source: OCD.



“Gladstonopolis,” the capital city of Brittanula, is composed of two word elements.  The first, “Gladston-,” is derived from the name of the four-time British Prime Minister, William Gladstone, who introduced much liberal reform in England.  The “-opolis” is a combining form derived from the Greek noun polis, “city-state,” which is used in conjunction with other elements to form the name of a city.  In Plato’s Republic, Socrates and his interlocutors contemplate the construction of an ideal polis in order to discover philosophical truths.  Gladstonopolis, then, is the capital of an independent country that hopes to undertake liberal reform that will set it ahead of its mother country, Great Britain.  It may also been seen, following in the Republic‘s footsteps, as a model city instituting rational ideals.  [CD 2012]

Source:  Encyclopedia Britannica, electronic edition.



In The Fixed Period, when one is led to the college to undertake a year of rest and glory, one is said to be “deposited” in the college.  In English, “deposit” means to lay down or to entrust, and is derived from the Latin verb deponere, “to lay down, to intrust, to get rid of.”  Within the novel, President Neverbend is concerned with the way in which the Fixed Period is referenced and is anxious to safeguard it from any negative connotations.  The use of words derived from Latin and Greek are meant to show a sophistication and nobility that might not be available in words derived from other languages.  [CD 2012]

We might also want to consider the economic connotations of “deposit.”  When President Neverbend discusses reasons for the adoption of the Fixed Period, he includes the economic benefits to future generations and society as a whole if older, unproductive people need not be looked after.  By allowing themselves to be “deposited” at the college like money in a bank, older citizens of Brittanula will turn their deaths into a profit for their descendants.  [RR 2012]

Source:  OED.


their perfected dignity

“Perfected” here follows more closely the meaning of its etymological components than its modern meaning.  It comes from the Latin preposition per, “thoroughly,” and the Latin verb facere, “to do.”   Thus, remaining at the college for the year before being euthanized is a way to bring to completion the honor and dignity of the elderly.  [CD 2012]



Great Britain, in sending its warship and reclaiming Brittanula as a British colony, exercises a force above its legal right.  President Neverbend refers to this as tyranny, in the sense of the Greek turannia, “tyranny, rule outside the law.”  Tyranny in Ancient Greece was a form of government resembling, but distinct from, monarchy, which arose when usurpers took control of city-states, setting themselves up as the highest political authority.  Tyrants are considered to be above the law in the sense that no political apparatus exists to restrain their power if they abuse it.  Great Britain, in forcing Brittanula to become a colony once again, is assaulting the political independence of Brittanula and coercing a sovereign country to capitulate to its authority.  [CD 2012]