in American Senator

Chapter 42 – Mr. Mainwaring’s Little Dinner

Chapter 42 takes place at the rectory in Dillsborough, where Mr. Mainwaring throws a party which the Senator, John and Reginald Morton, and other men of the community attend.  Two particular characteristics of this party are related to a Classical symposium, and perhaps specifically to Plato’s Socratic dialogue the Symposium.  First, a special point is made that Mr. Mainwaring’s party is a “bachelor party,” i.e., that no women are in attendance.  Ancient symposia were social gatherings that involved mostly men actively, and the symposium Plato describes in his dialogue has no women present.  Secondly, Mr. Mainwaring makes it a special point to have wine available to his guests.  Symposia were also festive events, where drinking was a main activity of those involved.  Trollope’s use of these general characteristics of a symposium frames the rector’s party.  Further, Senator Gotobed’s behavior at the party is reminiscent of a famous Athenian:  Socrates, who is present in Plato’s Symposium.  Gotobed resembles Socrates in his non-stop questioning of the institutions with which he finds fault.  Like Socrates, Gotobed often provokes his interlocutors to anger when he questions the validity of their beliefs.  In this case, Gotobed angers Mr. Mainwaring with his persistent questioning about the morality of Church patronage and the appointment of the clergy.  [CD 2012]

Source:  Plato, Symposium.