If a man cuts his throat he is at bay, and thinks of nothing but escape, no matter whither, provided he can shuffle off his present. … Men are kept at their posts, not by the fear that if they quit them they may quit a frying-pan for a fire, but by the hope that if they hold on, the fire may burn less fiercely. [One hangs on with the hope] that though calamity may live long, the sufferer may live longer still.
Erewhon is often a sort of mirror-version of England and I suppose Samuel Butler is critiquing the conventions of England via his creation. I’m afraid I don’t always get it. In this instance I do think the Erewhonian gets the better part of the argument. Have many suicides been stopped out of fear of hell? Doesn’t seem likely to me. Christian opprobrium, rather, just comes across as mean-spirited, like beating a horse with a broken leg to make it pull an overloaded cart. The cart isn’t going anywhere and the beating isn’t doing anybody any good.