When the bishop of Barchester Towers appoints "greasy mannered" Mr. Slope (a zealous evangelical who seeks to overhaul Barchester and attain as much power as he can in the diocese) as his clergyman, the power that the bishop's wife previously enjoyed over her husband's clerical duties is at stake. In his quest for power, Mr. Obadiah Slope seeks to marry Eleanor Bold, the widowed daughter of likeable Mr. Harding; submit himself for deanship (a position far beyond his station); rid an impoverished clergy family of all hope for security; and generally alienate himself from the entire community. Along the way, new romances are formed between Eleanor and the studious Mr. Arabin, not without the unwelcome interference of the calculating and ill-meaning Stanhope family.
The morals are typical of 19th Century, Christian, male novelists. Something which is not so morally commendable is the fact that the readers are called to sympathize with Eleanor Bold in her unadulterated "hatred" of Mr. Slope. The author dislikes the notion that noble birth entails inherent value (this is shown through the comic characterization of such characters as Mr and Miss Thorne); upholds marriage and condones charitableness.
The book largely sets out to satirize the contentions between high and low church. All of the characters(living in polite Victorian society) consider themselves to be Christian, and Christian matters are addressed usually in the conversations between characters. The church itself is taken very seriously, and the personal beliefs of the main characters comes under close scrutiny.
Eleanor slaps Mr. Slope across the face when he proposes to her, and the author makes clear that this was a bad reaction.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alcohol is consumed and Mr. Slope becomes red in the face as a result of over-drinking.
Kisses and embraces are described in the context of engaged couples. Mr. Slope practically drools over the hand of Signora Neroni and declares his love for her in a way which the narrator and the other characters find imprudent.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
This novel, whilst having a seemingly unheroic plot, makes for a rigorous and thoroughly satisfying read. The language is very ponderous, but this is what makes a seemingly simple and orthodox story become so labyrinthine in its reading, and ultimately a real "page turner". The characters are very complex and highly believable, and it offers a rare insight into clerical life in Victorian England.