1. For me, the great strength of the novel is in the characterizations. The archdeacon, Mrs. Proudie, and even Mr. Slope, who is to some extent a stock villain, are all presented with unexpected depth. The most wonderful character, however, is surely the Signora Neroni. For me, she is a truly unforgettable character. She may be the most sympathetic femme fatale in all literature. Witty, insightful, and mostly malicious, she is capable of unexpected generosity. My favorite chapter of the entire novel was Chapter 27, in which she toys with Mr. Slope like a cat with a mouse.
2. It is hard (for me) to read Trollope without thinking of Dickens. They were almost exact contemporaries, and there are several similarities. Based on the three novels I have read, Trollope does not appear to be capable of the flights of lyricism or the stylistic flourishes of Dickens. However, I think that Trollope is much more successful at portraying women. Not only the incomparable Signora, but even Eleanor. Eleanor is in some ways a conventional Victorian heroine, but she has considerably more spunk than Dickens' heroines, such as Esther Summerson or Florence. Not only does she haul off and smack Slope for his presumption, but she stands up to the bullying archdeacon on a matter of principle. And the archdeacon underestimates her and believes that she is standing up for "womanish" values such as love. Not a likely scenario in Dickens.
3. I was fascinated by Trollope's authorial intrusions. The most striking was when he made it clear, early on, that neither Slope nor Bertie Stanhope would win Eleanor's heart. I guess that we all really knew that already. In a mid-nineteenth century comic novel, the heroine is not likely to wind up with an entirely unsuitable spouse. Even a dramatic novel, such as Great Expectations, was expected to have a happy ending. Nevertheless, I was surprised that the author would just come out and spoil the "suspense." It seemed like something that Fielding or Sterne might have done, not a Victorian novelist. Similarly, his discussion of despair over how to wrap the novel up with an fitting ending was a delight.
: Last night I finished BT. Are we ready to
: discuss it?
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