But a very intriguing character is Harding. What to make of him? Is he a weak, indolent drifter, or a brave, ethical man? Can one be both? In this sense, "The Warden" is indispensable in order to understand him a bit more, for it is in that novel that the reader sees him in the middle of an agonizing ethical dilemma. He turns out to be right and also lucky in the end, but the struggle is not less hard for all that.
I look forward to reading the rest of the novels in the series, slowly. Trollope is a novelist of a high order. Perhaps, as you say, he doesn't reach the literary altitudes of Dickens or Eliot. Dickens is an artist of extremes, of caricature taken to high art, willing to take enormous risks and sometimes disappoint; Eliot is firmly planted on the ground of reality and we don't expect her characters to equal Harding's ethical standards for such are rare. Trollope casts a humorous glance at the world without forgetting the serious part of the little battles we all have to fight and which are the greatest for us, and he succeeds.
: I have tried to organize my thoughts about
: Barchester Towers into a coherent review
: without success. So, for now, I'll just set
: out some random observations:
: 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
: 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
: --Previous Message--
: Last night I finished BT. Are we ready to
: discuss it?
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