Tuesday, August 30, 2016
The making of a hero: Trollope's The Warden
Trollope's The Warden, the first of his Barchester novels, is nowhere near as complex - nor as provocative - as the other T novel I've read recently, Dr. Thorne (Barchester #3), but it's elegant in its simplicity, esp for a fairly long (by 21st-century standards) Victorian novel: very few characters, really only 4 of significance and just a few on the periphery and essentially only one action: public outrage rises regarding whether the church of England has misappropriated a charitable legacy and used the funds to richly pay the eponymous warden while the intended beneficiaries, the elderly impoverished men of the region, live on a pittance. Though the advocate for the poor drops the case, for personal reasons, the warden feels he cannot continue to live in this manner, even if the law is on his side, and he decides to give up he sinecure and live on much smaller church pension, in near poverty. Almost nobody, esp his fellow churchmen, can understand why he would do such a thing - which, by the way, will not put a penny more in the pockets of the indigent (in fact, it will take some money away from them). But we can understand his actions: he's a true hero, selfless, a man of feeling and conscience, and the beauty of the novel is that we see him grow and mature, we see him change and rise up to take an incredibly courageous and selfless moral action. At the outset, he seemed like a milquetoast, he seemed oblivious and unable even to comprehend the charges against him - he was within the system and couldn't imagine that the system could be wrong. But over time he gains much greater understanding and becomes heroic (he was always kind and, within reason, generous). It's a fine short (by 19th-century standards) novel that could be adapted well to circumstances today.