Monday, August 29, 2016
Trollope on Dickens - a moment of postmodernism in The Warden
Trollope really has a lot of fun with the chapter about 2/3 of the way thru The Warden in which he indulges in a little postmodernism well ahead of its time: the morally upright John Bold who has decided to drop the case he'd been building against the eponymous warden - and did so at the request of, maybe under pressure from, the warden's daughter Eleanor, whom Bold hopes to marry - but then finds himself frustrated at every turn: his opponent, the archdeacon Grantly, refuses to drop the matter and says he will press forward with the case and seek damages from Bold; his ally, Towers, the reporter for The Jupiter, says that the case is too far along, it's become part of the public sphere, and there's no possibility of giving it up. And then Trollope gives us 2 examples of the public discourse about the case of the wealthy Church of England v the poor men in the old-age home - so we get a novel that contains another version of the same novel (by a different author). First, a Germanic philosopher almost impossible to comprehend in his abstractions and his dialectics - this is probably Engels? - and then a novelist whose novel about the case, The Almshouse, turns the characters into types and extremes - and this is obviously Dickens, which I found especially amusing - as you can see from an earlier post when I speculated on how Dickens would tell this story. Well, so did Trollope but he went a thousand times better and showed how D would handle it - and probably ruin in w/ sentimentality and comic exaggerations. I can't say that Trollope is a better novelist than Dickens, compared with D he's a little bloodless and tame, but we can definitely see how Trollope is more subtle and thoughtful in developing characters and in probing the nuances or moral and political issues.