Thursday, September 8, 2016
Trollope's minor characters
Trollop introduces the Stanhope family in Barchester Towers. You'd think scams like this work only in America, but in this family the father is a minister responsible for one of the churches in Barchester county. At one point he traveled to Italy for his health - he had a "sore throat"! - and he and the family just decide to stay there - for 12 years! Not doing any work whatsoever for the church but still drawing his salary. Trollope describes the family as the most self-centered, narcissistic grouping of people in the world. They enter the story as the new bishop - generally an odious and feckless person but he's right on this point - orders them to return home. We meet them - or at least the 2 youngest of his children, completely self-centered 20-somethings - as they are invited to a big party that the Bishop Proudie throws for all the important people in Barchester (his conniving, social climbing wife convinces him that he must entertain - which of course means new dishes, silverware, everything). The daughter who was briefly married to a ne're do well Italian guy is a self-declared invalid. She injured her knee and decided she will never walk again, which makes her the center of attention wherever she goes; at the party, she insists that they prepare and set aside a sofa just for her use, for ex. The son, Ethelbert or Bertie, has no interest in ever earning a living - like the sponger in Dickens's Bleak House - but he's not a comic character - he's a truly unlikable character, not liked by us, not liked by anyone outside of his family. He spends his time at the party blurting out inconsiderate and ungracious questions and observations, insulting his hosts, and asking strangely provocative questions about "the Jews" (he had traveled to Palestine to convert the Jews but ended up converting himself - and then reverting). Not sure what role this family will play in the narrative - probably not a major one - but another example of how Trollope drives his story forward by creating complex characters - even the minor characters go beyond caricature and satire.