English435TheWardenBleakHouse - Edmund St. Gumdrop English...

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Edmund St. Gumdrop English 435 Paper # 2 Glaring Colors: The Sensational in the 19 th Century Novel While free of the wild fantasy of the Arthurian literature which came before it and the laughably convoluted plot-stretches of the soap operas which came after, the 19 th century British novel could usually nonetheless be counted on to contain some breed of sensational happening. Though Heathcliff never succeeded in slaying even a single dragon, and Esther Summerson was not seen to struggle with an evil twin, the plot is yet sometimes looked on as improbable, and the characters as extreme. However, this is not to suggest that there could be novels without tragic pasts or the machinations of the hyper-sinister. Anthony Trollope’s The Warden is such a work, liberated from the conventions of it’s time. In comparison to the sensational traits of contemporary works like Bleak House and Middlemarch , The Warden is a sort of foil, dedicated to presenting a feasible story while simultaneously mocking its contemporaries’ tendency to exaggerate and dramaticise. The extent of this hyperbole can be plainly seen on the faces and in the manners of the characters who inhabit the novels themselves. Trollope is quite aware of this fact, as evidenced in the thinly veiled commentary of the intrusive narrator figure. The narrator speaks of “Mr. Popular Sentiment”, a serial novelist bearing no small resemblance to the Dickens of Bleak House (he even goes so far as to mention inspector Bucket by name, though with a dubiously doubled t), and in so doing takes care to mention that “his good
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poor people are so very good; his hard rich people so very hard; the genuinely honest so very honest”. In this the narrator is not frowning upon the usage of the noble poor or the hard rich in Dickens’ or any novel, but rather the unrealistic extent to which these characters possess these traits. We find an almost humorously tragic example in Bleak House ’s Mrs. Jellyby. That Dickens meant for Jellyby to be a dislikeable character is obvious- the condemnation of Jellyby’s brand of “telescopic philanthropy” is a major theme throughout the work. However, even before she appears in the novel Mrs. Jellyby sinks dismally low through the apparent treatment of her children. The first image of Jellyby’s home includes “several more children…whom it was difficult to avoid treading on in the dark”, and the first contact we have with Mrs. Jellyby is in the context of the horrible sound of one her own children falling down “a whole flight” of stairs. Her initial description begins with the mentioning that her face “reflected none of the uneasiness” that Esther “could not help showing”. By so neatly juxtaposing the description of Mrs. Jellyby with the misery she is oblivious too, Dickens means to permanently and strongly
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This note was uploaded on 04/08/2008 for the course ENGL 435 taught by Professor Forgot! during the Fall '06 term at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

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English435TheWardenBleakHouse - Edmund St. Gumdrop English...

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