Anthony Trollope World Literature Analysis - Essay

Anthony Trollope World Literature Analysis

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Barsetshire novels are regarded as Trollope’s major, if not his only, significant contribution to literature. Interestingly, this viewpoint is shared by critics, literary historians, and the reading public. There are, however, many solid qualities to be found not only in this popular series but also in most of his other works.

In all of his novels, there is a vast array of characters, usually set in motion by Trollope’s theme, which in each novel is simply a variation: the finely drawn English opposition of love versus property. This pleasantly complex situational novel makes for interesting reading. No problems of social significance are given serious treatment, for the chief purpose is entertainment. When Trollope did turn to more serious and often satirical fiction in later life, he focused upon English political life. Even though the Political novels are concerned with political maneuvering in upper-middle-class society and in Parliament, the focus is still on the conflicts between love and property. (Probably because of his own failure to gain a parliamentary seat in the elections of 1868, in his political novels Trollope both exaggerates and denigrates the importance of serving as a member of Parliament.)

A typical Trollope novel contains several easily identified common characteristics, and these can be readily found in the two central series he wrote, the Barsetshire novels and the Political novels. He had, first, an imaginative yet genuine concern with moral existence. This concern was his primary means of insight into his characters. Therefore, while the physical characteristics of his characters are rarely made clear, these characters are conscientiously described regarding their moral sensitivities. Trollope presents them through what they say and what they do, and also by directly commenting upon them himself.

Second, the pattern of his novels stays fairly true to form. There is no villain, and most characters are morally average, neither particularly good nor bad, not particularly exciting but not dull. Thus, readers recognize much of themselves in his books.

Third, one recognizes in Trollope’s works a disregard for plot. His characters, in keeping with their average morality, lead ordinary, average lives. There are no sensational or complicated situations, no great surprises or shocking situations. Instead, his characters deal with everyday issues that test their moral sensibilities, such as the problems of poor but well-bred young women seeking a suitable husband or the proper use of church endowments.

Last, the repetition of a short phrase at brief intervals and with great exaggeration is a quality that is often seen in Trollope’s works. The repetition is used most often to portray the truth of his characters’ actions and to show the truth of their moral sensibilities.

Although it is easy to view Trollope’s writings in a superficial manner, doing so creates a misconception of literary worth in the reader’s mind. Rather, Trollope’s passionate and real interest with moral existence provides for the variety and photographic accuracy of his pictures of the social life of the middle-and upper-middle classes of England in the nineteenth century. In Trollope’s novels, the real and the ideal meet; despite the futility of human strivings, his satire provokes laughter; and the irony of the gap between what his characters really are and what they believe themselves to be pricks the moral consciousness of his readers. His influence upon modern writers regarding the development of the novel-sequence and the use of reappearing characters cannot be overestimated.

Trollope’s contradiction, then, is a simple one and can be traced back to his deprivation in childhood. He was attempting to gain...

(The entire section is 1551 words.)