Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In The Small House at Allington, Anthony Trollope continues his investigation of the lives of men and women who inhabit the fictional district of Barsetshire, a country province modeled on those with which the author was familiar. The people of Trollope’s imaginary countryside exhibit moral and social values that stand in contrast to those held by the more sophisticated but often more morally bankrupt men and women of London. In this novel, Trollope introduces a number of figures from the city into the lives of his countryfolk, so that the contrast is brought into sharp focus. Although The Small House at Allington can be read without reference to the other novels in the Barsetshire series, those familiar with works such as The Warden (1855), Barsetshire Towers (1857), Doctor Thorne (1858), or Framley Parsonage (1860-1861) will see how Trollope’s vision of society is developed through his exploration of characters from a range of social classes and professions who share a common set of experiences and values. Characters who are featured in major roles in other novels in the series often make cameo appearances in this work, and Trollope introduces additional minor figures whose stories will form the central interest of novels in the author’s Palliser series.

Like so many of Trollope’s novels, The Small House at Allington is concerned with marriage, specifically with the choice to be made between marrying for love and marrying for money or social position. Although the novel contains many elements that resemble those of the romantic novels that achieved great popularity with Victorian audiences, Trollope undercuts the form at key points to highlight the dangers of adhering too closely to the romantic ideal. Instead of meeting his readers’ demands for the expected happy ending, which should befall the heroine and hero regardless of how badly they behave, Trollope instead uses the familiar structural devices of the traditional romantic novel to explore a theme that intrigued him throughout his career: human perversity. Many of the characters in The Small House at Allington seem wilfully intent on making the wrong choices and avoiding the possibility for securing...

(The entire section is 919 words.)