Synopses & Reviews
, by Anthony Trollope
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The second and most popular of Trollopes six Barsetshire novels, Barchester Towers chronicles the struggles for power and position in an imaginary county in Victorian England. Passions start seething when an "outsider," Dr. Proudie, is appointed bishop of Barchester. Soon, his ambitious, domineering wife and the smarmy, scheming curate, Mr. Slope, are hatching plots and counter-plots as they try to control the choice of a new warden for Hirams Hospital and a new husband for Eleanor, a lovely young widow and the daughter of the former warden, Mr. Harding.
The novel combines the realism of later fiction (including Trollopes own) with such Victorian devices as Dickensian character names and a comically interruptive narrator. The narrators sharply satiric comments enhance the storys richness, while his playful, reassuring, and mocking asides subvert the readers expectations, giving the book an unexpectedly post-modernist flavor. Ultimately, we see that Trollopes characters petty jealousies, selfishness, and meanness are not metaphors for larger issues, they are the issuesthe same human failings that, in other contexts, can lead to serious social strife and civil unrest.
Edward Mendelson is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is W. H. Audens literary executor and has written widely on nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels.
About the Author
is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is W. H. Auden’s literary executor and has written widely on nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels.