The principal problem in almost all Trollope’s later work, from The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867) to Ayala’s Angel is that of judgment, of learning to understand and evaluate the worth of all the varying issues and individuals one sees around him. Sometimes, as in The Way We Live Now, the questions of judgment are posed for the reader, leaving him skeptical and wondering if any clear guides for conduct can be extrapolated from the experience of the novel. At other times, Trollope (fairly early in the novels) gives the reader the standards on which the characters are to be judged, establishes a kind of ideal, but then depicts a world in which no one understands the issues as the author does, in which everyone, at least for a time, misjudges a central character or situation. This latter kind of novel, less completely skeptical than the other, still underlines the tremendous difficulty involved in establishing any applicable guide for ethical conduct. In The Prime Minister, for example, Trollope plants sufficient clues concerning Lopez’ unprincipled exploitation of others early in the novel, but we gradually discover how and when the rest of society will see through him. The interest is in the process of coming to know, rather than in the suspense of what is to be known. Captain Marrable in The Vicar of Bullhampton is also a shadowy figure for rather a long period of time.
KeywordsMold Defend Heroine Century Contemporary Prose
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