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Old 05-26-2013, 02:02 PM   #46
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I was certainly more sympathetic to Mrs. Masters than Lady Augustus. She was more "cruel to be kind" rather than portraying traits of a mean, wicked stepmother.

The nineteenth century is one of my favorite eras. I love reading books about American and British history during this time period. So many changes were occurring with social & political reforms, the Victorian era, the American Civil War, Industrialization, scientific innovations, the expansion of the American West, etc. At one point Lord Rufford points out to Arabella that there are many things that she could do that her mother and grandmother couldn't do but women didn't have absolute freedom yet and she was still bound by certain convenances to keep her reputation pure.

From what I read online, there are some critics who would have deleted the American Senator from the book. I enjoyed his role, especially the letters back to America which revealed his inner thoughts. I found this article on the web that discusses Trollope's views on Americans based on his complete works.
http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/...farewell1.html

Bookpossum, I liked your comments about culture. It is very difficult when experiencing another culture not to view it through the lense of your own culture's attitudes. I interact daily with British colleagues and travel to England several times a year. We also have several British ex-pats on our team who are now American citizens, and they add yet another layer of viewpoints. I interact daily with other non-European cultures too. I enjoy this fortunate opportunity to experience other cultures. Whenever I travel internationally with someone new, I always tell them to set their expectations that it is not America and to accept that they do things differently and to embrace it and the trip will be much more enjoyable. It is really hard for some people to do so. Similarly I find it interesting when foreigners visit us to hear their impressions both good and bad of how we do things. Understanding politics is especially difficult. The 2008 US Presidential Election and vice versa the 2010 UK General Election & resulting Coalition drama were especially challenging but really great discussions!
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Old 05-26-2013, 05:18 PM   #47
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That word perplexed me too. Since it is also used in the chapter title, then I think you have to deduce its meaning from the context of the message of that chapter. I found this suggestion from a google search. Seems plausible to me.

http://www.trollope-apollo.com/?p=2776
Thanks, I wasn't quite sure either, but as I cannot bear spoilers, after a while I stopped checking the thread - but now I've finished it, too.

I did enjoy the book, but did not fall in love, perhaps because I found it hard to really empathise with the characters - I agree that the more interesting characters are the three "negative" females, Mrs. Master, Lady Augustus and Arabella - and to these I'd also add the Duchess (though we don't see much of her). The other characters were too flat for me, but altogether worked very well to convey the horror of the English class system. At the time the book was written only part of the Reform bills (reforming the electoral system and the right to vote) had been passed, and I bet that Trollope contemporaries might have picked up more nuances from the then contemporary debate.

Bear in mind that hereditary peers (sitting in the House of Lords) were only abolished by the Tony Blair government in 1999, leaving less than 100 sitting. Up to that point, if you were born in the right family, you would have your seat in the House of Lords. One of my colleagues was a Viscount (still is), and every now and I found a document beginning "Dear Lords" in the printer Another colleague was "simply" an appointed one (parties can nominate people to the House of Lords). The reform has not been completed yet, and I do wonder what Senator Gotobed would make of the current situation!

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Or maybe happy isn't the word, say instead appropriate in Trollpe's view. In the romance department everyone is matched up with a partner from their correct social class. All the peasants are shown to have been worthy of being at the bottom of the social and economic order. Scrobby is sentenced to a year of hard labor in prison for the crime of poisoning a fox, and thought to have gotten off lightly. Apparently the only way that a fox may be killed is through pursuit by landed gentry on horseback trampling over whose ever property they care to. Goarly abandons Dillsborough in disgrace. Reginald Morton is assimilated to the proper lifestyle of an English squire, giving up all previous useful endeavors for a life of fox hunting and other amusements that a man in his position should occupy his time with, once he inherits the Bragton estate. That at least is one interpretation.
I lean towards this explanation: in the end it looks like each and every one of the characters we met deserved his/her position in life or the dramatic improvement.

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About fox hunting; it is forbidden as such since 2004. That must have been a minor revolution in some parts of England
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunting_Act_2004
Yes indeed, at the time there was a huge fuss on the abolition, with hunters assembling in front of the Houses of Parliament - fox hunting still carries on, in theory without foxes, but in practice various environmental groups argue that real foxes still meet a bad end.

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Despite a gap of about sixty years, almost they could have been Jane Austen heroines. Except for the trains! When you think of what a major event the picnic to Box Hill was for Emma, and compare it to Mary Masters’s train trip with Reginald—the world is opening up for the women, even if slowly. And Arabella’s day trip to confront Rufford demonstrated an agency impossible for an Austen girl. Tragic and humiliating, but powerful for all that.
had not thought of that, thanks!
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Old 06-05-2013, 12:17 PM   #48
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Sorry that I'm posting so late but I finished the book only this morning--owing to several delays of various sorts. I've looked over the posts so far and they are filled with some very useful insights and I doubt that I have anything particularly original to add to them, but I'll share my thoughts about this marvellous novel--for i think it very fine indeed.

I would agree with Issybird that it is almost a case of Jane Austen meeting Charles Dickens. It has something of the wide social spectrum that Dickens presents merged with beautifully detailed, realistic domestic situations centering around getting daughters married off.

As with Austen, conversations create a great deal of plot movement. In fact, it is the cross-purpose misunderstanding of a conversation that creates the most important plot element for the hero and heroine--a problem that continues to develop until the final resolution during the walk Reginald takes with Mary. Each takes the worst possible interpretation of subtle implications hidden in apparently innocent remarks.

Arabella--the anti-heroine--simply creates a conversation that never took place and builds her campaign upon persuading others that it actually happened. In fact, she becomes convinced that the mirage of intention was actual and not illusion created by herself out of self-interest.

I think that Arabella is far more interesting than Mary. The latter is just a bit too good. Arabella's flaws and the fact that she is to some extent a victim of the system help us to see her as a villain who is also a victim. That's why I think of her as an anti-heroine. She has agency, she attempts to use the flaws in the social system to engage with it and finally compromises sufficiently to achieve a limited success. The Austen character of whom she most reminds me is Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice. Charlotte also gains the maximum happiness by using the role requirements to gain a social position without having to fall in love. Arabella, of course, is more beautiful, more aggressive, more ruthless and of a higher social standing than Charlotte and she is far less sympathetic as a person, as she actually turns down a man who loves her--but in the end she still has to accept a role-oriented marriage.

Another interesting fact about Arabella is that she is on the cusp of becoming like her mother--a failed person. She could have accepted the small fortune offered by Lord Rufford in his negotiation with Lady Augustus but she actually still has enough self-esteem to refuse it to her mother's dismay and incomprehension. Arabella still has a conscience and this is what finally gives her the second chance to become a Minister's wife in Patagonia. The bequest given her by John Morton helps her to learn something of the nature of love and perhaps helps her to understand that social success isn't necessarily tied to personal worth.

I enjoyed the domestic scenes very much--particularly those at the Masters residence. Mrs Masters is another character interesting because she is a stepmother whom Mary actually loves, who tries her best to do her best for all three girls--and by no means makes Mary into a Cinderella figure, but who is led astray by her assumption that the practical social values that have successfully guided her all her life will always work with everyone else. It's important to remember that from her practical perspective the marriage of Mary to the honest, successful, likeable, but limited Larry Twentyman is absolutely perfect. Mrs Masters is locked into her mindset of the impossibility of moving beyond one's social class--a social class which simply has nothing to do with cultural attainments. Note her hilarious idea that poetry cuts up a page of words into short lines for show! This is why she is so opposed to Mary's visits to Lady Ushant. She thinks it gives Mary false pretensions. But she isn't a bad person. She wants the best for Mary--but she doesn't understand what Mary actually needs.

Lord Rufford? Well, he isn't any better than Arabella, really; he just has the ability to pursue his activities from a position of power. In the end, he marries Miss Penge who knows how to manipulate the system and is the approved candidate for his wife. I think that Lord Rufford is dimly aware that he has been manipulated into marriage by his family every bit as much as Arabella attempted to do so. Ironically, he may have had a more independent existence if Arabella had been Lady Rufford rather than Miss Penge!

As to the Senator--i found him entertaining but I could have done without the two chapters at the end as they only repeated his views from earlier sections. I think I would agree with Trollope that perhaps a better title for the novel would have been "The Chronicle of a Winter at Dillsborough".

It may be heresy to say this, but I actually enjoyed Trollope more than much of Dickens. I'm going to have to think seriously about reading the Barchester Chronicles.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 06-05-2013 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 06-05-2013, 07:16 PM   #49
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Great post, fantasyfan. And I absolutely agree with you about Arabella being more interesting. She develops through the course of the book, where Mary is just sweet and good all the time. No doubt the model of how women should be at the time, but not so appealing to our modern minds I suppose.

I particularly admired Arabella for refusing to take the money, and for her courage in confronting Lord Rufford. And you are right - she was contrite about John Morton and clearly learned from him something about love and decency, which were in short supply in her family.

I'm with you: if ever I can find the time, I'm going to have a crack at the Barchester Chronicles too.
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Old 06-06-2013, 02:42 PM   #50
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thanks for you thoughts fantasyfan!

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It may be heresy to say this, but I actually enjoyed Trollope more than much of Dickens.
well, I'm an heretic too :-)
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Old 06-06-2013, 05:35 PM   #51
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well, I'm an heretic too :-)
Three heretics, I say we've got our own religion.
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Old 06-06-2013, 06:35 PM   #52
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I may be looking to sign up too.
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:46 AM   #53
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It may be heresy to say this, but I actually enjoyed Trollope more than much of Dickens. I'm going to have to think seriously about reading the Barchester Chronicles.

I am reading The Chronicles of Barsetshire right now (well into second out of six novels) and I cannot recommend them more.
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Old 06-08-2013, 06:42 AM   #54
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Three heretics, I say we've got our own religion.
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I may be looking to sign up too.
The fastest growing religion at MR? I remain orthodox.
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Old 06-10-2013, 05:11 AM   #55
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After having thought some more on The American Senator..
All in all: I read most of Trollope's books in my youth and I enjoyed reading The American Senator now. Trollope is, without doubt, a good writer.
I liked all the different views/opinions on the book in this thread as well.

Often the comparison of one writer to the other is a bit like comparing 'apples to pears'. But, having read what I've read over the years, I must say that I prefer writers as Thackeray and Austen to Trollope. Trollope seems a bit of a light weight next to them.
I feel Dickens to be of another calibre; for me he is the most social minded of the lot.
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Old 06-19-2013, 10:03 PM   #56
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I started this, but I'm not sure how far I'll get before I give up. It's not as painfully detailed as Dickens, but these older classics move way too slowly for me. I tried The Warden as an audiobook last year and didn't get far.

I've put it on my tablet so I can read it at night before bed, it's certain to put me to sleep.
Oops, forgot to get back to this thread. I did manage to read this in about a week, although I do admit to skimming some of the boring bits (for me that was the hunting minutia and the Senator's sections at the end). The female characters had meat and were less predictable than I expected, that was a nice surprise. All in all, a worthwhile read.

I'll join the Trollope trumps Dickens club. I had to abandon the last Dickens I tried after skimming wasn't enough to get me through it. I skimmed the last Austen prodigiously as well. I fail at heavily detailed classics.
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