I've never been a Trollope fan--his treatment of gender issues has always driven me nuts. I find Dickens much easier to take when it comes to gender, which is a feeling that--when I stop to analyze it--I really can't justify.
Because Trollope's women are actually wonderfully complex, nuanced, powerful, and believable. And yet--it's as though he can summon these beautifully elaborated characters, but he can't quite figure out how to integrate them into a harmonious conclusion.
In <i>Can You Forgive Her,</i> we spend much of the novel pondering the (to us) absurd non-question of whether it's an indelible stain on a girl's character to have broken her engagement with a not-very-interesting older man whom she didn't love (NO! It's not! Duh.)--only to have her changing her mind and marrying him after all.
In TWWLN, he gives us Marie Melmotte, one of the most unusual and interesting heroines I can think of in 19c lit--and perfunctorily marries her off to a vulgar, unscrupulous financial schemer.
All of the marriages that spring up like mushrooms after rain at the end of the novel are slightly to exceedingly bizarre, and most seem like punishment for the bride. Georgiana (who probably deserves a little punishment) and a <i>curate</i> for heaven's sake? How is that ever going to work out? Hetta and Paul--all very well and good; but living in a menage a trois with the stalkerish and obsessive Roger, who now proposes himself as a father figure? Yeah, that's not at all creepy. Poor, deluded Ruby and that awful lunk Crumb--are we really supposed to believe that Ruby had exactly two choices in the entire length and breadth of England? A kindly but mentally deficient miller or a megalomaniacal cad?
Only Mrs Carbury, who is about 2/3 awful and 1/3 sympathetic, is rewarded with a union that seems built on solid foundations--except that it's a little hard to see why the stalwart and astute Mr Broune is so drawn to this disaster-prone, daughter-abusing woman.
But the worst is Marie--wonderful, resourceful, plain-speaking Marie, who has articulated awful truths about her society's marriage market with as much integrity and strength of mind as she can summon. Not only has she survived her physically abusive father, preserved her fortune, and renounced her unworthy lover, but by the end of the novel she has become an adroit business woman, familiarizing herself with her father's affairs and making level-headed plans for the future. The most excellent thing about her is that when everyone else is swindling, lying, and speculating, she speaks the truth and acts accordingly. And yet, she ends up with the opprobrious and unprincipled Fisker.
I suppose Trollope couldn't forgive her for her indiscretions (her attempted elopement), her unfilial retention of the money in her control, her ultimate lack of optimism about love & marriage, and, of course, her dubious birth. So he banishes her from the continent and marries her to a huckster. <i>Trollope!</i> You are infuriating!
Last edited by eaudenil; 07-29-2012 at 12:48 AM.