Quite recently, I have decided to start reading the famous novels that I have heard, but have not actually read. For instance, I have heard the titles such as Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, The Warden by Anthony Trollope, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Pride and The Prejudice by Jane Austen, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, and so on, but I have not really got the chance or gave myself a chance to read them. That has to change, so that when opportunity arise when I have to talk about these canonized titles, I could certainly claim in good conscience that I have acquired first-hand knowledge of those novels. If I cannot be an experienced writer, at least I could say that I am an experienced reader. And perhaps they are not mutually exclusive: one could sustain the other.
Such project has been instigated and inspired when I have started to read George Orwell’s 1984 somewhere last year. I bought a copy on a train station. If memory serves me well, it was very cold and the train was late. Instead of waiting on a very cold platform, I have browsed the book store in which I have stumbled George Orwell’s 1984. I hear my classmates and friends refer to this novel on our conversation but I did not really understood what they were trying to say because I have not read the book myself. Having a gift card on my packet that I have received from a friend, I was happy to purchase this very intriguing title. I have greatly enjoyed reading the book. When I say ‘it is an Orwellian view of the world’ or ‘in a 1984 like scenarios’, I am quite confident with the references and connections I am trying to make.
I am already in the middle of Anthony Trollope’s The Warden. If truth be told, I am not really impressed with the plot the way George Orwell did. But of course, 1984 should not be compared with The Warden. They are two different genres, written in different time and context, with a two entirely varying world views. I guess what I am trying to say here is that I like the genre of 1984 more than I like genre in which The Warden belongs. You could say that it is just a matter of preference and others might have different opinion.
So far, what I could gather from Anthony Trollop’s The Warden is that this is about a story of a man from British upper class named Mr. Harding. He is a warden of a Hospital who receives a substantial amount of stipend as mandated by a certain will. There is a new interpretation of the will that has come into light. It questions whether the warden may or may not be rightful and legal recipient of the stipend and whether the stipend may or may not have been spent according to the mandate of the will. To further complicate the matter, the will is being disputed by a man named John Bold who is romantically involved with the warden’s daughter Eleanor. Bold is faced with a dilemma: his conscience dictates that he should challenge the will which puts Mr. Harding in a difficult position. To do so, however, may harm his relationship with his friend and future father-in-law and by implication his relationship with Eleanor. Eleanor too is very much conflicted. While he is in love with John Bold, he is also very loyal to his father, which is very typical for a Victorian novel: A daughter, who replaced the position of a dead mother, loves and takes good care of her benevolent father.
It is therefore a test of how gentle these gentlemen really are. The novel sketched an image of how a gentleman should be. A gentleman should be just in the face of injustice, calm and meek when confronted by chaos and dispute, can put duty first above anything else even if it might harm one’s relationship with the people around him. The novel is a veneration of the gentry society as if the members of the upper class has the monopoly morality and can dictate what morality should be. On that score, I am not really convinced with the story. It is as cliché as cliché can be.I am even inclined to think that it has been written for a younger audience. But I am committed in reading it to the end. After all, I quite enjoy the language. I enjoy reading how it is written. It is fascinating to have a sense of how the Victorian English might have spoken.
I have heard that Thackeray’s Vanity Fair offers a criticism to the English upper class and high society. I would not know exactly because I have not read this particular novel yet. But soon that will change, because after reading The Warden, I will not waste time to start reading the Vanity Fair. If it is true what they say, that the Vanity Fair is a mockery, albeit criticism of the English high society at the time it has been published, then I am confronted by a beautiful contrast.