Saturday, March 13, 2021

Victorian Novels

"It wouldn't be a Victorian novel if it didn't have a controversial will in it, would it?" John J. Miller, "The Great Books."

This is true, and not to be disdained.  It is a great plot device, as it relies so strongly on its place in a society bound by laws, and traditions, and sense of honor that we know every codicil will be enforced without provoking rebellion. Yet it also sets in high relief that many people will choose something other than money, standing on principle or declaring their independence.  They will refuse to marry, or will marry someone who does not meet the will's requirements. Or the device will set into high relief the character's lack of principles, of scheming to find a way to meet the conditions while subverting them.

The murder mystery only sells in places where people do not think they are in much danger of being murdered.  It's not entertaining if there are actually thugs ruling the county.


james said... suggests that the mystery has roots in true crime stories--from an era when murder rates were far higher than now (except in select wards).

Texan99 said...

Something that caught my eye in the Gilbert & Sullivan confections I've been pushing lately is the recurring plot device of the legal rule or mistake that must be carried to absurd lengths. It's funny when people are basically trying to live together in a civilized and socially responsible manner, but not so much if you're surrounded by cultural anarchy, nihilism, and listlessness. No fashionable nihilists in a G&S operetta! The artists content themselves with poking holes in the hypocrisy and contradictions, but things mostly work out for the best with a mass marriage of all the unattached individuals. The flipside is a post-apocalyptic novel in which all anyone wants is to find a little order and security.