Monday, December 3, 2012

Barchester Towers: 19% Complete

So far I'm really enjoying Barchester Towers.  It's a little strange reading a book "blind," i.e. with no idea what the story is about when you start reading it.  I'm not sure I've ever done that before; usually I have had at least a blurb on the back or something to go off of.  But this one I just dove right into.

This book is different in many ways from other nineteenth century literature (Dickens and Austen specifically) that I have read.  First of all, Trollope's vocabulary is enormous: I find myself looking up words on almost every page.  Secondly, it's very humorous and tongue-in-cheek, which I'm enjoying as well.  For those of you who have read Pride and Prejudice, the characters in this book would get along well with Mr. Collins and his ridiculous ideas about how a clergyman fits into society.

Because there are so many vocabulary words in this book, today you get two. The first word is "abeyance" which is "a state of temporary disuse or suspension."  The second is "anathematize", a word Trollope uses a lot actually, which means to curse or condemn (both definitions from The New Oxford American Dictionary).

There are a couple things I particularly like about this book.  The first is the poetry of it.  Trollope is a very poetic writer and his story is filled with vivid imagery which I'm enjoying.  Here is a quote I liked which illustrates this point.  In this passage he is talking about a young woman in Barchester who was widowed young.  He writes:

"Hers was one of those feminine hearts which cling to a husband, not with idolatry, for worship can admit of no defect in its idol, but with the perfect tenacity of ivy.  As the parasite plant will follow even the defects of the trunk which it embraces, so did Eleanor cling to and love the very faults of her husband."

Another thing I enjoy is how Trollope breaks down the "fourth wall": the wall between the writer and the audience. He often speaks directly to the audience and talks about himself in the first person, which is a little unusual in fiction writing.  Here he writes:

"This narrative is supposed to commence immediately after the installation of Dr. Proudie [as the new bishop of Barchester]. I will not describe the ceremony, as I do not precisely understand its nature.  I am ignorant whether a bishop be chaired like a member of Parliament, or carried in a gilt coach like a lord mayor, or sworn like a justice of peace, or introduced like a peer to the upper house, or led between two brethren like a knight of the garter; but I do know that everything was properly done, and that nothing fit or becoming to a young bishop was omitted on the occasion."

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