Trollope and Golden Age Crime Fiction

 Tomorrow sees the first Bodies From The Library conference on Golden Age detective fiction taking place at the British Library.
At first sight there may seem to be little in common between Trollope, who thought nothing of reassuring his readers almost from the outset of a novel that the hero and heroine will get together in the end whatever trials and tribulations they might go through during the course of the novel, and a genre which by its very nature seeks to conceal and misdirect the readers about the ending. However, closer reading reveals some interesting points in common.

There is a prevailing sense that there is a rightness and orderliness to which life should conform. Trollope was by nature conservative and liked the social order to be maintained. He may show internal struggles between high and low church camps in the Church of England but does not like to see this struggle spill over into the public domain disturbing the population of Barchester at large. The same desire for order to be restored after it has been disturbed by the events related in the crime novel is a core part of the appeal of golden age detective stories – the killer is caught and justice is done (though not always through the formal judicial system).

There is an understanding of money as a key motivator in human events. Whether it is the agonising of Mark Robarts over the debts he has brought upon himself in Framley Parsonage or in the colossal swindling of Melmotte in The Way We Live Now, Trollope shows how money, the greed for more of it, and the painful exigencies to which the lack of it drives people is behind so many of our actions. Often there is dependence of one generation on the prospective inheritance from the previous generation that drives people to act as they do.


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