Critical Essay by Stephen Wall
SOURCE: “Trollope, Satire, and The Way We Live Now,” Essays in Criticism, Vol. 37, No. 1, January, 1987, pp. 43-61.
In the following essay, Wall studies the plot and characterization of Trollope's The Way We Live Now, contending that Trollope's concern for his characters prevented him from sustaining biting satire.
The Way We Live Now (1875) may seem to owe its prodigious length to the author's desire to provide comprehensive evidence for the thesis clearly signalled by the title. Trollope's Autobiography retrospectively defines the novel's subject as ‘the commercial profligacy of the age’, which is most obviously embodied in the figure of Augustus Melmotte, the forger financier, whose brief ascendency is taken as symptomatic of the general deterioration. Modern commentary—greatly reassured by the prospect of a Trollope novel which seems ostensibly and incontrovertibly to address itself...