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TROLLOPE'S DARK VISION: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN THE WAY WE LIVE NOW ?????? RYDYGIER SMITH University of Victoria Violence pervades The Way We Live Now, Trollope's novel of contemporary Ufe written and set in 1873. The vast majority of this violence is directed by men against women, usuaUy, but not exclusively, within the privacy of the home. Physical as well as psychological in scope, violence saturates the novel — and the Uves of nearly aU its female characters. At first, the physical assault of women is recounted as part of an embedded narrative of past events — as part of an individual woman's history situated before the "now" of the novel's title. But as the narrative moves into that "now", implicitly equating it with real conditions outside the discursive world of the novel, violence against women is recorded as a facet ofthe contemporary world.1 The prominence of physical assault in the Uves of women is one of the first things we learn in the novel. After the description of Lady Carbury's attempt to earn a living by writing (Chapter 1), Chapter Two presents us with the heading "The Carbury Family" — and immediately we are thrown into a history of family violence. The first paragraph explains that Lady Carbury "had been crueUy slandered" (1 1), and the following pages provide in the background of domestic abuse that lies behind this slander. Lady Carbury's husband, Sir Patrick Carbury, explains the narrator, having "married a young wife late in Ufe . . . had occasionaUy spoilt his darling and occasionally iU-used her. In doing each he had done it abundantly" (12). The narrator further explains that in order to survive her husband's "imperious" and "often cruel" treatment (12), Lady Carbury had felt it necessary to engage in the "practice of deceit" (12): "She would smile Victorian Review 22.1 (Summer 1996) 14Victorian Review within five minutes of violent Ul-usage. Her husband would even strike her, — [but] the first effort of her mind would be given to conceal the fact from aU the world" (14). Lady Carbury's history, in other words, draws attention not only to the violent home, but also to the ideological mechanisms that ensure its pubUc invisibility. As represented in this opening account, violence in the home exists, but is concealed from pubUc view. Blaming the victim rather than the perpetrator of assault means that physical attacks upon women remain shrouded in sUence. Lady Carbury's fear of social disgrace — justifiable in view of the "slander" that subsequently attaches to her — feeds into cultural pressures that inhibit women from speaking openly about the nominally unspeakable: the violent assaults committed against the "weaker" sex. For Lady Carbury, however, the private endurance of assault finally proves a lesser trial than the prospect of pubUc shame. "[Sjcolded, watched, beaten, and sworn at by a choleric old man" (14) until, as she privately confesses to Mr. Broune many years later, "wounded in every joint, hurt in every nerve, — tortured tUl I could hardly endure my punishment" (291), Lady Carbury is "at last driven out of her house by the violence of [her husband's] ill-usage (14). * * * Although the issue of woman-abuse as represented in nineteenthcentury fiction and social commentary has lately been addressed2, The Way We Live Now has not, to date, invited examination as a chronicle of family violence. With few exceptions, critics have foUowed the lead ofAn Autobiography, which identifies Trollope's concerns at the time of composition as largely economic or "pubUc" in scope. "I began a novel," writes TroUope of The Way We Live Now, "to the writing of which I was instigated by what I conceived to be the commercial profligacy of the age" (Auto 307). Yet although it has been noted that TroUope's fiction typicaUy "achieves more than he intends or than he says he intends" (CoUins 315), critical accounts have consistently focused on the author's avowed concerns. The novel's largely public preoccupations — fraudulent capitalism, press rivalries, and party politics — and its predominantly "masculine" settings — the Beargarden Club, the Stock Exchange, the Houses of ParUament — have remained at the forefront of analyses of the novel.3 Even when questions of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 13-31
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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