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88Victorian Review Works Cited Herschel, John F.W. A Manual of Scientific Enquiry; Prepared for the use of Officers in Her Majesty's Navy, and Travellers in General, fourth edition. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1871. Jeff Nunokawa. The Afterlife ofProperty: Domestic Security and the Victorian Novel. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1994. vii + 152. $24.95 US (cloth). Jeff Nunokawa enters the familiar territory of Victorian fiction where capital and romance coexist and illuminates the subject in ways that are often striking and valuable. The title of his book misleads slightly, inasmuch as he explores just four novels — Little Dorrit, Dombey and Son, Daniel Deronda and Silas Marner — and his occasional efforts to generalize about die Victorian novel are never sufficiently detailed to be convincing. But despite this and other shortcomings, The Afterlife of Property provides a provocative exploration of the role of capital in Victorian fiction. Professor Nunokawa convincingly exposes the dangerous and subversive role of capital in these four works. For eighteenth-century figures like Hume and Johnson, the desire for money was a positive emotion that could moderate less rational and more dangerous urges. Among less careful thinkers, at least in capitalist societies, the desire for money seems so natural as to merit very little consideration. But in Victorian fiction, as in life, capital and commodities have the power to shape, direct, and distort characters' lives. Even a casual reading of, say, Great Expectations will reveal this much. But by drawing on economics and theories of property, race, gender, and fiction, Nunokawa's analysis reveals how the forces of the marketplace pervade nearly every aspect of domestic life and harm characters in ways that can scarcely be protected against. The book identifies some telling parallels between the public quality of sexuality and capital: "the specter of illicit sexuality attaches itself to the circulation of commodities in novels like Little Dorrit and Dombey and Son" (101). But even the approved sexuality found in marriage suffers from commodification, and the market forces repeatedly shape lives that would seem to be isolated from such pressures. Possession of a spouse appears to differ from other forms of possession in that the spouse cannot be transferred to another buyer — not in the normal Reviews89 sense; yet Dombey and Dorrit, at least, show tiiat wives are not as secure as this distinction would seem to make diem. All die same, botii Dickens and Eliot, claims Nunokawa, depict die possibility of a married life beyond die reach and influence of capital, "a new domesticity, passed over by die forces tiiat ruin die first" (13). The analyses of the four novels are loosely connected by their attention to property and sexual desire; diere is no effort to show any sort of influence or progression among die four. The more satisfying discussions are diose of die Dickens novels; die chapters on Daniel Deronda and Silas Marner are much less fully realized. Professor Nunokawa shows how Little Dorrit depicts a world where acquisition of any kind — even of love — carries widi it a debt tiiat will lead to loss of some sort. Characters like Mr. Dorrit and Christopher Casby attempt to isolate diemselves from acquisition and maintain die illusion tiiat they thus incur no debt; but diese fictions inevitably fail. Only when Arthur Clenham and Little Dorrit are purged of emotional possessions as well as material wealth can they achieve a permanent and satisfying union that is free from the pressures and contamination of the novel's basic rule of exchange. This chapter's discussion of Miss Wade and Tatrycoram argues tantalyzingly but too briefly tiiat perverse love leads only to poverty in Little Dorrit. The chapter on Dombey and Son explores the vulnerability of property in a world where "to own is to own alone" (42) and where "property is lost when it is made public" (44). Dickens takes to its logical extreme die belief tiiat ownership implies exclusive rights, so tiiat Mr. Dombey's possessive love wants to exclude even Paul's consciousness of the emotion. But as Nunokawa shows, capital is inherently public; ownership implies visibility and tiius, in Dombey, loss: "Conspicuousness is leagued widi bankruptcy in a novel where to show what you...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 88-90
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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