Trollope's criticism of the Church of England is evident from the very outset of the novel. Judging from the militancy that he has demonstrated so far, it is clear that the archdeacon will become a very easy target for the author's use of satire. In this scene, Trollope points out the subtle vulnerability of the archdeacon as he seeks council and comfort from his wife:
How much sweet solace, how much valued councel has our archdeacon received within that sainted enclosure! 'Tis there alone that he unbends, and comes down from his high church pedestal to the level of a mortal man...Many of us have often thought how severe a trial of faith must this be to the wives of our great church dignitaries. To us these men are personifications of St. Paul; their very gait is a speaking sermon; their clean and sombre apparel exacts from us faith and submission, and the cardinal virtues seem to hover round their sacred hats. . . Do we not all know some reverend, all but sacred, personage before whom our tongue ceases to be loud and our step to be elastic? But were we once to see him stretch himself beneath the bed-clothes, yawn widely, and bury his face upon his pillow, we could chatter before him as glibly as before a doctor or a lawyer. From some such cause, doubtless, it arose that our archdeacon listened to the councels of his wife, though he considered himself entitled to give councel to every other being whom he met.[17-18]
1. What devices does Trollope employ in satirizing the Church of England? Have we seen these devices in other works?
2. What commentary is Trollope making on the role of women in this passage? Do his views empower women or limit them to specific functions?
3. How does this passage contribute to the realism that Trollope demonstrates in his writing?
Last modified: 21 April 2003