In one of Martha Grimes' mystery novels, Charlie, owner of "a magic shop in Penzance" (66), tries to reassure his younger friend Johnny about his missing aunt:

"Melodrama happens. She didn't leave you a note, you said, but remember Tess." Charlie read a lot of books and spoke of the characters in them as if he and they were on intimate terms. When the name didn't register with Johnny, he said, "Hardy's Tess, Tess of the D'Urbervilles. The whole tragedy could have been averted if the note to her boyfriend that she's shoved under the door hadn't gone under the rug. He never saw it." [68]

Charlie raises some key issues about Hardy's novel:

First of all, is the incident of the misplaced note, which has such terrible consequences, melodramatic?

Second, if it is melodramatic, does that fact diminish Hardy's novel?

Is melodrama a lesser form of literature than tragedy?

Finally, can one have both melodrama and tragedy in the same work?


Martha Grimes. The Lamorna Wink. New York: New American Library/Onyx, 2000.

Last modified 12 November 2000