The Wanderer: Volume III

Despite my desire to find something to appreciate in this volume, I must admit that my patience wears thin. This is not a volume in the classic genre of "bad to worse," which at least provides a harrowing rhythm of progress. Rather, it is a volume that follows Ellis (now finally revealed to the reader, though not to her neighbors, to rightfully own the name Juliet) from bad to bad. How many times can the reader sympathize with the same kind of snubs, the same dangers from men, the same indignities and embarrassments, through all of which the heroine maintains her virtue and, less realistically, her poise?

If we assume that there was some external reason for which Burney required the elongation of her text, we might recognize the volume as an impressive act of creating a holding pattern without seeming to; the many movements of our characters pretend to progress, but have no real impact on the main concerns of the plot. Elinor returns to our attention only to, once again, not die; Ellis's difficulties in business and service continue but do not change her material position, which still hovers between basic sustenance and complete indigence; the unwanted attentions of Sir Lyell and Ireton are renewed, but result in neither violence nor love; a discovery of Ellis's long-awaited companion is made, but her situation does not change. This volume seeks to trompe l'oeil, but my eyes feel rather wearied than awed.

1 comment:

Queequeg said...

Bad to bad. Very clever. The holding pattern as narrative structure recalls my brief experience with Soap Operas.