In The Warden, Trollope employs imagery and detailed descriptions in order to establish his setting inside the rectory at Plumstead Episcopi and to articulate his theme that the interior has been very carefully and deliberately decorated in order to possess an overbearingly proper "clerical aspect" that appropriately reflects the personality of the archdeacon himself:
And now let us observe the well-furnished breakfast-parlor at Plumstead Episcopi, and the comfortable air of all the belongings of the rectory. Comfortable they certainly were, but neither gorgeous nor even grand; indeed, considering the money that had been spent there, the eye and taste might have been better served; there was an air of heaviness about the rooms which might have been avoided without any sacrifice of propriety; colors might have been chosen and lights more perfectly diffused; but perhaps in doing so the thorough clerical aspect of the whole might have been somewhat marred; at any rate, it was not without ample consideration that those thick, dark, costly carpets were put down; those embossed, but somber papers hung up; those heavy curtains draped so as to half exclude the light of the sun . . . the apparent object had been to spend money without obtaining brilliancy or splendor. [102-103]
Trollope includes a very detailed, precise description --in this case of the prosaic interior of the breakfast-parlour at Plumstead Episcopi and the belongings of the rectory. Trollope satirically comments upon the nature of this room and the manner in which it has been decorated. Of the belongings of the rectory, the narrator remarks: "Comfortable they certainly were, but neither gorgeous nor even grand." This establishes the style of the rectory as certainly comfortable and middle-class, yet lacking in refinement or ostentation. However, his next comment discloses that the style also seems to lacks aesthetic appeal: "considering the money that had been spent there, the eye and taste might have been better served." The narrator then lists ways in which the rooms at the rectory might have been improved, which include avoiding the predominant "air of heaviness about the rooms," and instead incorporating more "colors . . . and lights more perfectly diffused." He warns that such alterations might mar the "thorough clerical aspect of the whole" and concedes that the entire austere appearance and overall ambience of the rectory were achieved very deliberately and with the intent "to spend money without obtaining brilliancy or splendor."
Trollope also includes imagery as he catalogues the "thick, dark, costly carpets," the "embossed, but somber papers hung up," and the "heavy curtains draped so as to half exclude the light of the sun." Thus, he very carefully delineates a precise portrait of the rectory in order to expose the personality of its inhabitants. The deliberately somber, oppressive ambience of the rooms, which speaks volumes about the head of the rectory (Dr. Grantly), serves to characterize him and the intimidating public image which he wishes to project. He is preoccupied with embodying the tradition, dignity, and infallibility of the Church, and it is only too fitting that his residence likewise showcases such values and is purposefully designed to appear extremely proper, serious, and devoid of excess and extravagance.
This passage exemplifies Trollope's form of realism, as it conveys the minute aspects of the furnishings and decorations found in the rectory in an extremely detailed manner which lends authenticity to the narrative and reflects the larger values of the rectory's inhabitants, specifically those of the archdeacon himself. Although the abode represented is fictional, the precise manner in which it is presented allows the reader a full and life-like portrait of the interior of the rectory. Furthermore, such symbolic details assist the reader in achieving a greater understanding of the values and public image Dr. Grantly intends to project. It also provides telling insights into the socioeconomic conditions of the family; they are certainly respectable, financially comfortable members of the middle-class. However, their allegiance to the Church of England and Dr. Grantly's respected role as archdeacon mandate that their house be furnished and decorated amply and with attention to quality, but without any semblance of ostentation or even the slightest departure from an oppressively formal and serious atmosphere. The success with which Trollope is able to achieve all of this by means of a paragraph of detailed description attests to his consummate skill as a writer, especially in employing realism as a style.
Last modified: 10 May 2003