The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

Phineas Finn
This topic is about Phineas Finn
23 views
The Trollope Project - Archives > Phineas Finn Mar 18-24: Chapters 70-the end

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1822 comments Mod
We have reached the end of our second book in the series, and the loose ends are mostly tied up.

Do you see this as a happy ending? Do you think Phineas will settle into his new life with Mary in Cork?

What do you think Trollope was trying to say with this novel? What is his view of the then current political system in the UK? What is his view on marriage laws at the time, and what do you think of his choice of wife for our hero?

Please post your thoughts on this section, and on the entire novel, in this thread.

(Also, I have solicited opinions on starting the next book in the reading schedule thread-please let me know if an April 15 start would work for you, and if you plan to join us for the next novel)


message 2: by Lori, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1323 comments Mod
April 15th works for me, and I plan to participate.

I guess the ending was about the best that was possible at this point. When Phineas got the Cork job, I thought, well, it's luck again. But when I thought about it, I decided that wasn't true. Phineas did his job well as a politician and he impressed a lot of people, so he earned this appointment. I think he will be happy with Mary, but he might miss his life in London. Everyone kept saying he'd be back, so I'm wondering if that is foreshadowing for Phineas Redux.

I found Trollope's explanation of why Finn chose Mary rather odd. That Mary didn't have Lady Laura's spirit or Violet's bright wit, but she loved and trusted him completely. Is Trollope saying that even "progressive" men still prefer soft, submissive women? Or was she just the personification of Phineas going back to his roots, part of his return to Ireland and to relative obscurity?

I think he definitely wants us to see how the marriage laws were still unfair for women, and he wanted the reader to feel indignant that Lady Laura had to leave the country.

I'm glad Violet and Chiltern got back together.


message 3: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Mar 19, 2018 06:57PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2116 comments Mod
It's a very abrupt ending, so I'll be interested to see which characters return. Maybe Kennedy can still pop off while Laura is away and she can come back and find someone else. If this were Dickens, he'd probably kill off Mary in a touching childbirth or tuberculosis death, leaving Finn available. But I don't think Trollope would do that. I really liked that Laura never backed down. Fortunately for her, she had money and a supportive family. Otherwise she would have been one of those Dickensian outcasts, like Oliver Twist's mother. Or she would have been like Edith Wharton's Lily Bart in The House of Mirth.

Finn is actually pretty easy-going. He could have been happy with Laura, Violet, or Mme Max, if he had met any one of them at the right time and they had accepted him. This personality contributed to him being well-liked in politics and helping him out.


message 4: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments Lori wrote: "April 15th works for me, and I plan to participate.

I guess the ending was about the best that was possible at this point. When Phineas got the Cork job, I thought, well, it's luck again. But when..."


I think all your points are quite valid. My first reaction to Phineas getting the government job in Cork was also it was yet another instance of luck. However, as you point out (and Trollope also), he did end up making influential allies in the government through his work so that he did deserve this job unlike his initial election to Parliament.

His decision to marry Mary leaves me wondering as well. Perhaps since he had decided to resign from Parliament, an honorable action, he had no other real choice. He almost does accept Madame Max’s proposal, but I think some sense of honor won at the literally the last second- he was very tempted. Was it that he realized he would only be accepting her in order to further his Parliamentary career, not because he was truly in love with her? He tells himself he has been many things, but not false. Maybe if he accepted Madame Max, he would have been false to himself. Mary is the only person whose social standing is not above his own, perhaps that is also an underlying reason.

Lady Laura is the character for whom I feel the most sympathy. She is the victim of the condition of women’s rights at the time. It’s not right that she should suffer from an emotionally abusive husband.

No doubt Phineas will return to Parliament and public life. Everyone expects it and as Trollope says, he has only had one difference of opinion with his party and people’s memories are short lived ( still the case in politics and many areas of life). Although Phineas’s journey as a politician has been interesting and enlightening, as a character I still cannot like him. Objectively, I understand Trollope’s plot device of having a naive, young and impulsive man as the main character whose affable personality affords him opportunities that would not be open to others. However, his constant good luck, his constant unhappiness when the slightest challenge presented itself, which always included his thinking about leaving public life and becoming a barrister, grew tiresome for me. Coupled with his selfish treatment of women, and in Mary’s case a dishonorable disregard, he is far from a good guy. Perhaps he has turned a corner with his support for Irish tenant rights, his leaving Parliament and marrying Mary, but for me it’s not enough to overcome his past actions throughout the novel.


message 5: by Phrodrick (new)

Phrodrick I like Phinneas. I grant some but not all of the complaints against him. His political career is what he wanted and he went for at some risk. For all the talk about earning and risking dad's money his progress was all conventional and not something his contemporary readers would have held against him.

He ends up doing the honorable in the Irish vote and Mary the girl back home. I carry no automatic dislike of politics or politicians and I stress that his election was a customary entry point into a political career.

His work as an appointee was respected and was part of why he got a field job after righteously turning on his party.

What I hold against Trollope was PF and his money. He should have been badly dragged down by his signing the loan. The arrival of Kennedy's sister cash in hand at the last minute reeks of Deus Ex Machina. The sudden disappearance of money as a matter of basic survival forced me to realize that PF is protected. Trollope will let no harm come to him, at least for another couple of books and he will be a success story not because of the proof of him as deserving but as a solution to some of Trollope's literary problems.

In a sense PF is a holding point so that Trollope does not need to invent a new character in his place.


message 6: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher (Donut) | 150 comments Actually, Phred, the business with a friend's loan had been done in Framley Parsonage, and I was pretty glad to see it resolved without difficulty this time, rather than a recycled plot.


message 7: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2116 comments Mod
I like Phineas too, while conceding his flaws. He has a good heart, liking almost everybody (maybe too much). He does grow, both in being comfortable speaking in the House and also being sure about his commitment to Mary. I don't think he would have taken Mme Max's offer at the point it came up. He had determined to stick with Mary. It was only after he left that he kept thinking about how he could have done it. Actually he could have gotten Mme Max to marry him earlier on if he had wanted to, but he was stuck on Violet at the time. So he doesn't act purely out of material concerns. And his decision on the Irish question was one of conscience and loyalty, rather than political expediency for himself. He's certainly not perfect, but strikes me as just very young, so I'm interested to see how he turns out.


message 8: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1822 comments Mod
Robin wrote: "Finn is actually pretty easy-going. He could have been happy with Laura, Violet, or Mme Max, if he had met any one of them at the right time and they had accepted him. This personality contributed to him being well-liked in politics and helping him out.."

I agree-he always seemed to be one of those "love the one your with" sort of men, and i think he proposed to Mary as she was the one close at hand and he was feeling romantic and when she accepted him, he was a decent man enough to then stick to it. He had already proposed (or close enough) to Lady Laura and to Violet, and if either of them had accepted him he would have been a good husband to them, and I suspect if he hadn't already been engaged to Mary at the last meeting with Mme Max he would have proposed to her and lived happily ever after in London!


message 9: by Phrodrick (new)

Phrodrick Except that it is a recycled plot. The resolution is entirely out of the blue. It lacks anything that vaguely looks like authentic.

Were this anything less than a last minute decision by a writer to dump himself out of a corner there would have been something in the way of foreshadowing or other indicator that this would or at least might end well.

The essence of Deus Ex Machina is a non-difficult resolution, but one that the reader has no reason to expect.
Or as that true vox dei, Wiki has it:
"a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object. Its function can be to resolve an otherwise irresolvable (sic) plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or act as a comedic device.

BTW there is something weak about a writer who asks you to forgive a dodge like this under the assumption that you have read his other books.

Try your actually statement w/o reading any prior Trollope and it become painfully obvious that this resolution does not pass the stink test. To add to the insult Finn comes up with a never before mentioned relative who just happens to die sending him money.

Trollope had, in the middle of writing changed his plan for PF and either Trollope or his editor got tired of the scramble for money as a plot driver for Finn.

To approach this another way. It is so obviously out of the expectations of the plot to have these unprecedented things happen that the reader is jarred out of the stream of the story to either rationalize or dispute the writing. The attention is off the story and on the writer, Bad writing.

Come on 4000 pages in 6 books, Trollope is not himself a god, we can call him on the more than occasional padding out and in this poorly executed switcheroo.


message 10: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1822 comments Mod
Christopher wrote: "Actually, Phred, the business with a friend's loan had been done in Framley Parsonage, and I was pretty glad to see it resolved without difficulty this time, rather than a recycled plot."

I was starting to wonder if that's just Trollope giving out cautionary tales about not co-signing loans!


message 11: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher (Donut) | 150 comments Phrodrick wrote: "Except that it is a recycled plot. The resolution is entirely out of the blue. It lacks anything that vaguely looks like authentic.

Were this anything less than a last minute decision by a writer ..."


You may have a point Phred. Don't forget that Firzgerald is a 'foil' to Finn, the "Irish member" who goes down, not up, so maybe the loan in this case was a narrow escape which leads to a break with a role model who was not worth emulating (to say the least).

I must admit I did not take advantage of this discussion to catch up with this novel and actually finish it, so my memory is vague, but based on that, Finn's getting bailed out did not seem as implausible to me as it does to you.

It may also be a case of "everything must be paid for," and whoever buys Finn out gets his money's worth. I don't remember.


message 12: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments I have to agree with both sides of this discussion regarding Fitzgibbon’s bill. I think this plot thread illustrates the pitfalls in political life for both the newbie and the experienced. It is just another illustration of the situations Phineas’s naivete lead him into. As for Fitzgibbon, he does illustrate how MPs can descend into eventually ruinous behavior. So I think the setup is valid, but I also agree that Miss Fitzgibbons appearing out of the blue to rescue Phineas is way too convenient and manipulative (on the author’s part). However, I do find that Trollope has repeatedly found the easy, and potentially illogical, resolution both in this novel and others I’ve read so far. Some are more annoying than others!


message 13: by Karen (last edited Mar 22, 2018 06:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karen (karinlib) When I finished the book, I was so tempted to start Phineas Redux, just to find out what happens, but I started The Eustace Diamonds instead.

One of the things that I like about Trollope, is that you begin to think he is going to write the same plot that he did in an earlier book, then he changes it enough to make the book interesting.


message 14: by Dan (last edited Mar 22, 2018 10:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan | 86 comments I don't have the book in front of me, and I finished last month, so my memory may be a little hazy. But it seems to me that when in Ireland, PF loved Mary. Before he left he loved her, and everyone thought they might marry. He left to study law in England, and there is no mention of any other women during this time. His first trip home ended with a deep kiss, and lots of hanging about, His next trip home, I believe - before he voted against his Party, when he came with another MP RE: the "Irish Question"- he at first tried to avoid seeing Mary, as he didn't trust himself. And it has been very clear since very early that Phin was the man for Mary.

Trollope, by all accounts, was not an author who started a book without knowing exactly how it would end, and most of what will happen. Except for his very last novel, he never started serializing a novel before the book was complete.

Trollope liked Ireland, and many Irish folks, and met his wife there, (she was English). Seems to me more likely that Trollope wrote the book out of a "What if I grew up in Ireland?" mode, and Trollope was no cad.


message 15: by Phrodrick (new)

Phrodrick Linda wrote: "I have to agree with both sides of this discussion regarding Fitzgibbon’s bill. I think this plot thread illustrates the pitfalls in political life for both the newbie and the experienced. It is ju..."

Fitzgibbon!!! Thank you for that I had Kennedy fixed in my mind

Also:
"Trollope, by all accounts, was not an author who started a book without knowing exactly how it would end, and most of what will happen."

Accepted w/o demure and appreciate the info. Still a writer such as Trollope can write himself into a corner, give himself a get out of jail pass (I do a side business on mixed metaphors) and leave it as a done deal, no need to re-think.


message 16: by Linda (new)

Linda | 207 comments Dan wrote: "I don't have the book in front of me, and I finished last month, so my memory may be a little hazy. But it seems to me that when in Ireland, PF loved Mary. Before he left he loved her, and everyone..."

I agree that Mary’s love and commitment to Phineas is deep throughout the novel. Also that Phineas feels affection for or is attracted to Mary when he is in Ireland. His problem is that when he’s not in Ireland, he’s in love with Laura or Violet or maybe even Madame Max and thinks not a whit about Mary. During his visit home when Mary’s mother has taken Mary away from Killaloe because she mistrusts Phineas and believes he has acted dishonorably, Phineas knows he has mistreated Mary and rationalizes that perhaps he loves two people at once- Mary when he’s in Ireland and Violet when he’s in London. He thinks about proposing to Mary because Violet will not marry him, but he knows that Mary will. However, never mind, at least at this point in the story, Phineas needs to return to London and Parliament so Mary will be forgotten once more. It’s this behavior which causes me to doubt any true love for Mary on Phineas’s part. At the end of the story, his honorable action about Irish tenant rights necessitates his return to Ireland and so naturally he will conclude that he could have no better wife than Mary. If for any reason, he had decided to stay in London, Mary would still be unmarried. It will be interesting to see how their marriage develops in Phineas Redux- maybe my estimation of Phineas as a husband will improve!


message 17: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
At the end of the novel there were two marriages, Madame Max's status was unchanged, and Laura was miserable. She admits that she made a big mistake in marrying Kenneday, but she is being much too severely punished by that horrible man.
I hope we learn more about her in future novels, and especially that her lot in life is better.

As a footnote: Finn was working on the Canadian railroad question, which was actually a very important issue in Canada. And he did his job well.

I am glad he followed his conscience on the Irish question.


message 18: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1822 comments Mod
We do find out a lot more about Lady Laura and Kennedy (and PF of course) in our later novels-you have a treat in store as you catch us up!


message 19: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1822 comments Mod
Agreed, it's interesting to see the Canadian railroad question come up in this novel.


message 20: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
That's good to know. I was picturing Laura languishing in Dresden.


back to top