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He Knew He Was Right
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The Trollope Project - Archives > He Knew He Was Right Jan 19-25: Ch 92-99 and overall impressions

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

Frances (francesab) | 1798 comments Mod
Our novel comes to an end, and Trevelyan has died. This is a tragic outcome, and another portrait of pathological jealousy leading to the destruction of an apparently happy relationship.

Our other couples have settled as we had been lead to expect, and each in their own way appear to have a chance at happiness. Unlike many of our previous reads, there is no apparent "loser" in the matrimonial game-a likeable and deserving character unable to win the affections of their hoped-for love. I had fears for Mr. Glascock, but Trollope appears to have given him a happy ending as well.

It is interesting that Trollope tempers his tragedy with other happy couples who come to dominate the story as it progresses. Can you imagine Trollope writing an unmitigated tragedy-and did he ever write one?

Trevelyan's weakness was his inability to change his mind or consider he might have been wrong, to grow and develop. We've had some discussion already about characters that appear to change and grow through the course of the novel-Dorothy and Aunt Stanbury come to mind. Were there other characters who you felt showed significant development or change of mind or heart over the course of the novel?

Please share your thoughts on the above and on the novel as a whole.


message 2: by Emma (last edited Jan 20, 2020 08:26AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments While I enjoyed the novel, I did find it a little unsatisfactory in some respects. In particular, I found it hard to maintain interest and sympathy with Trevelyan and Emily right to the end. Trevelyan's obsessive behaviour was difficult to understand without any picture of what he was like beforehand, (as has been pointed out previously), and his physical decline wasn't really explained - it just seemed to be necessary for Trollope's plot and intentions for the book. Having said that, his deathbed scene was both touching and subtle in its ambiguity and in Emily's choosing to believe that right at the end she was forgiven.

One minor character who seemed changed at the novel's end was Priscilla. In the final section she says "I shall never, never have anyone to love," speaking with more bitterness and regret than might have been expected, given her former statements of independence. Are we to suppose that they were just for show? We don't really know enough about her to judge. I would have liked to have learnt more about Priscilla's life and her eventual fate.


message 3: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1798 comments Mod
Emma wrote: "While I enjoyed the novel, I did find it a little unsatisfactory in some respects. In particular, I found it hard to maintain interest and sympathy with Trevelyan and Emily right to the end. Trevel..."

I assumed Tevelyan contracted TB (which would explain the slow wasting away and ?coughing) which could potentially have been activated by increased alcohol consumption and general lack of self-care once he had begun to despair over Emily.

Good point about Priscilla. Perhaps she was quite happy to be independent when she assumed her sister would share the middle age/older years with her. With Dorothy now establishing her own household she likely realizes that she may have many years alone (or many years caring for an elderly mother) on her own.


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

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1294 comments Mod
Emma wrote: "In the final section she says "I shall never, never have anyone to love," speaking with more bitterness and regret than might have been expected, given her former statements of independence."

I think Priscilla is the type of person who needs to have someone to take care of, but she has to be the one in charge (which a husband probably wouldn't let her be - it's not clear whether she truly doesn't like men or just doesn't want to have someone in charge of her life). She was pretty much in charge of her younger sister, and even their mother, and she took care of Dorothy. Dorothy no longer really needs her.


message 5: by Trev (last edited Jan 20, 2020 01:55PM) (new)

Trev | 291 comments It has been remarked on before that Trollope wasn’t wholly satisfied with ‘He Knew He Was Right’ and, like Emma, neither was I.

Apart from the deathbed scene which seemed to carry the misunderstandings right to Louis’ last breath, I was underwhelmed with the novel’s ending. So very little was said about Emily’s and her son’s future prospects. Trollope did say that she would probably never remarry. Despite the trauma she has had to endure that seems a pessimistic statement (and in those times a bleak outlook for Emily) considering she has not yet reached her mid twenties.
Is Emily being consigned to the scrap heap because of her part in the ‘mistake’ of her marriage, just like Lady Laura, Lady Ongar and even Lady Mason?

Trollope said earlier in the novel that he was tempted to ‘marry off’ Colonel Osborne because of his wickedness, which would have been a terrible imposition on any woman. Surely Osborne and maybe even Bozzle should have been punished by Trollope for their misdemeanours rather than left to carry on their nefarious practices and ruin even more contented families. Of course, there is now nothing to stop Colonel Osborne resuming his visits to his ‘favourite’ relative but if the trauma really has taken its toll on Emily’s youth and beauty he will probably be otherwise engaged with other young newlyweds in more fashionable areas of London.

As far as characters that underwent change, the one for me would be Nora who gradually came to accept what her love for Hugh would mean in terms of the way she would live her life and her aspirations for the future.


message 6: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1798 comments Mod
Trev wrote: " there is now nothing to stop Colonel Osborne resuming his visits to his ‘favourite’ relative "

Even if Emily kept her youth and beauty, I always felt that Colonel Osborne would not be interested in anyone single-he was always after stirring up trouble and flirting with the unobtainable women.


message 7: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan | 86 comments Certainly Aunt Stanbury - perhaps my favorite character - went through quite a change in attitudes. From her opening offer to board Nora, which was more due to her loneliness than her generosity, especially early on. She began to let her self just live with Nora, gradually relenting controls as time went on.

From aunt, to matchmaker, landlord, business woman, she remained tough, consistently opinionated yet seemed to listen enough to move forward. She always knew she was right, too. But instead of stubbornness she adjusted enough to more or less stay right, at least for her.


Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Dan wrote: "Certainly Aunt Stanbury - perhaps my favorite character - went through quite a change in attitudes. From her opening offer to board Nora, which was more due to her loneliness than her generosity..."

I liked Aunt Stanbury too. She was one of the most fully drawn of the characters, and a very likeable one, with her determination to do what was right and best - yet constantly having to shift her ideas of what exactly that might be. Although proud, like Trevelyan, she was able to overcome her personal pride for the sake of people she loved. In Trevelyan's world view, everything is about him. This is not the case with Aunt Stanbury; her determination to be right works in a different way. Although she finds it immensely difficult to change, she does it.


message 9: by Trev (new)

Trev | 291 comments Emma wrote: "Dan wrote: "Certainly Aunt Stanbury - perhaps my favorite character - went through quite a change in attitudes. From her opening offer to board Nora, which was more due to her loneliness than her g..."

The difference between Louis and Aunt Stanbury was the ability to use life’s experience to temper pride. Aunt Stanbury was much older and had experienced both good and bad times, adopting a set of values which helped her to overcome her emotional disappointments of the past.

From childhood, Louis had everything handed to him on a plate and couldn’t handle it when for the first time he didn’t get his own way. He was still relatively young and inexperienced. His actions caused everyone to desert him, which definitely contributed to his death. Hugh’s threat that the Italians would lock him up probably only made things worse, he actually needed hospital treatment for his physical condition but nobody (apart from Emily when it was too late) thought about him and his predicament.

Trollope was disappointed about not being able to generate sympathy for his main characters but it seems to me that the ending of the novel didn’t offer much hope to those in similar situations.
There was too much of an inevitability of what would happen early in the novel and the downward struggle became more and more depressing to read about. The sub plots lifted the story to a certain extent but I think this is probably the darkest novel I have read by Trollope so far.


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

Frances (francesab) | 1798 comments Mod
Trev wrote: "He was still relatively young and inexperienced. His actions caused everyone to desert him, which definitely contributed to his death. "

The section on Louis almost felt like a "life lesson" sort of novel-a reminder to people (men?) that sometimes standing on principle/insisting that you are right, particularly when your friends have tried to tell you otherwise, can lead to unhappiness all around, even if you "win". This would also apply to husbands feeling they must be absolute masters in their own home and in their marital relationship. While I wouldn't consider Trollope any sort of feminist of his time, there is no doubt that he felt women deserved some agency in their relationships, and that the happiest marriages were ones in which mutual support and shared decision making of some sort was the norm.


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