Academic journal article Thymos

"The Hero of This Little History": Hobbledehoydom in Anthony Trollope's Ayala's Angel

Academic journal article Thymos

"The Hero of This Little History": Hobbledehoydom in Anthony Trollope's Ayala's Angel

Article excerpt

Using Anthony Trollope's character Tom Tringle of Ayala's Angel, I argue that in his portrayal of the hobbledehoy, Trollope is imposing on Victorian boys and young men a code of behavior every bit as restrictive and every bit as unnatural as the "suffer and be still" doctrine imposed on girls and young women. Using critical tools from the fields of Masculinity Studies and studies of literary character, I discuss Trollope's portrayal of Tom Tringle as emblematic of the restrictions Victorian gender ideology placed on women. What emerges is a new dimension to Victorian gender studies. The admonition addressed to Victorian women of all ages and classes that they should "suffer and be still" in the face of any adversity is well known, and is often accompanied by the assumption that no similar restriction is placed on boys and men. In the world of Anthony Trollope's novels, however, unlike that of many other Victorian novelists, women seldom need much taming, as obedience is a strong character trait in the majority of his heroines. His young men, on the other hand, tend to be far less morally evolved, and in Trollope's love plots, if anyone has to undergo profound changes of character before being fit for marriage, it is usually the man. I argue that Trollope's stern but gentle treatment of the misfit Tom provides further answers to the often debated question of Trollopes relative conservatism.

Keywords: boyhood, literature, Trollope, Ayala's Angel

The avid reader of Anthony Trollope's fiction is likely ever after to associate the word "hobbledehoy" with his portrayals of awkward, callow young men, unusually immature for their age and seemingly unable to shake off a prolonged boyhood. Although Trollope applies the word specifically to only three of his fictional young menCharley Tudor of The Three Clerks (1858), Johnny Eames of The Small House at Allington (1864), and Tom Tringle of Ayala's Angel (1881)- the type makes appearanees throughout his fiction. Trollope avowedly based his hobbledehoys on his own youthful self, and he spends the third chapter of his Autobiography describing his own period of hobbledehoy dorn, while his next chapter describes his transition from unfledged boyhood to full-fledged manhood. For Trollope, as much in his fiction as in his own life, the hobbledehoy deserves tremendous sympathy and gentle treatment, but nevertheless must not be indulged too far in the suffering caused him by his late- appearing growing pains. The quest of all Trollope's hobbledehoys is to achieve a state of true manhood, and in doing so they raise the question of what "manliness" meant for Trollope and his contemporaries, and in what respects it is lacking in these particular young men, as well as addressing the consequences ofthat lack. I argue that through the hobbledehoy Trollope imposes on boys and young men a male version of the "suffer and be still" doctrine every bit as restrictive, in its way, as that endorsed by such Victorian ideologues as Sarah Stickney Ellis as a guide for the conduct of girls and young women. Focusing on Tom Tringle of Ayah 's Angel, I aim to show that Trollope recognized his own manly ideal as culturally imposed rather than naturally occuring, and that he used the hobbledehoy to insist on both the necessity of attaining true manliness, and also how it might be done, even with the least promising of subjects.

Along with those named as such by Trollope himself, his other hobbledehoys include Perry Orme of Orley Farm (1862), Larry Twentyman of The American Senator (1877), and Hugh Anderson of Mr Scarborough's Family (1883). I have chosen Tom Tringle as the main focus of this analysis for several reasons. First, Ayala 's Angel is an unjustly neglected work. Although it has received some critical attention, only a few critics give due credit to its strengths. Robert Tracy's reading clearly shows that the text raises questions for him, but he declines to address them, choosing instead to dismiss the novel as a diverting but minor work. …

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