James Jones: Mystery's Last Page

Night fell again over Cloisterham. A stiller, quieter night than most, with the air carrying in it the heaviest sense of dread and despair a man can imagine. A slow pattern of footsteps emerged from the shadows, the footsteps of a man whose nerves and urge to flee in a panic were only repressed by the knowledge that he had nowhere to go, no place to hide. The unfortunate man was in a haze, accounted for by his habit, yet kept in composure by the solemn visions of that fateful night. He pauses, holding his head in the air in confusion, wondering what could have compelled him to accomplish such an evil, the killing of his own blood, before resolving that it no longer matters and cannot be changed.

He reaches his destination, the den of his depravity, and again begins to erase his consciousness. As he partakes, a woman approaches.

“Now yours is a face I haven’t seen here in far too long, John Jasper,” she uttered in a whisper.

“Nor will you again, my dear Princess Puffer,” replied Jasper. “I have no further cause to be here than I have to live at all. I am a damned soul, and a harrowing man.”

“Still your tongue sir!” gasped the woman. “There is no cause for such sorrow! I sympathize with your nephew’s disappearance as much as anyone, but all is not yet lost. It has only been five years since that night. He will be found, I am sure of it.”

“You don’t know what I saw, Madam!” he bellowed before he could stop himself. After a moment of shock, he continued quietly. “This foul substance that has long been my release has now become my captor. I’ve had dreams, dreams that have tormented me at such length that I can bear it no longer. I say there is no hope because I know of my nephew’s disappearance, or rather of his death. All I can see when I sleep is me taking him to the river, my hand reaching for the blade, my knife destroying his fragile body as it falls into the water forever.”

At this moment, the woman’s gaze turned towards his, and her expression shifted from shock to satisfaction. “My dear,” she whispered. “You have no cause for alarm any longer. I know of a place you may go, where these dreams will no longer haunt you. For the pain you experience there will be so great these visions will be fond memories in comparison.”

Then the woman beckoned other patrons in, who swiftly apprehended the addict. Upon realizing that he had been coaxed into divulging his actions, Jasper returned to his senses and saw through the disguise to her true identity: his beloved Rosa. After being rather violently ejected from his den and carrying him to a cell, a figure steps out of the shadows to greet the woman.

“You have a superb talent for persuasion, my dear. You might have had me confess just as well.”

“Quiet dear, they may hear you yet.”

They retreat into the night, as he pulls his newly made pocket watch.


Explanation

To end The Mystery of Edwin Drood, “Dickens” reveals that Edwin and Rosa conspired to falsify his own death in order to frame Jasper, and use the latter’s opium addiction to convince him of his own guilt. He also had Jasper confuse Princess Puffer for Rosa at the end, which further obfuscates the narrative and reinforces the theme of people not being who they appear.

The author contends that this is a suitable ending for the mystery of Edwin Drood for a number of reasons, both in-text and out-of-text. Within the text, it makes sense due to Jasper’s incessant pleas of love to an uninterested Rosa and the former’s drug fueled mind gives them the perfect opportunity. Rosa and Edwin’s betrothal ending prior to his disappearance would give Jasper sufficient motive and ability to strike, making him a perfect scapegoat for their plot.

Outside of the text, it fits Dickens’s writing style perfectly. While it would seem to depart from his usual resolution, Dickens has a precedent for having characters reveal different identities or relationships at the end. Oliver was revealed to be Agnes’ son and Monks’ half-brother at the end of Oliver Twist, and Carton and Darnay are revealed to be doppelgangers in the latter portions of A Tale of Two Cities. It also resolves character motivations by keeping them unsolved, true to the mystery of the title. For these reasons, I believe that this is how Dickens would have intended to end The Mystery of Edwin Drood.