Stephanie Polsky: The Novel Ingestion of Opium and Orientalism in The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Отправлено 29 сент. 2017 г., 13:17 пользователем Sven Karsten   [ обновлено 29 сент. 2017 г., 13:18 ]

N what would be the final year of his life, Dickens turns his literary attention to documenting the growing influence of the East on everyday British life. Dickens's increasingly strident critique of the wistful contemplation of distant countries in this novel, as well as its predecessors, Our Mutual Friend and Great Expectations, coincides with Britain's progressively more forceful imperial posture in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is not the titular character of Edwin Drood who anticipates this turn to aggression toward the other both at home and abroad, but rather the mysterious character of his uncle, John Jasper. Through this character, Dickens is able to imagine nefarious allegiances forming that directly threaten an unwitting home front. Whilst on the surface Jasper is a kindly parochial choirmaster, underneath he is 'a Thug-a worshipper of Kali, the goddess of destruction — who has at least attempted to murder his nephew in a ritualistic garrotting.' That strangulation is selected here as the means of demise for his nephew Edwin Drood, touches upon another suffocating quality in the novel: the sumptuous and overwhelming imagery of the over-determined Orient, which threatens at every moment to choke off any local identity for Cloisterham, save for its Cathedral. The market town of Cloisterham, which serves as the fictional setting of the novel, is based closely on the real life English market town of Rochester. Its tower is an English placeholder of day-to-day existence, amidst the endless consumption of the East, taking place everywhere in the town. From Rosa's taste in Turkish sweets to Mrs. Crisparkle's medicinal-herb closet of Chinese curiosities, (which is periodically and erotically opened and closed up), much is made of the avid commerce between Oriental and English private spaces throughout the novel.

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