Last night I finished reading the fourth and final Dickens book. While I must admit I have some issues with his treatment of the feminine, he's an amazing writer. Relatively easy to read for a Victorian author. As I read David Copperfield, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, and Our Mutual Friend it was easy to understand how he could be considered the father of the modern novel.
In all truth, and at the risk of getting rotten tomatoes thrown at me, I can't tell you the number of times I thought his stories had been retold in so many of the historical romance books I've read over the years. In other words, I'm positive I've read these stories as genre fiction, which I'm sure many view as the antithesis of great Literature.
Now, don't get me wrong. Dickens as a Victorian writer could never get away with going where romance novels today go. He would have been run out of town or worse.
Yet, tell me if this doesn't sound like the premise or plot of a historical romance novel..
- Young man is disowned by his wealthy father and, as a result, leaves the country. Upon his father's death he discovers that his inheritance is dependent upon marriage to a young woman he's never met. Thinking to "test" her, he swaps identities with another passenger on the way home. Look-alike is murdered. Young man remains in disguise and ends up working for the husband and wife (father's former servants) who inherited his fortune upon his look-alike's death. Conveniently, his father's servants take in the very same young woman. Young man is able to continue "testing" the morality of the young woman. Even after the old couple figure out their beloved heir is alive, he remains in disguise, again to test the young woman's character. Eventually, young man marries young woman. Eventually, he decides she deserves the truth because she has proven her love for him and he knows the money is no longer the motivating factor. All the good people triumph, all the evil-doers are punished. The End.
The only part of this story that wouldn't work in a modern historical romance novel is the young woman's happy acceptance of the deceit she unwittingly endured. She's just soooo happy. No outrage. No retribution. In fact, she's rather self-depreciating throughout the entire "reveal". In short, she's the perfect angel in the house.
Of course, because of the ick factor, I'm absolutely going to write my final paper on the angels and demons within Dickens. I figure if I give each book about 4 pages, I should easily reach my 16-page goal. Wish me luck!