chapter  Chapter 9
12 Pages

Puffed Papers and Broken Promises: White-Collar Crime and Literary Justice in The Way We Live Now

WithKaren Odden

Trollope’s novel provides a remarkable perspective upon the Victorian white-collar crime par excellence and upon the subsequent attempts to bring white-collar criminals to justice. The Way We Live Now is not only the longest and most developed narrative of a white-collar crime in Victorian literature but it deals with the commercial and legal issues both thematically and formally. The central plot of the novel is, of course, the railway promotion scheme which affects the lives of so many of the characters. More important, in his strategies of representation and emplotment, Trollope represents the painful effects of white-collar crime upon innocent individuals; and he produces a literary justice that holds the place for the legal justice that could not be administered with complete success in the 1870s courts. By using satire and romance together, Trollope adjudicates white-collar crime using two different approaches: he energetically criticizes society; and he rewards the good characters and punishes the villains.