Just about done with this social melodrama, all 1366 pages of it. Well, I admit to some skimming of the final epilogue of sixty pages or so, when almost everything turns out happily and loose ends are tied up. The journey didn’t hold up to the excitement and fearful grotesquerie of the initial chapters, but it was an interesting window into the mentality of the reforming middle-class, c. 1840, and it’s unflinching descriptions of poverty and social injustice still pack a punch today.
There are some blood curdling elements to be found in this story, quite apart fron the fictional criminals, The Slasher, the one-eyed Owl who would prostitute and murder the lovely and innocent Songbird, the Skeleton, lean and mean, with nothing to lose since he is condemned to death, and of course, the wonderfully monstrous Schoolmaster. And yes, there are the views of the reforming socialist humanitarian author, Eugene Sue, himself!
Sue make repeated claims for the abolition of the death penalty in favor of solitary confinement, for life! Further, he thinks lifers should be blinded so that their enforced confinement gives then no distractions from meditations on their crimes, which will lead to remorse and repentance, he thinks. Take that, Amnesty International! Amid all his digrssions and notes about schemes for social benevolent societies there is a clear philosophy about the so-called “deserving poor.” Alas, the rich, and their harebrained notions, shall always be with us.