Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers reflects the turmoil caused by change in the matter of religion during the nineteenth century. It is true that during this period, many changes were taking place in all aspects of life with the Industrial Revolution beginning. The author shows the reader how these changes caused such turmoil in the community.
To begin, the changes in the government in England during this ear prompted many changes in religion. The “Oxford Movement” took place, which essentially became a power struggle between Parliament and the Anglican Church. People began to grow bored of the dull rituals of the church and fewer and fewer attended services. Parliament decided to “clean the church”. They were to do away with frivolous, extravagant, and wasteful ceremonies and clergy. Low, middle, and high church emerged from this to bring in various degrees of worship and beliefs. The differences also had to do with tolerances of beliefs and with the different social classes of the time.
Because of these changes, people began to protest. They did not agree with what was taking place within the church and government. Trollope wrote this novel to protest the competitive way of life moving in. Besides religious changes, democracy edged in and disrupted the old way of life. Barchester Towers satirizes this way of life by showing through his characters that those who do not compete are winners.
Characters such as Slope, Mrs. Proudie, and Madame Neroni, who compete for power, position, and attention, are frowned upon. Mr. and Mrs. Grantly, who did not compete as other, are seen admirable. These characters represent the Hebraic spirit. The rules and regulations control their conduct and their way of life. There seemed to be a strong dislike for those who had outward personal ambition, or who grasped at power, such as Slope.
Trollope tries to show the reader how undesirable change can be, especially the emerging shift to a democratic society. He shows this through his characters and their behaviors. He wants the reader to understand his view on a need for authority. He criticizes those who do want to change their lives by way of power or ambition, and elevates those who stay with the “old” way.