Indirection

Peter Brooks – The indirection of all novels: the circuitous route by which novels return to the place they have begun.

Our Mutual Friend (1864-5) – The way in which the dirty money inherited by Rokesmith must be purged by the formal inheritance by the Boffins before he re-enters the narrative (reborn by “death by water”) properly fit to be reintegrated into the line of inheritance.

JS Mill’s Autobiography (1873) – Happiness is still the chief end and standard by which everything is judged, but it can only be reached by way of indirection–by focusing on something else (the good of someone else, the good of society, a work of art sans intention) and finding happiness along the way.

Wings of the Dove (1902) – Using indirect objects (such as a gift or a letter, or a grammatical object) as a means of giving someone else their freedom. Merton wants Kate to “break the seal” of Milly’s letter to Merton. When she throws it into the fire (“the priceless pearl cast before his eyes”) Kate is given “her freedom.” And the final letter (containing money) cannot be touched by Kate except through Merton; and it cannot be renounced by Merton except through Kate. The object therefore must be wasted if freedom is to be granted to the two characters. This is the paradox of pure indirection.

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