Serial Bachelorhood and Counter‐Marital Plotting
Dickens supplements his attention to bachelor parenting with a commitment to counter-marital plotting, articulating male resistance to marriage through diverse modes, ranging from the comic to the Gothic. While Dickens has seemed the exemplar of the bourgeois Victorian novelist using the wedlock tradition as a device for social reward and closure, the security of such plots is undermined by a wealth of counter-traditional narratives, in which marital closure is strenuously avoided. Important work has examined resistance to marital plotting from within in Dickens's fiction, noting the near ubiquity of marital disharmony. This project turns from discontent to indisposition to register Dickens's explicit articulations and plotting of marital aversion. Taking the presentation of the congenital and celebrated bachelor Mr Lorry in the weekly instalments and monthly parts of A Tale of Two Citiesas an opening case study, this chapter proposes that Dickens's first readers read differently for the plot. It teases out the queer possibilities of the serial form in which linear, teleological reading is structurally discouraged and closure is only ever a temporary cessation. By examining Dickens's fiction through the approaches recommended by book history — attentive to the conditions of publication and the varied experiences of readers — it becomes apparent that marriage and reproduction, even when present in Dickensian denouement, were not usually experienced as the author's final word.
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