The Drunkard’s nose: Making and unmaking the person in trollope’s “the spotted dog”

16 Mar 2018

This article discusses the significance of the literary techniques used by Anthony Trollope to present the problem of drunkenness and the figure of the “drunkard” in his short story, “The Spotted Dog” (1870). A conventional account of the dangers of drink in many ways, “The Spotted Dog” nonetheless dramatizes the process by which we arrive at ethical judgements about drinking subjects. Though ultimately revealed as a “drunkard,” the character of Julius Mackenzie is offered the opportunity to escape his circumstances, and Trollope implicates the reader in this moral experiment. Trollope invites the reader to consider the habits of mind on which we base our judgements – such as the evidence of the “drunkard’s nose” – but underlines the limits of this judgement. This interpretation is presented in terms of a recovery of a more “liberal” or “modern” Trollope, or at least one who struggles between the traditional and the progressive, and suggests “The Spotted Dog” as a kind of ethical exercise even if the conclusions seem incontrovertible.