Extra! Extra! Reade all about it!

In D.A. Miller’s article, “The Novel and the Police” he discusses the way in which the nineteenth century created an idea of discipline that moved emphasis away from a centralized police force and towards Focault’s “ideal of an unseen but all-seeing surveillance” (542). Similar to the idea of the Panopticon we saw in earlier discussions of Charles Reade’s text, Miller’s ultimate policing force is not, in fact, the police itself but rather an amoebic, unnamed body. I would like to tease out the parallels between Miller’s ‘delinquent police force’ and Reade’s corrupt guards and resolve my brief examination by giving a name to one of the regulatory bodies at work in Reade’s fiction (547).

Miller asserts that the police in Victorian novels such as Oliver Twist, far from being morally superior to those offenders that they are policing are actually part of the community of delinquency, “The world of delinquency encompasses not only the delinquents themselves, but also the persons and institutions supposed to reform them or prevent them from forming” (546).  Miller uses the example of two policemen from the novel who belong to the criminal world and are linked to its lower occupants through a cycle of dependency and understanding that cannot be broken or escaped. Likewise, the guards of Newgate Prison belong to a cycle of delinquency that far from separating the guards from the prisoners identifies every man as a reprobate in need of reformation.

We see this indiscriminate grouping of criminals and policing force in It’s Never Too Late to Mend, in the way in which Mr. Eden ministers to both factions, reforming the behavior of the guard Evans and the mindset of the enraged Robinson with the same type of ministrations and appeals to the men’s better natures.  Furthermore, it is clear that just like Dickens’ cops that facilitate as much as frustrate criminal enterprises, Reade’s Mr. Hawes encourages criminal misbehavior so that he may punish it and make it all the more likely to emerge yet again, as with the cycle of violence carried out on the prisoner Robinson.

However, on the other end of Miller’s spectrum is the unnamed disciplinary force that, without help from the police, regulates the actions of characters in the novel. For Miller it seems this role is amorphous -it can be occupied by the novel itself and by society, amongst other things. For example, when Miller explains how “when the law falls short in the novel, the world is never reduced to anarchy as a result” it is clear that this is true because the novel is acting as the “informal and extralegal principle of organization and control” dictating with its form what can and cannot take place within its boundaries (546).  Society acts in a similar way to regulate behaviors that are unworthy of police attention or beyond the scope of police duty, by punishing offenders of societal norms and mores with “prolonged mental mortifications of a diffuse social discipline” (552).

In Reade’s novel, one of the bodies appealed to when the ordinary “policing” of the guards, wardens, and CR (to borrow David’s term) is proven insufficient is the media.  Mr. Eden threatens all the above reprobates with exposure in the Nation’s newspaper saying that if his requirements are not met then he shall “lay the whole case before her majesty the queen and the British nation, by publishing it in all the journals” (Reade 272).  It is obvious by this repeated threat that when the normal avenues of discipline prove impotent then the priest’s only recourse is to this more powerful regulatory body, the newspaper.  (Need I remind you of the power of the press in this little dandy). If Eden were to publicize the details of the scandalous treatment of the prisoners than he is confident that the British public, acting as a policing force, would demand retribution,  therefore print media acts as a regulatory force of public opinion in Reade’s novel.

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