Of all Dickens’ novel I haven’t yet read, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is perhaps one I’ve been looking forward the most. Edwin Drood is the first and the last of Dickens; the first mystery novel he’s ever written, and also the last novel we’d ever read from him. But the most interesting aspect of Edwin Drood is because Dickens was in the middle of writing it when he died. Moreover, on his last days on earth, Dickens’ mood was very dark and gloomy. The Staplehurst train accident that gave him a near-death experience seemed haunted him until he died. Dickens’ health was also getting worse at that time. Those were the circumstances that much affected Dickens when he started writing Edwin Drood.
From the beginning the dark and hopeless atmosphere has appeared between the lines. Remarks of death, the cold tombs, and the dark crypt can be found quite often. The dark soul of Jasper—beaten by the power of opium, and his mad love to Rosa—was vividly portrait by Dickens. Shortly, Dickens’ usual melancholy and sense of humor we have been familiar with, faded in this particular work.
Edwin Drood was a cheerful and easy going young man. Being an orphan, his uncle Jasper—an opium addict—has been his most close relative and friend. Edwin was betrothed to Rosa Bud—daughter of his late father’s friend—and now it’s time for realizing their marriage. Edwin came to Cloisterham—a cathedral town—but there he was welcomed with a dark atmosphere. There were his uncle who secretly madly in love with his fiancée and acted strangely towards him; there were also orphan temperamental twin of Neville and Helena Landless. One day Neville chaffed him of being indifferent to his fiancée in an offensive manner that ignited a quarrel.
Approaching the day of their marriage, Edwin and Rosa met secretly and decided that they were better befriending than being husband and wife. Edwin has been carrying a diamond ring he got from Rosa’s guardian on the day of the meeting, however as the marriage was cancelled, he was about to wait for Mr. Grewgious’ visit to return it. Meanwhile, before he could inform Jasper about the marriage cancellation, he took a stroll with Neville on the night of Christmas Eve. Then he was mysteriously gone. Either he voluntarily disappeared or being murdered, his body was never found. And now, in the middle of the mystery, Dickens died without ever finishing the book, and thus left the mystery unsolved forever.
From the beginning it seems that Dickens brought us to take Jasper as the suspect of the crime. We never knew whether Dickens had intended to “kill” Edwin Drood, or made him disappeared. Some critics suggest that as the book title is The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Drood might have not been dead, or otherwise there won’t be any mystery left about him. Makes sense, but anyway, it was quite obvious that Edwin Drood was set to be murdered. By who? And with what motive?
Everything concerning Jasper was dark, mysterious and suspicious, and he has a strong motive to kill Edwin. As I am discussing in this interactive post, his big interest in the cathedral crypt and Durdles’ set of keys and their night adventure was very suspicious. He even fainted when Mr. Grewgious told him about the marriage cancellation—shocked from realizing that he had killed his beloved nephew in vain?
So I was questioning myself, if Dickens wanted this to be a mystery, surely he would conceal the truth and spread false signs here and there to mislead us. Was that the case here? Was Jasper’s mysterious conducts meant as a distraction to conceal the real crime? Once again, the only one who can answer these never-ending questions could not satisfy us, and left us forever in wonder.
And what about the motive? I can figure out two motives at least, of love and of greediness. If love was it, the suspect would be either Jasper or Neville—yes, in mystery we should always think of the most impossible, right? But if it was greediness, how about the diamond ring Edwin had got from Mr. Grewgious? If it was the case, than we could suspect Bazzard, for except Mr. Gewgious and Edwin, he was the only one knew the existing of the ring. Considering that the story—when Dickens left it—was still in the middle stage, anything can happen, and that someone who has been previously behind the curtain could turn out to be someone with important role.
Well, we can go on and on with our analysis, but all would be in vain because we would never know the truth. I guess, even Dickens have not known where this story would end when he died, as he never created a fixed plot before writing this particular story. I read elsewhere that Dickens just wrote the story and thought about the details in progress.
Finally, I can only say that although this won’t be my most favorite of Dickens’; I still felt his personal emotions involved in the story, as if I could feel his despair, his struggles, his agony, and his fear of death—or should I say the intuition that death was approaching?—in most of the lines in this unfinished book. The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I think, is one of the most precious legacies Charles Dickens has left us. Four and a half stars I grant for this book.
*I read the 2005 Dover Thrift Editions paperback*
*This book is counted for*
5th book for 2013 TBR Pile Challenge
33rd book for The Classics Club Project
4th book for What's In a Name Reading Challenge 2013
2nd book for 2013 TBRR Pile Mystery Reading Challenge
2nd book for 2013 TBRR Pile Mystery Reading Challenge