Drawing the (Un)finished Line in The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Studies devoted to The Mystery of Edwin Drood have tended, in some cases, to dismiss it as a great albeit incomplete novel, whereas others have pushed forward, rather than backward, the speculations raised by this text, with a series of hypotheses regarding the disclosure of the mystery, and its possible epilogue. Notwithstanding the status of Dickens’s last novel as an unfinished text, The Mystery of Edwin Drood features a closed narrative structure and may be studied as a finished text. Charles Allston Collins’s sketched wrapper design and Luke Fildes’s wrapper and illustrations reflect the novel’s mixture of symbolic and realistic elements and feature a complete visualisation of its main themes. In this respect, these visual texts may be also analysed and “read” as original and independent, rather than derivative, works. Finally, the mystery the title alludes to suggests the actual impossibility of disclosing all of the novel’s (and illustrations’) enigmas and encapsulates a paradigm of unsolvability that is central to The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
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