Who else will die?
While Edwin’s fate is naturally the one most pondered, there is also the question of other characters’ mortality to consider as well. If one character is missing, presumed dead, might others also be at risk? And what grisly end awaits the perpetrator?
Given that the overwhelming majority of solutions believe Jasper guilty of killing (or trying to kill) his nephew, justice must be done. In many cases he is arrested and sentenced to death; in others he commits suicide either to cheat the law or as the culmination of his own guilt and misery. Whatever the method, whatever the cause, very few solutions see him survive. Dickens spoke to Forster of the condemned man in his cell, and the sentence at the time for murder would most certainly have been death, so depending on whether Edwin is dead or alive, and Jasper the culprit, his fate is almost sealed.
Both on stage (1871) and screen (1935) Neville has doubled as Datchery. In both cases the cast of the original tale has been reduced, leaving Neville to fulfil the hero’s role in more ways than one, assuming the role of Datchery to return to Cloisterham to clear his name, unimpeded by suspicious or hostile residents. The idea of him as Datchery may account for his seclusion in London; when Rosa talks to Helena from Tartar’s chambers, Neville is neither seen nor heard – might Helena be covering her brother’s absence?
Her lungs are weak, Dickens tells us, and it is possible she knows too much about John Jasper: the Princess Puffer seems ripe for death. This death can be a just punishment for her greedy attempts at blackmailing Jasper. Alternatively, the Princess Puffer’s death can be seen as redemptive, and an act of closure. In solutions where she has a personal vendetta against Jasper, she often dies at peace knowing that justice has been done. Elsewhere she is collateral damage as Jasper covers his tracks.
Deputy is a curious figure in the story, upsetting the stereotype of cheeky Dickensian urchins with his horrific, non-human figure and behaviour. Many solutionists have tried to redeem Deputy and his death, or near-death, can be seen as the key moment in this redemption. In W E Crisp’s 1914 solution, Deputy had a death scene worthy of Jo the crossing sweep in Bleak House, with Datchery watching over him weeping at the sight as a lifetime of hardship takes its toll on another innocent child.