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Nicholas Nickleby
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The Dickens Project > "Nicholas Nickleby" by Charles Dickens, Week Five, Chapters 21-25

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1456 comments Mod
It is time to start discussing the new section of this wonderful novel. Please join this discussion and tell us what you think about chapters 21-25.


message 2: by Zulfiya (last edited Feb 05, 2012 06:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1456 comments Mod
These chapters were originally published as different parts of two installments. This fact explains why the mood shifts and fluctuates thought the section.

Chapter 21 focuses on trials and tribulations of Kate and her mother and can be interpreted in the frame of the small chapter-long Vanity Fair: Mr. Mantalini with his numerous but shallow compliments, Miss Knag who, due to her feeling of revenge and hurt pride, decides to fire Kate, Mr. and Mrs. Wititterly (what a name) act as if they were the hub of this universe. On the other hand, this chapter is another amazing example of the topicality of this novel. Bankruptcy, unfortunately, is a part and parcel of modern world with its negative repercussions for a number of unnamed victims.

The other part of this section has a much more festive mood and has the certain quality of a carnival: bright costumes, bright characters, and phenomena (actually, there is only one true phenomenon – Miss Crummles). Most of characters in this part have the unmistakable Dickens touch – they are bigger than life: over-emotional, tempestuous, impulsive, happy-go-lucky, and merry. All their troubles seem fatuous and not threatening as if all the issues can be easily resolved, the costumes mended, and the substitutions easily found. Dickens also ‘spices’ the text of the chapters with his authentic humorous and ironic phrases like The pony took his time upon the road, and--possibly in consequence of his theatrical education--evinced, every now and then, a strong inclination to lie down. However, Mr Vincent Crummles kept him up pretty well, by jerking the rein, and plying the whip; and when these means failed, and the animal came to a stand, the elder Master Crummles got out and kicked him.

Another lovely example. The bridesmaids were quite covered with artificial flowers, and the phenomenon, in particular, was rendered almost invisible by the portable arbour in which she was enshrined.

My favorite lines are the lines of the awakening city. Dickens superbly captures and portrays the spirit and essence of London in the wee hours of the morning. It was a cold, dry, foggy morning in early spring. A few meager shadows flitted to and fro in the misty streets, and occasionally there loomed through the dull vapour, the heavy outline of some hackney coach wending homewards, which, drawing slowly nearer, rolled jangling by, scattering the thin crust of frost from its whitened roof, and soon was lost again in the cloud. At intervals were heard the tread of slipshod feet, and the chilly cry of the poor sweep as he crept, shivering, to his early toil; the heavy footfall of the official watcher of the night, pacing slowly up and down and cursing the tardy hours that still intervened between him and sleep; the rambling of ponderous carts and waggons; the roll of the lighter vehicles which carried buyers and sellers to the different markets; the sound of ineffectual knocking at the doors of heavy sleepers--all these noises fell upon the ear from time to time, but all seemed muffled by the fog, and to be rendered almost as indistinct to the ear as was every object to the sight. The sluggish darkness thickened as the day came on; and those who had the courage to rise and peep at the gloomy street from their curtained windows, crept back to bed again, and coiled themselves up to sleep.
Everything in this passage (the choice of words, the way they are strung, the structure of the sentences) contributes to the wonderful verbal picture of London that virtually becomes tangible and audible.


MadgeUK | 5214 comments Lovely quotes Zulfiya:). Artists (and film makers) have always been drawn to London in early morning mist (fog!) and Claude Monet made special visits to paint them. Perhaps they were also drawn by verbal pictures such as Dickens painted.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/...

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/monet/mon...

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?...


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1456 comments Mod
Monet's masterpiece is a wonderful image of both the serenity of London and its reputation as a world workshop.


Lynnm | 2147 comments I thought you might find this interesting. An article from the NY Times today on Dickens and lawyers:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/06/opi...


MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks Lynnm - an excellent article. I like 'Isn’t it true that for both lawyers and novelists, whoever tells the best story wins?' :)


Lynnm | 2147 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Thanks Lynnm - an excellent article. I like 'Isn’t it true that for both lawyers and novelists, whoever tells the best story wins?' :)"

That's a great line. :-)


Mari Mann (MariMann) | 43 comments Zulfiya wrote: "These chapters were originally published as different parts of two installments. This fact explains why the mood shifts and fluctuates thought the section.

Chapter 21 focuses on trials and tribu..."


These are lovely quotes you have highlighted for us, Zulfiya! And your analysis and insights are helpful and illuminating too. I'm learning so much by participating here.


Mari Mann (MariMann) | 43 comments I still am liking Mr. Mantalini, yes, I know he's a scoundrel, but he's such a charming one!

"Ruined!" cried Mr. Mantalini, "Have I brought ruin upon the best and purest creature that ever blessed a demnition vagabond! Demmit, let me go!" At this crisis of his ravings Mr. Mantalini made a pluck at the breakfast-knife, and being restrained by his wife's grasp, attempted to dash his head against the wall- taking very good care to be at least six feet from it."

Just gotta love him. The illustration of him brandishing the breakfast-knife, his hair flying wildly and his eyes popping, is wonderful. I'll post it and some others soon. (Wait till you see "the phenomenon"!)


Robin | 458 comments I loved the theater chapters. Dickens pokes fun at the troupe as he does at everyone, for their pretensions, but it is clear how much he loved the theater. Interesting that they are away from London, and from Yorkshire, a real break from the grimness of the world. The description of the actions on stage is delightful, in that a logical plot is irrelevant, the important thing is to have lots of action, special effects, and dramatic scenes. This is the recipe still used in many popular movies!

Nicholas starts to unbend from his stodginess, he laughs more than once, and after asserting that he could never go out and solicit donations, he decides it doesn't really matter what people think of him. Perhaps he does so well in the play because it's an exaggeration of his real life. He has to stand up to his "unworthy" mother and win a fight with the villain, all the while clearly portraying that he is a gentleman. The melodrama that seemed out of place in Yorkshire is now right at home.


message 11: by Zulfiya (last edited Feb 08, 2012 09:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1456 comments Mod
Mari wrote: "Zulfiya wrote: "These chapters were originally published as different parts of two installments. This fact explains why the mood shifts and fluctuates thought the section.

Chapter 21 focuses on ..."


Thank you very much, Mari. Reading the book with the people who share the passion for reading and writing is the most rewarding experience.

Mr. Mantalini is a wonderful example of the image exploitation - he is a stereotypical Italian who can always find the way to the lady's heart, using his language and manners. And he can also win the hearts of the feminine readers:-)


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1456 comments Mod
Robin wrote: "I loved the theater chapters. Dickens pokes fun at the troupe as he does at everyone, for their pretensions, but it is clear how much he loved the theater. Interesting that they are away from Londo..."

Robin, you are absolutely right - this part is quite melodramatic (and I don't mean the lieu of the theater with the obviously exaggerated emotions, but the other scenes as well). Thank you for a very insightful observation.


MadgeUK | 5214 comments Nicholas is thought to be an autobiographical portrait of Dickens, who did a lot of theatre performances himself. I wonder if he was poking fun at the people he worked with and if they recognised themselves?


Mari Mann (MariMann) | 43 comments I just uploaded two illustrations to the photo folder, one of Mr. Mantalini and one of the infant phenom! And also discovered that Johan had posted a few as well, from London editions, I believe. Two are in colour!

Robin noted that Nicholas seems to be loosening up a bit, that he laughs more, I agree and feel that it is making him more human (as well as his solicitousness towards Smike). Nicholas has a sense of humor too: Mr. Crummles has just told Nicholas that Mrs. Crummles "...was the original Blood Drinker."
"Was she indeed?" (Nicholas replies)
"Yes. She was obliged to give it up though."
"Did it disagree with her?" asked Nicholas.

It's like a comedy routine, with Mr. Crummles feeding Nicholas the straight lines. I liked this bit too, where Nicholas is discussing Mr. Lillyvick's upcoming wedding with him:

"And there'll be brides-maids, I presume?" said Nicholas.
"Why," said the collector with a rueful face, "they will have four brides-maids; I'm afraid they'll make it rather theatrical."
"Oh no, not at all," replied Nicholas, with an awkward attempt to convert a laugh into a cough. "Who may the four be? Miss Snevellicci of course- Miss Ledrook-"
"The- the phenomenon" groaned the collector.
"Ha, ha!" cried Nicholas. "I beg your pardon, I don't know what I'm laughing at- yes, that'll be very pretty- the phenomenon...."


Lynnm | 2147 comments I can't say that I liked either Mr. or Mrs. Mantalini. She's trying to hang on to her youth with a younger man, and he's using her for her money. But they are made for one another, and deserve one another. ;)

I also didn't like those young men who were at Ralph's dinner. Don't trust them, but sadly, I have a feeling that they will return to torment Kate a bit more.

Agree with everyone that Nicholas is letting down his hair a bit. Good to see. And that Dickens is both poking fun but likes the theatrical people. (I think that's true today of people who aren't of the theater but are around people in the theater.)

But looking at it in a more modern light, reading those chapters made me wonder why we make such a big deal out of actors. So much attention paid to celebrities, and really, they are merely pretending and have rather large egos for doing something without much meaning. Writers should be the ones getting the accolades, because it is their ideas. Just saying... ;)


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