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The Dickens Project - Archives > Barnaby Rudge - Chapters 35-40

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments "Barnaby Rudge" is gaining its political intensity and is drastically shifting its gears. The next SIX chapters are very interesting, especially in the modern frame of xenophobia. Please post your thoughts below.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Things are getting serious, reading folks! Things are getting very, very serious! The mode and the extreme political agenda made me feel quite uncomfortable. I want to reassure everybody - I am enjoying the novel, but what a shift, what a political U-turn!

Several new characters were introduced. Let me start with the order of rank and importance. They are Lord George Gordon, his assistant Gashford, and their very outspoken valet, John Grueby.
Christopher in the previous thread already highlighted the differences and observed closely the relationship and the chemistry between those people. And if you thought that Simon and Miggs were obsequious, then it is time to reconsider. Gashford is truly a nasty brown-noser, a cunning and manipulative guy. The whole episode in one of the Maypole rooms when he knew the lord was not sleeping but kept acting and mumbling as if he was sleeping was really a plan created by a self-seeking mastermind.

The other thing that I would like to comment upon is the pervasive feeling of hatred. Using the modern discourse, you would say London and its vicinity are populated by haters. And look at Hugh! How many masters is he going to serve? Is he the one who is willing to sell his body and soul just for a drink or two? I still have not lost my total hope in Hugh, but the case is pretty much lost. He is not as villainous as Quilp from OCS, but I must confess at this moment of the narrative he is a soulless being, possessed and haunted by his gruesome childhood.

And our old friend Sim is back again. Who would imagine that this ludicrous little man (semi-midget) could gain enough clout and influence to shape and change the minds of simpletons? Has anyone noticed the correlation between the size and the degree of the evil a common person could exude? It looks like Dickens was a little on the biased side when it comes to small people.

This section strongly resonated with me because of the discourse of hatred in the words of Lord Gordon, his assistant, and the hangman Dennis (and Dickens is a humanist!). And look how they advocated their cause: ‘Our cause is boldness. Truth is always bold’. It means they are justifying the aggressive measures, and they are speaking about religion, the phenomenon that should in the ideal world help to find people peace and tranquility. Gahhhh!

This is not my favorite section, but its emotional repercussions are amazing.

BTW, Amanda posted a very informative link in the previous thread about Lord George Gordon. It is definitely worth reading. It might contain some spoilers, but it does give a new reading perspective.


Hedi | 978 comments I have not finished all of this week's chapters yet, but I saw your comment, Zulfiya, about Gordon's age in the previous thread and remembered that it was indirectly mentioned in his description in chapter 35:

" The gravity of his dress, together with a certain lankness of cheek and stiffness of deportment, added nearly ten years to his age, but his figure was that of one not yet past thirty."



Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "I have not finished all of this week's chapters yet, but I saw your comment, Zulfiya, about Gordon's age in the previous thread and remembered that it was indirectly mentioned in his description in..."

Thank you, Hedi. I re-read this passage, and I still do not feel that he is less than thirty and a young man. His rhetoric, his actions, his attitude, they are 'aged'. Maybe he is trying to gain this pretentiousness to be more influential. Or maybe it is the fluke of my perception.


Hedi | 978 comments No, I do not think so, Zulfiya. I was quite surprised myself that it was stated there, as I also felt that he was older. That's why I remembered it so well. However, I think he might appear this way in order to be perceived more seriously, with his dress and his way of behavior/ attitude.

I still have to read ch. 35 and have not read your first post in this thread yet in order to avoid spoilers. So I will probably write more tomorrow night (European time).


message 6: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2205 comments Mod
To me, Gordon (as Dickens portrays him) seemed weak and manipulated by his entourage and by the public. He also seemed not quite sane, needing to be regularly reminded of his cause and his role. In a weird way I was reminded of Barnaby and Hugh who are also used by others. So far Gordon seems more of an innocent, like Barnaby, than like Hugh, who is only out for what he can get in the way of drink or violence.

Unfortunately this kind of hatred is found in many times and places and religion is often the official justification for violence. I liked the way Hugh confused "Popery" with "property" - he was against both. It's not just the free drinks but the possibility of fighting that appeals to him.

I think many people join hate groups because they feel powerless and want to blame some other group for all their problems. At different times the "others" have been Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, immigrants, foreigners, Communists, etc. The members of these hate groups are most often young men without education or prospects or other outlets for their energy. They are at the bottom of society and want to dominate someone, even by force.

There's a dark humor in Dennis' way of describing his work and how he looks at everyone's neck from a professional point of view. And I don't remember Sim being described by his small size when we met him before. His airs of power that were mainly humorous before are now sinister.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments And again I had to look though the chapters of the novel. The feeling of xenophobia was so strong that I could not read in-between the lines and enjoy the dark humor of the book. Thank you, Robin.


Christopher | 1 comments Put him on the roll. I'd stand godfather to him, if he was to be christened in a bonfire, made of the ruins of the Bank of England.'

There is certainly an anti- property bent here and gave me recollections of the 99% 'riots' we've had in our time.


message 9: by Hedi (last edited Sep 11, 2012 03:10PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hedi | 978 comments I actually liked this section, esp. the beginning of chapter 37 describing how something nobody can really remember leads to such a movement filled with hatred. I was reminded a little of the beginning of the Nazi movement in the 1920s in Germany. As you, Robin, mentioned, a lot of young men without decent education and / or prospects search for other ways to express themselves and feel important and often a little bit of populistic speeches will turn their hate on anything.
I think this is a feature that we can - unfortunately -still see today and never seems to disappear despite the partly very bitter and horrible history.

Lord Gordon seems to be just a nice representative, but not the actual leader of the movement. It is almost as if he is led by his secretary and be reminded of what the cause and the steps are. This is maybe like in parts of politics today, where all the advisors might take much more influence on the politics as the actual political leader, who in the end might just be something like a puppet.

Sim Tappertit also seems a little bit of this type of young men who search for a certain amount of importance and find it in such a group. I did not think either that he was described as being small in the earlier chapters of the novel, but was thinking that he might act this way, also as a compensation of his height (inferiority complex). It seems a little bit of a klischee, but I have often encountered small people who seemed to try to compensate their height with something else, be it a powerful car or a special rank in a club or just a certain amount of self-centredness.

Chapter 40 was interesting, as Hugh still seems to be a follower/ servant of Mr. John Chester and as the later managed to become a Member of Parliament and even a Knight, though he had actually been close to imprisonment for debts (like Charles Dickens's father).

In some way this whole political section/ discussion reminded me a little of the section about the elections in the Pickwick Papers. Charles Dickens shows that politics is often not as idealisitic and fair, as everyone might hope it to be. And these kinds of populistic features have, unfortunately, always been a part in politics.


message 10: by Hedi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hedi | 978 comments BTW, the running titles this week are:

Ch. 35: Lord George Gordon and Suite. Lodged in state at the Maypole. Called, chosen and faithful.
Ch.36: Make a note of Dennis. More Seed for Sowing.
Ch. 37: The Holy Cause. A representative man. Mr. Dennis's vested interests.
Ch. 38: Mr. Dennis's sentiments, all over.
Ch. 39: Adhesion of the United Bull-dogs. Hugh Joins the Brotherhood. Mr. Dennis's Wardrobe.
Ch. 40: Sir John Chester, M.P. Orson examined and disnissed.


message 11: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1871 comments Mod
Yes, these are much more sinister chapters. It is also interesting how, in times of civil wars or religious persecutions or unrest, people have used these uprisings as a way to revenge themselves on their acquaintances-this happened in the witch hunts in the US and I expect in just about any civil strife. So I see Sim and Hugh and Chester using the religious uprisings not as a way to protect their own religion-none strike me as at all devout- but rather as a way to get back at those they feel have slighted them-Gabriel Varden, Haredale, Joe Willet. It is also interesting to see that Mrs Varden has joined the Gordon association along with Miggs, and yet Gabriel is viewed as an "infidel" (so clearly has not been involved). No word yet on where Dolly stands.


Lynnm | 3027 comments The intensity has been kicked up a notch in this section.

Gordon is an interesting character. He definitely seems to be led, not leading, and yet, in reading the background information on him, he doesn't seem so weak. I haven't read enough to know exactly what he was like, but his real life was obviously much more complex than what Dickens is portraying here.

I'm not sure what to make of Hugh. He seems destined for a tragic ending, and yet, I hate to completely condemn him based on his past. Time will tell.

Sim is silly as always. (As for whether or not Dickens mentioned Sim as short earlier on in the book, I remember reading that he was "vertically challenged" ;) early on.)

Disgusted that Chester was able to manipulate his way into a position as M.P. and become knighted. :(

But it is the hatred (as others mentioned) that struck me in this chapter. Religions attacking other religions, and then having it spill over into the secular political world. The same is happening still today.

I always think of literature having a positive affect on educating people. But when I read these chapters, I can only wonder. We seemed doomed to repeat the same negative things over and over again. The only people that read Dickens, read Dickens because they like his message, and don't need to learn the lessons - they already know it.


Lynnm | 3027 comments "To surround anything, however monstrous or ridiculous, with an air of mystery, is to invest it with a secret charm, and power of attraction which to the crowd is irresistible. False priests, false prophets, false doctors, false patriots, false prodigies of every kind, veiling their proceedings in mystery, have always addressed themselves at an immense advantage to the popular credulity, and have been, perhaps, more indebted to that resource in gaining and keeping for a time the upper hand of Truth and Common Sense, than to any half-dozen items in the whole catalogue of imposture. Curiosity is, and has been from the creation of the world, a master-passion. To awaken it, to gratify it by slight degrees, and yet leave something always in suspense, is to establish the surest hold that can be had, in wrong, on the unthinking portion of mankind."

This one paragraph at the start of (I think) Chapter 37 says it all.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Lynnm, I think Dickens is in a very lambasting mood in the second part of the novel. And I actually like this Dickens more. His pungent and scorching satire, his diatribes, his politically incorrect vocabulary give this novel a pleasant and his canonically recognizable zip .


message 15: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Garrett (amandaelizabeth1) | 154 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Lynnm, I think Dickens is in a very lambasting mood in the second part of the novel. And I actually like this Dickens more. His pungent and scorching satire, his diatribes, his politically incorrec..."

As Frances mentioned, It is very noticeable that most of the characters involved in the riots are not motivated by religion at all. Only Gordon seems to have any genuine (although misguided) religious convictions.

Gashford is certainly manipulating the whole thing, although his motives are unclear to me so far. I'm not sure if he is just power hungry or he genuinely hates Catholics for some reason. Certainly by picking men like Hugh and Dennis he is making sure that the riots will be violent.

I agree with LynnM and Zulifya that I enjoy Dickens when he is lambasting hypocrisy, selfishness and just plain stupidity.He was certainly ahead of his time in the 19th century and sadly he is still ahead of many people in the 21st century.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Amanda, I would also say that Mrs. Varden is an 'authentic' zealot, but she might be driven by stupidity. Look at the world today - religious zealots on both sides of the Atlantic ocean are awfully belligerent and hostile. Someone might say Dickens is old-fashioned, but actually his books deliver powerful messages, but as Lynnm said, people who read Dickens are those who learned their lesson of humanism long time ago. So sad ...


Lynnm | 3027 comments I also like this Dickens better. Of course, I love his earlier novels, but rather than the exaggerated characters, but as Zulfiya says, here he delivers a "powerful message" on religious extremists who seek to divide rather than unite, and who merely use religion to promote their own beliefs or to extend their own power.

Today, fortunately, we do have people who comment on social issues. I think of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, South Park.

And Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy (I wish she would write another novel!), etc. take on social issues/world events.

But all are narrower in their focus on today's issues - Dickens hits a variety of issues in his novels.

I can't think of any novelist today who would rival Dickens. But maybe I am missing someone?


message 18: by Hedi (last edited Sep 17, 2012 12:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hedi | 978 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Amanda, I would also say that Mrs. Varden is an 'authentic' zealot, but she might be driven by stupidity. Look at the world today - religious zealots on both sides of the Atlantic ocean are awfull..."

Yeah, Zulfiya and Lynnm, you are (sadly enough) so right.


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