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The Dickens Project - Archives > Barnaby Rudge - Chapter 76 - Chapter the Last

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments It is the FINAL section of the novel. So, discuss it with vigor and heart. Do you think there ever will be a chance for you to read this book again?! Hence, do not hesitate and post your thoughts.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Well, all things should come to an end, and this novel is not an exception. Despite the numerous inconsistencies and lack of character continuity, this novel was worth reading. First, there hardly ever will be a possibility to read it later. Second, it is still quite a deceit novel with a number of memorable and grotesque characters. And finally, Dickens still manages to convey a powerful social message about intolerance, violence, and bigotry.
I actually see why this novel is not very popular nowadays. You do not want to antagonize religious intolerance, especially when this major divide between Catholics and Protestants is a history. On the other hand, Dickens is quite negative about any kind of religious bigotry and organized religion. I personally do not see how this book could be popular in the evangelical communities of the South in the USA. It also deals with the messages of sexual harassment and mental disability. And it is a great plus because Dickens indeed was the eye-opener for his readers and sometimes he explored very dangerous topics for his time.

Now, trying to be specific about these final chapters, I can't help noticing how surprisingly 'smooth' they are. Dickens manages to pick most of the loose plot lines and tell us about virtually every character. As many of you have noticed, Dickens used several parallel plot lines in his novel, and if asked which of the two romantic lines I liked more, I would not hesitate to name the story of Dolly and Joe. Theirs carries some social agenda, and Dolly is 'reformed' and less fickle than she used to be. The line with Ned and Emma is possibly the bleakest so far, but one should admire the resolution of the ambiguous situation of Mr. Chester and Mr. Haredale. The simple duel settles the matter, and Mr. Haredale leaves England and becomes a monk and dies. I actually feel that it is a masterful move because despite being mainly a decent character, he still compromised himself with this notorious agreement.
And I am very euphoric that Barnaby was saved. But Dickens does not compliment the system when he tells us that Mr. Varden had to reach the royal chamber to sign this pardon. And isn't it symbolic that George III, who in future will suffer from dementia, was the one ultimately responsible for this pardon?
Hugh evinced some strange and paradoxical dignity before his death and even managed to win some of my sympathy. Well, he is not the ultimate culprit, he is an example of familial and fatherly negligence, neglect, and a victim of class and societal prejudice. Oh, well, as I have already mentioned it earlier, the novel definitely carries a lot of social criticism, and it has been a useful read on a personal level.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments A quick update on the future Dickens read. According to the current result, it looks like we are going to read one of his Christmas stories. So, brace yourself for magic!


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

Robin | 1075 comments Mod
The ending seemed rather sudden and a lot happened offstage. After the great detail of the hours leading up to Barnaby's execution, we get the whole story of his pardon in a few sentences. Also there are gaps in where everyone has been, the renewed acquaintance of the lovers has been going on for some time - and didn't it say some places had already been rebuilt? And what happened to Mrs. Varden? She is now reformed and even repudiates Miggs.

In this section I thought of other Dickens novels - Varden is much like Pickwick or the Cheeryble brothers, in his delight at making others happy and in their love for him. And the scenes of the condemned traveling by cart to the gallows parallel the end of Tale of Two Cities with the guillotine. This time the heroic figure who is not afraid to die is Barnaby. Interesting contrast with Hugh, who uses his last time to deliver a curse, and Dennis, who is so cowardly and repulsive.

Very weird (though historically correct) that Gordon converted to Judaism, after his insistence of defending another as the "true" faith.

I'm glad I read this book, and it seems it does fit into an arc in Dickens' career. The first few books were more episodic, while he is now trying (not always successfully) to keep multiple threads going throughout. He increased the challenge by incorporating a historical event, so that he had to abide by certain limits of place and time.


Hedi | 804 comments Before I am trying to remember all my thoughts, when I read the last chapters in planes and on airports last Saturday, I will post the running titles of these first:

Ch. 76: The Locksmith's thoughts. It comes home to the Hangman.
Ch. 77: The Morning of the Execution. On the brink of the Scaffold. Hugh's curse.
Ch. 78: Mr. Willet, having got it, keeps it. Dolly comes out delightfully.
Ch. 79: Full atonement for the past. Barnaby saved.
Ch. 80: Brightness of the Golden Key. Miss Migg's further services dispensed with.
Ch. 81: Mr. Haredale's solitude. The man of all others. Sharp words and sharp points.
Ch. The Last: The end of Lord George Gordon. The Willet family. Grip.


message 6: by Hedi (last edited Oct 31, 2012 12:12PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hedi | 804 comments Robin, I agree with you that some things got wrapped up in a few sentences while especially the scenes before the execution were so detailed. It partially reminded me of the scenes in Hunchback of Notre Dame when Quasimodo gets tortured in front of all the people and Esmeralda is the only one who shows compassion. In this detailed description I found some of Dickens's social criticism, too: people arriving for the "show" very early in the morning to get the best spots, people renting out their rooms and earning money with this spectacle and in the end (no matter how guilty the people are) we see how men get killed.

Similar to you, Zulfiya, I liked the turnaround of Dolly and her finally getting together with Joe. What I was wondering about though was that he mentioned he had been offered a job at Edward's estate in the West Indies, but then he actually stays at the Maypole, probably due to the money Dolly got as a dowry, but an explicit explanation for this move is not given anywhere.

I was also a little surprised about the appearance of Miss Miggs and wondered a little what had happened to her, as she had not been mentioned anymore when Dolly and Emma were rescued.

The end for Mr. Chester and especially the way his legacy was handled seemed to match his character. I have never liked him and still do not.


Hedi | 804 comments I had just written a huge comment as an overall conclusion of the book and clicked on the wrong button and lost everything. :-( So I will try it again:

I am glad that I read this novel and especially that I had the opportunity to discuss it with you all. It helps I think especially with such a rather inconsistent story to be able to discuss it and see whether there are aspects you yourself missed or just to see that it is not only you who thinks this or that way about the novel.

I definitely liked all of Dickens's social criticism in this novel, especially the description of the riots and the impact they have on human behaviour. That was very capturing, though partially brutal, and must have been quite disrupting in the 19th centurey as well.
I also liked the distinct and diversive characters. In this novel as in his previous novels it seems that the evil characters are the more interesting persons to follow. However, I think for the first time, we can also discover some hints of development in Dickens's characters, e.g. in the form of Hugh, whom we have been discussing in several threads, and who has been quite different. And even in Dolly - one of Dickens's less important, female characters - we can actually see a change. Maybe even in her mother?!

The things I really disliked about the novel are its inconsistencies and lack of continuity. To me it just does not flow properly (some episodes/ chapters do, but not the overall story). I still feel that there are unanswered questions after finishing the book ( and maybe it was me who just overread it and lacked the proper attention, as my last 7 weeks were quite intense at home and at work):
- What was the motive of Mr Rudge to kill Mr. Haredale?
- What about the mysterious tolling of the bells that we encountered several times?
- Who was the dead man whom everyone thought to be Mr. Rudge?
- What happens to Mr. Rudge? I tried to reread that, but as far as I can see he is mentioned being in conversation with his wife and sending her away and the next we know is about the other prisoners. He is not mentioned anymore.

Some of the characters that were seemingly important in the beginning lost their significance during the plot, e.g. Solomon Daisy and the others of the Maypole, even Sim Tappertit, to me this applies even to Grip.

Overall I would say that this is not my favourite Dickens, but I still liked it in its own way. Would I recommend this Dickens to anyone who has not read him before? Definitely, no. However, I do believe that it is interesting within this Dickens project to see Dickens's development as a writer. As Robin mentioned, his previous novels were more episodical and he seems to try more and more to build one big story. Especially working this into a historical event is not easy. The question is really how Dickens's development as a writer continues. I have only read David Copperfield, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities of his later works and those are definitely different to this novel, even though you might still find some similarities here and there.


Hedi | 804 comments Zulfiya wrote: "..I actually see why this novel is not very popular nowadays. You do not want to antagonize religious intolerance, especially when this major divide between Catholics and Protestants is a history. On the other hand, Dickens is quite negative about any kind of religious bigotry and organized religion...."

However, I think it is in some way still a current topic, even though the reasons behind religious rivalry might be different ones, but in the 80s and 90s, we could still see the clash between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and until today there are these animosities between religions everywhere, even though they might just cover the real reasons which are often power-related and economic.


message 9: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Garrett (AmandaElizabeth1) | 154 comments I looked up the comments about Barnaby Rudge in my copy of Peter Ackroyd's life of Dickens and he agrees with our assessment that the end of the novel was rushed and many of the story threads were left unresolved.

Ackroyd wrote that this is because Dickens was preparing for his American tour (which we'll read about in Martin Chuzzlewit). He was preoccupied and very busy making preparations and did not have time to properly complete the novel.


message 10: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Frances (FrancesAB) | 1162 comments Mod
Agreed, a lot of the ends were left loose in the wrapping up, and some things (such as Barnaby's pardon) were dealt with overly quickly. I would also have liked a solution to the mystery of the earlier murder and also to find out about more about the original falling out between Chester and Haredale.

I felt that Miggs's return and final banishment was a humourous interlude but also served to show Mrs Varden's conversion to "sense" in that she could now see through Miggs, (it would be hard not to after what Miggs did to Gabriel when the mob came and what she had said to Dolly during their time together in captivity). This would also suggest to us that there would be greater harmony in the Varden household in the future, which is what Gabriel deserved.

While I enjoyed many of the characterizations and the plot was engaging, the strength of this novel for me was in introducing an episode in history about which I had been entirely ignorant.


message 11: by Lynnm (last edited Nov 01, 2012 07:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lynnm | 3027 comments I agree with everyone's comments about how the ending was rushed - I was especially disappointed that we didn't get to see the different meetings that ended in Barnaby being released. And all the loose ends and unanswered questions.

But, as others have posted, I still think that it is an important work.

We still issues with tensions between different religious groups, the lack of understanding and tolerance, and the attitude of "we're right, they're wrong, and therefore, should be punished." Since these are the conflicts that tend to still cause quite a bit of trouble in the world (an understatement!), the more people read about histories in these areas, we might have more understanding and tolerance towards each other.

The book also - in a small way - makes a statement about the death penalty. The bloodthirst of the people lining up to see the executions. I find that very bizarre - I would never want to see anyone executed, even someone who was a monster.

But even that Dickens shortened. He sets up the scene, but never allows his point to get full impact, but he leaves the scene off with Hugh's speech.

And I was also thrilled by Barnaby's release. As I've written before, at first I didn't feel much for his character. But the scene where he talks with the blind man about going to London and becoming rich to help out his mother and then his involvement in the riots, I had a lot of empathy for his character. I won't say he'll go down as my favorite Dickens' character (that would be Sam Weller!), but I very much liked him.

And can I say, I'm very glad that Mr. Chester had his punishment in the end. Although that was another unanswered question - Haredale says that Mr. Chester was behind everything with Gashford, Hugh, Dennis, etc. - we really don't have much to go on previously in the novel to see actually how he was involved.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi, thank you again for your post with the chapters and their names. You have been very helpful.

Dolly, as you have noticed, has undergone major transformation. But if some endings were unusual and inexplicable, her change was somewhat expected and definitely could be justified by the experience of being a hostage.

Hopefully, we will see more consistent Dickens in his next books. But when you have so many fictitious characters and a bunch of real life personae, it is very challenging to write individually and globally.

Lynnm, my favorite Dickens heroine is Esther Summerson. And I also think that Bleak House is his masterpiece. But we still have a long way to go before I can share my enthusiasm with you... Pickwick Papers is my second choice.


Lynnm | 3027 comments Zulfiya, I can't remember Bleak House...I read it in high school. And I'm not going to admit how many years (decades!) ago that was. ;)


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Lynnm wrote: "Zulfiya, I can't remember Bleak House...I read it in high school. And I'm not going to admit how many years (decades!) ago that was. ;)"

One good thing about literature (among many, many others) is it is a time machine:-) You can be back!


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments I would like to thank youeveryone who read the novel and participated in the discussion. The book was a very unusual but useful reading experience. I am going to move the book now to the read shelf. According to the poll, the majority voted for the Christmas novella. So be it. I believe it is necessary to take a short break till December and then read one of the Christmas tales. Then business as usual for Martin Chuzzlewit


message 16: by Denise (new)

Denise (drbetteridge) | 33 comments I've been waiting for the chance to join in at the beginning of a new book and it looks like now is my chance. So will Martin Chuzzlewit begin January 1st?


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments I believe so. It will be fun!


Lynnm | 3027 comments Looking foward to both: one of Dickens' Christmas stories and Martin Chuzzlewit.


message 19: by Hedi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hedi | 804 comments You were welcome, Zulfiya! I would like to thank you for the excellent moderation and all the time you put into this task.
Hopefully, starting next week I will have more time for reading again.
How are we going to decide which Christmas story we want to read? I am looking forward to it and also to Martin Chuzzlewit, a book I have had for many, many years, but unfortunately never got to read.


message 20: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Frances (FrancesAB) | 1162 comments Mod
Yes, thanks so much Zulfiya for doing a great job moderating-I've really enjoyed your introductory remarks to each section.

I would like to read one of the lesser known (at least to me) Christmas novels-I would nominate either The Cricket on the Hearth or The Chimes (or both, as they are each about 80 pages in my beautiful new (to me) Oxford Illustrated Dickens edition of the Christmas books). (Did I mention I had just purchased a job lot of all the remaining Dickens books?) :)


message 21: by Robin, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin | 1075 comments Mod
I echo the thanks to Zulfiya and to all the regulars who stuck with this discussion! Either of the Christmas books would be good. Some of us did discuss Christmas Carol last year. It's interesting to see how the Christmas stories echo themes and elements from other books.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments As far as I remember, during the first Christmas break for this project we read the first Christmas Tale, namely Christmas Carol. Some of the members even read the second tale, the Chimes. So my choice will be to read The Cricket on the Hearth. What's more, it has three relatively short sections that can be read before the actual Christmas hoopla and give us the weekly dosage of Dickens. It will give us some pleasant respite before the chunky Martin Chuzzlewit


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Frances wrote: "Yes, thanks so much Zulfiya for doing a great job moderating-I've really enjoyed your introductory remarks to each section.

I would like to read one of the lesser known (at least to me) Christmas ..."


Excellent, Frances. I count on you! :-)


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