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Dombey and Son
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The Dickens Project - Archives > Dombey and Son, Chapters 1-4, June 01-07

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments And the new adventure begins. This week we are reading and discussing the first four chapters of the book. What a long reading journey is ahead of us!


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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments The full title of the novel is Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation. The name itself sounds like a name of the prosperous and respectable company, but the novel starts with the birth of a child, the event that is as disassociated with the world of business as day and night. Dombey is in his late forties and his son is just a less than an hour old, but Dickens, having a keen eye for social observation, finds amazing similarities between his father and his son.
Dombey was about eight-and-forty years of age. Son about eight-and-forty minutes. Dombey was rather bald, rather red, and though a handsome well-made man, too stern and pompous in appearance, to be prepossessing. Son was very bald, and very red, and though (of course) an undeniably fine infant, somewhat crushed and spotty in his general effect, as yet. On the brow of Dombey, Time and his brother Care had set some marks, as on a tree that was to come down in good time— remorseless twins they are for striding through their human forests, notching as they go— while the countenance of Son was crossed with a thousand little creases, which the same deceitful Time would take delight in smoothing out and wearing away with the flat part of his scythe, as a preparation of the surface for his deeper operations.

Dickens is Dickens, and the exposé of personal vices and preposterous social expectations is imminent. Fanny Dombey has been failing as wife for a while because up to this point she was not able to give birth to a boy. The role of a respectable woman, according to Mrs. Chick, is to give birth to sons and make an effort to recuperate as if the matter of death and life was the matter of an effort. Readers are not given any benefit of a doubt when it comes to Mrs. Chick - she is an egotistic woman, who is in the house of a dying sister-in-law, thinks about her discomfort and her ordeals.

The role of a woman in in the Dombey family is so insignificant that Mr. Dombey is not likely to recognize his own daughter in the crowd of other children, and yet, despite his arrogance and his grief, there is a stirring of hope in his heart.
As if she held the clue to something secret in his breast, of the nature of which he was hardly informed himself. As if she had an innate knowledge of one jarring and discordant string within him, and her very breath could sound it.

These first four opening chapters introduce so many wonderfully shaped characters, Mrs. Toodle/Richards, Mr. Chick, Solomon Gills, and Captain Cuttle (I have a strong temptation to call him Captain Hook), sassy and lively Susan Nipper.

Character-wise, I think it is one of the most powerful beginnings in the Dickens' novels - each of those numerous characters is unique, and the author's characterization is sharp and multi-dimensional. Despite the numerous cast of characters, all of them stand out, maybe with the only exception of Miss Tox, but I have a suspicion that her role is never to stand out, don't you think? :-)


Sarah | 269 comments As is typical of Dickens, “Dombey and Son” centers around a dysfunctional family situation and is full of ominous foreshadowing. Of course, Dickens infuses his own sardonic sense of humor into the story too, in this case from page one with the amusing comparison between Dombey and his newborn son. (I do wonder why his son will be Paul Jr., however, when both his father and grandfather were Paul; wouldn’t that make him Paul Dombey III?) The short scene between Dr. Peps and the family practitioner, in which they cannot even recall Mrs. Dombey’s name, also seeps with farcical humor. The epitome of Dombey’s life philosophy is revealed in two simple sentences: “Those three words [Dombey and Son] conveyed the one idea of Mr. Dombey’s life. The earth was made for Dombey and Son to trade in, and the sun and moon were made to give them light” (chapter one). Furthermore, we are forewarned as to the state of the family affairs when we learn that “Dombey and Son dealt in hides, but never in hearts.”

This sets the scene and establishes the novel’s tone, and, I suspect, prepares us for what may likely be Paul Sr.’s disappointment in his son as he grows up. Raising a child without affection and with only the goal of establishing him in the family trade does not auger well and foreshadows a possible rebellion, as with the younger Martin Chuzzlewit. Poor Florence’s situation is also pitiable: “She had never been a positively disagreeable object to him. But now he was ill at ease about her. She troubled his peace” (chapter three), although there seems to be a whisper of hope for her under Richards’ care, and the possibility of romance is already hinted at by Walter. I wonder if the elder Paul Dombey will prove to be a dynamic character and come to see the error of his ways, or if he will persist in his lofty views and expectations, and I am eager to discover what becomes of young Paul and Florence. Dickens does not disappoint in setting up a character novel fraught with tensions from the start.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Sarah wrote: "As is typical of Dickens, “Dombey and Son” centers around a dysfunctional family situation and is full of ominous foreshadowing. Of course, Dickens infuses his own sardonic sense of humor into the ..."


I do think this has been the most ominous setting among his novels. Oh, yes, we have Oliver Twist whose mother dies in childbirth, but the pages of the novel are not suffused with the feeling of dark and tenebrous premonitions as they are in this novel.

It is also interesting to observe, as you mentioned, that Dickens again starts with the dysfunctional family, but their dysfunctional nature is often used to reveal social issues.


Sarah | 269 comments Zulfiya wrote: "It is also interesting to observe, as you mentioned, that Dickens again starts with the dysfunctional family, but their dysfunctional nature is often used to reveal social issues. "

The interplay between business and family will be interesting to watch throughout the novel, especially since, as you mentioned, the story opens with Paul's birth and Mr. Dombey clearly favors business over family matters just as he favors his son over his daughter. I wonder if Florence will become another Dickensian saintly woman figure?


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Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
I love the Toodles family. They make a wonderful contrast to the Dombey family. Although they are humorous, they also are genuine, loving, and modest, a great change from the self-centered hypocrisy of Mr. Dombey and his sister. Mr. Toodles refuses to observe the forms of speech expected of him and always says what he really thinks. Dombey is totally shocked to find that Toodles declines to take any leadership in the family, but leaves the decisions to his wife. He also can't fathom how Toodles actually loves his wife so much he considers forgoing the income in order to keep her with him.

I loved the scene where Dombey's brother-in-law, Mr Chick, can't help breaking into "tra la la" and "rum tum tiddle" while Mrs. Dombey is dying. As readers, we don't feel too sad about her because we only see her from a distance. If anything it is Florence we feel sorry for, losing the one person who loves her.

Walter and his uncle remind me a bit of Nell and her grandfather, although less saccharine. He's maybe more like Kit in that novel. And like Sarah, I thought already of a match between Walter & Florence. I certainly hope Florence won't turn into another wimpy heroine.


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Melanie | 48 comments Zulfiya wrote: "And the new adventure begins. This week we are reading and discussing the first four chapters of the book. What a long reading journey is ahead of us!"

It IS a long reading journey. The book is so thick that during the carry-on baggage screening at the Chattanooga airport 2 weeks ago, they took it out for a special inspection. They told me afterwards that it had looked suspicious and dangerous, especially in combination with my also thick Lonely Planet.:)

Mrs Chick seems to have a lot of influence over Mr Dombey, whereas he looks down on many other characters. He respects her, because she values the importance of the “Dombey & Son” idea. She is apparantly aware of this correlation and emphasizes the reputation of Dombey & Son very often to flatter him and maintain their close relationship this way.

For Dombey, Fanny has not been of much importance to the family, as she hasn’t been of any use to Dombey & Son, other than now finally providing a son. He doesn’t show any affectionate feelings for her. All of his thoughts circle around his son. When Fanny dies, he develops angry feelings towards her because she shirks her duties as a mother. Paul should grow up in a perfect environment and should not have a nurse trying to replace his mother.

It is interesting that Mr Dombey is not the man with no feelings he appears to be in the presence of other people, but that he does cry when he is alone, “with an emotion of which he would not, for the world, have had a witness”. Showing his feelings would be a sign of weakness for him and it would also be of no use for the business. So his coolness is more due to pride than to real lack of emotion. In this situation, he doesn’t cry because he is sad, but because he is angry and frustrated. Mr Dombey and Mrs Chick try to blame Fanny for having died, but in the end Dombey has no other option but to recognize the power of a force which he cannot control, which is very difficult for him.

It is surprising Florence is not a completely intimidated person with a very low self-esteem – the behaviour of Mr Dombey is not exactly that of a loving father that encourages self-confidence. It must be very humiliating for her to overhear her father say that it doesn’t matter to him if she comes to tell him good night or not. He is not even angry with her, but just indifferent, which must be even worse.

Even though Dombey has made no efforts to build a relationship either to Fanny or Florence, he feels shut out when Florence embraces her mother. The embrace occupies him for a long time. This might indicate that he does notice that something is wrong with his relationships and that in his innermost self, he has the wish to correct it. In his own education, the priority was probably always the firm and he is very used to thinking in terms of reputation and profit. He has most likely never experienced personal relationships of which the purpose is not the growth of the business. So even if he had a wish to change the situation, he might be a little helpless and at a loss how to change it. In chapter 3, he has the feeling that Florence knows about this side of his character well hidden within him, which makes his feelings towards her change from indifference to uneasiness. He doesn’t even call her by her name, but asks her: “what is the child afraid of?” And as he doesn’t know what to say to her, he asks her: “Have you nothing to say to me?” All he can think of to say is “There! Be a good girl”, patting her on the head, which I found very funny as “There there” is the only phrase Sheldon Cooper knows in The Big Bang Theory when he thinks he is expected to comfort somebody, usually also patting the person on the shoulder, and sometimes he has even prepared a “hot beverage”.:)


Hedi | 938 comments Zulfiya wrote: "...Dombey was about eight-and-forty years of age. Son about eight-and-forty minutes. Dombey was rather bald, rather red, and though a handsome well-made man, too stern and pompous in appearance, to be prepossessing. Son was very bald, and very red, and though (of course) an undeniably fine infant, somewhat crushed and spotty in his general effect, as yet. On the brow of Dombey, Time and his brother..."

Zulfiya, I was also intrigued by this comparison of father and son and liked the almost comical description - 48 years vs. 48 min, both bald and red... :-)


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Hedi | 938 comments Sarah wrote: "Zulfiya wrote: "It is also interesting to observe, as you mentioned, that Dickens again starts with the dysfunctional family, but their dysfunctional nature is often used to reveal social issues. "..."

I would even go as far as to say that it seems as if Dombey sees the family as a pure business:
- matrimony is a social contract
- it comes with duties and by fulfilling these contractual duties Mr. Dombey assumes his wife to be happy. "That Mrs. Dombey must have been happy. That she couldn't help it."
- even the nursing of Paul is without emotions only a business deal: "...what is a mere matter of bargain and sale, hiring and letting: and will stay away..."

Mrs. Chick - probably due to their education - seems to have a similar attitude. She has been waiting for the big event of the "son coming into the firm" / being born into the family and she expects of Mrs. Dombey to make an effort, as if sickness can only be fought by the mind of the sick person.
I also thought that she is a very egotistic person thinking of herself differently though. "...that I forgave poor dear Fanny everything. Whatever happens that must always be a comfort to me!"
Here as well, it seems as if she is forgiving Fanny for not having fulfilled her "contractual obligations".

It seems pretty clear that women are regarded as far more inferior in the Dombey family than the male members. I wonder whether they have always been brought up that way for generations. Even Miss Nipper said so "...girls are thrown away in this house, Mrs. Richards, I assure you." I was wondering whether there is far more to this than just the neglect of Florence.
BTW, Miss Nipper reminded me a little of the Marchioness in TOCS. And what a nickname she got: "Spitfire" which matches her way of talking. That is hilarious.

Did you notice how Dickens talked of the "performed" funeral in the beginning of chapter 3? I was immediately reminded of the huge funeral for Anthony Chuzzlewit ordered by his son Jonas.
In my annotation it is stated that Dickens was consistently annoyed by the excesses of Victorian funeral ceremonies and their undertakers.

Now I have already jumped into the details instead of writing down my general thoughts first.

These first chapters were somehow comical, but somehow also sad. It was that at least for me, especially after the novel "Ruth" ended with Ruth's death and a motherless child, and now my next novel is starting the way the other ended. As mentioned above already a difference is definitely that in this case we are more concerned about the motherless children than Mrs. Dombey herself, as we have not known her at all.

The characters we get to know are quite different with different behavioral attitudes, different social backgrounds and a different comical effect. I like Mrs. Toodle and as you have mentioned already the whole Toodles family as well. Mrs Toodle seems to be a very kind-hearted person and almost turns into the opposite pole of Mr. Dombey in the Dombey household. It will be interesting to see how much and how long her influence will last.
BTW, one thing I did not quite understand is that she had to leave her 6-weeks old child. Who is nursing him? Or did I miss something? Are they forced to hire a wet-nurse for the little one, too, while his mother is nursing Paul Dombey?

"Spitfire" also seems to be interesting and at last we learn about Solomon Gills and his nephew, who has just started as a clerk in the Dombey firm. I was also wondering whether he might marry Florence one day, as the anecdote about Sir Richard Whittington alluded.
I think it will also be interesting to learn about the Dombey family through an outsider, which might be possible via Walter's character. We had not learned anything about the Dombey's business until chapter 4 in which we learn of it through the conversations between Solomon and his nephew.

And one other thing I came across and was a little confused by:
I have the Penguin edition of 2002 in which I am actually reading, but I thought I could download the book on my ipod touch via ibooks as well in order to use that when travelling or not having the actual book with me. I also thought I could try and mark the interesting passages. While doing that I encountered that it included a sentence in chapter 3 while describing Polly Toodle that I did not have in my actual book. "She had been good-humouredly working and drudging for her life all her life, and was a sober steady-going person, with matter-of-fact ideas about the butcher and baker, and the division of pence into farthings."
I assume the Penguin edition is the original, and the ibooks edition maybe a later one. Has any of you ever encountered this type of issue? In another paragraph the word "Deuce" was already exchanged to Devil in the ibooks edition, while being explained in the Penguin edition. The latter I can somehow understand, but that a whole sentence was added and that the Penguin edition seems to be the one lacking that seems a little strange to me.


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Hedi | 938 comments Melanie wrote: "Zulfiya wrote: "And the new adventure begins. This week we are reading and discussing the first four chapters of the book. What a long reading journey is ahead of us!"

It IS a long reading journey..."


Melanie, that is really funny. That has never happened to me before, even when I was travelling with approx. 3 or 4 lbs. of Anna Karenina plus several travel guides on my large Argentina-trip 3 years ago. :-)
Maybe security guards are not used to people carrying actual books any more. ;-)


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Robin wrote: "I love the Toodles family. They make a wonderful contrast to the Dombey family. Although they are humorous, they also are genuine, loving, and modest, a great change from the self-centered hypocrisy of Mr. Dombey and his sister. Mr. Toodles refuses to observe the forms of speech expected of him and always says what he really thinks."

I also think that Dickens deliberately introduces the whole Toodle family early in the novel to show how different happy and loving families are from the dysfunctional money-loving households. He also endows Mrs. Toodle with the innate knowledge of parental and familial love and compassions.
But she was a good plain sample of a nature that is ever, in the mass, better, truer, higher, nobler, quicker to feel, and much more constant to retain, all tenderness and pity, self-denial and devotion, than the nature of men. And, perhaps, unlearned as she was, she could have brought a dawning knowledge home to Mr Dombey at that early day, which would not then have struck


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Melanie wrote: "It is interesting that Mr Dombey is not the man with no feelings he appears to be in the presence of other people, but that he does cry when he is alone, “with an emotion of which he would not, for the world, have had a witness”. Showing his feelings would be a sign of weakness for him and it would also be of no use for the business. "

Dambey, Sr. is indeed a very interesting figure. He is portrayed as the epitome of the British business world: cool, calculated, not prone to weaknesses and emotions, but at the same time we can see that he is struggling with his humanity very early in the novel. It will be interesting to observe this struggle throughout the novel. I also like that Dickens provides hope to his readers - we obviously do not know how the situation unfolds with Mr. Dombey - that even the most business-minded man can harbor the feelings of parental love. I am sure he is not aware of them as feelings proper; he just finds those emotional stirrings disquieting.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "BTW, one thing I did not quite understand is that she had to leave her 6-weeks old child. Who is nursing him? Or did I miss something? Are they forced to hire a wet-nurse for the little one, too, while his mother is nursing Paul Dombey?"

Hedi, as far as I remember, the Toodles were accompanied by a young lady, Mrs. Toodles's sister who was supposed to take car of the younger Toodles. I also understand that the little one would soon be weaned from his mother's breast. Besides, breastfeeding was often used as a birth control, but in case of the Toodles, it definitely did not work well:-)


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "I have the Penguin edition of 2002 in which I am actually reading, but I thought I could download the book on my ipod touch via ibooks as well in order to use that when travelling or not having the actual book with me. I also thought I could try and mark the interesting passages. While doing that I encountered that it included a sentence in chapter 3 while describing Polly Toodle that I did not have in my actual book. "She had been good-humouredly working and drudging for her life all her life, and was a sober steady-going person, with matter-of-fact ideas about the butcher and baker, and the division of pence into farthings."
I assume the Penguin edition is the original, and the ibooks edition maybe a later one. Has any of you ever encountered this type of issue? In another paragraph the word "Deuce" was already exchanged to Devil in the ibooks edition, while being explained in the Penguin edition. The latter I can somehow understand, but that a whole sentence was added and that the Penguin edition seems to be the one lacking that seems a little strange to me.
"


Hedi, you intrigued me

I will have to research this verbal difference. As we know, with the serialized books there might be slight differences in actual wording. The complete publications might be slightly different because authors might reconsider some sentences.


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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "I think it will also be interesting to learn about the Dombey family through an outsider, which might be possible via Walter's character. We had not learned anything about the Dombey's business until chapter 4 in which we learn of it through the conversations between Solomon and his nephew."

I think it is great that Dickens does not use a omniscient narrator to tell us about the Dombey business. Instead, he is using a young outsider, who just started working there, so his impressions are not biased, but they are still shown through the eyes of an entry level employee.
Gah! Now I am using the business lingo - an entry level employee :-(

BTW, it is funny that Mrs. Chick's name could be interpreted differently nowadays.


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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Sarah wrote: "I wonder if Florence will become another Dickensian saintly woman figure? "..."

Sarah, I adamantly promise not to give away any spoilers :-)


Sarah | 269 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Sarah, I adamantly promise not to give away any spoilers :-)"

That's good! I hate spoilers and wasn't looking for an answer yet, just putting the thought out there as I was musing about it! :-)


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Hedi | 938 comments Zulfiya wrote: "But she was a good plain sample of a nature that is ever, in the mass, better, truer, higher, nobler, quicker to feel, and much more constant to retain, all tenderness and pity, self-denial and devotion, than the nature of men. And, perhaps, unlearned as she was, she could have brought a dawning knowledge home to Mr Dombey at that early day, which would not then have struck
..."


Right before this sentence the ibooks version had my quoted sentence. So I do not know which version you have.


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Hedi | 938 comments Zulfiya wrote: "BTW, it is funny that Mrs. Chick's name could be interpreted differently nowadays.
..."


Now you made me thinking... Mrs. Chick and then Ms. Tox, maybe an abbreviation for toxic???

I was also intrigued by the way Dickens introduced the Toodles all being apple-faced. :-)


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Hedi | 938 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Hedi wrote: "BTW, one thing I did not quite understand is that she had to leave her 6-weeks old child. Who is nursing him? Or did I miss something? Are they forced to hire a wet-nurse for the littl..."

I understood that Jemima, her younger sister, would take care of all the kids, but I assumed 6 weeks was a little early for being weaned off, esp. in those days when it was more convenient to breastfeed children over a longer period because it saved an additional direct mouth to feed for a while.
It is also interesting that breastfeeding was considered birth control. A similar assumption was made in the Swedish emigrant saga I was reading over the last months ... and there it did not work either... ;-)
I wonder whether there were medical discussions about this in the middle of the 19th century. I might research that a little.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "Zulfiya wrote: "But she was a good plain sample of a nature that is ever, in the mass, better, truer, higher, nobler, quicker to feel, and much more constant to retain, all tenderness and pity, sel..."

I actually have both - Wordsworth edition and a Kindle edition as well as an epub for Sony to provide uninterrupted reading for all unpredictable situations. :-) I guess I was a cursory reader - I did not notice the difference. I will have to research this topic before I can come up with some legit observation. The tree-book stipulates when the original monthly installments end and begin ... and it also has a cultural guide. I will post the explanation for some terms later today.:-)
BTW, the Librivox version is quite good, so I will rely on this audio edition when I feel that I might fall behind and falter.


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Hedi | 938 comments Hedi wrote: "I wonder whether there were medical discussions about this in the middle of the 19th century. I might research that a little.
..."

Well, as I have never been pregnant, I had no idea about this, but it seems that this type of birth control is valid up to 6 months after delivery provided that your baby is only breastfed and that on a certain schedule.
Sorry for mentioning this here. It is not quite relevant for the course of the novel.
You learn something new every day.


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Hedi | 938 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Hedi wrote: "Zulfiya wrote: "But she was a good plain sample of a nature that is ever, in the mass, better, truer, higher, nobler, quicker to feel, and much more constant to retain, all tenderness ..."

I will check my annotations and appendixes. Maybe something is mentioned there. It could be that Dickens adapted his novel slightly for a later edition instead of his monthly installments. Goethe's Faust also exists in various versions as it was modified/ improved over a long time.


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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "I assumed 6 weeks was a little early for being weaned off"

I also thought that it was too early, but with so many Toodles around, her income could be a nice addition to raise and feed them. I think it was a deliberate decision, but yes, I feel sorry for them. They are, I am sure, not the only victims of the Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation.


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Hedi | 938 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Hedi wrote: "I assumed 6 weeks was a little early for being weaned off"

I also thought that it was too early, but with so many Toodles around, her income could be a nice addition to raise and feed..."


Yes, definitely :-)


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Hedi | 938 comments Related to the editions:
I actually found something in a note on the text in my edition.
The Penguin edition is based on the first single-volume edition of 1848.
Apparently the Charles Dickens Edition of 1867 contained further emanations and corrections. So I assume that the ibooks edition refers to the latter.


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Lynnm | 3027 comments Wonderful discussion! Most of you have already made the pertinent points of the first four chapters so I will keep my thoughts shorts.

I'm trying to think back on all the books so far. Out of the books we've read to date, is Dombey the first true capitalist that Dickens is taking on who is the center of the novel? I can't remember if we are told how Martin Chuzzlewit made his money, but even if we did, it wasn't the center of the novel. Some of the characters to date had money or they had small businesses, but I think Dombey is the first who we would call a larger scale capitalist. I could be wrong though.

I also thought of Captain Hook when Captain Cuttle appeared. Although Captain Cuttle is a "good" character, unlike Hook. (Although if you watch Once Upon a Time, you might have a soft spot in your heart now for Hook.) Made me wonder if Barrie ripped off Dickens unintentionally!

Also, my favorite characters so far are Sol and Walter. They seem more real. I can picture a Sol and Walter really existing. And loved the part when Sol is describing the dangers of the sea in order to keep Walter from wanting to go to sea, but all that adventure and danger is merely more enticing.

No spoilers here, but as others posted, I'm guessing that Walter and Florence will match up later in the novel. And I'm also worried that Florence will end up another Nell. I love Mr. Dickens, but his portrayal of "good" women is annoying - too saintly!

Mrs. Toodle/Richards also seems like an interesting character, and looking forward to the role she will play.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Lynnm wrote: "Out of the books we've read to date, is Dombey the first true capitalist that Dickens is taking on who is the center of the novel?"

I think it is safe to say this novel is Dickens' anti-capitalistic stand. It is very obvious that he is contrasting business values and family values.


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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Lynnm wrote: I also thought of Captain Hook when Captain Cuttle appeared. Although Captain Cuttle is a "good" character, unlike Hook. (Although if you watch Once Upon a Time, you might have a soft spot in your heart now for Hook.) Made me wonder if Barrie ripped off Dickens unintentionally!"

I apologize for an off-topic post, Lynnm, but have you watched the movie Peter Pan? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0316396/
Jason Isaacs is cast both as Wendy's father and Captain Hooks, and the film director presents /envisions Captain Hook as an ambiguous figure. There is definitely some chemistry between Wendy and Captain Hook, who is both a fatherly figure and a husband-like character for her in the movie with lots of sexual innuendoes of different kinds ... Very thought-provoking and visually so masterfully done.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Lynnm wrote: " My favorite characters so far are Sol and Walter. They seem more real. I can picture a Sol and Walter really existing."

The description of Solomon's shop triggered the memories of us discussing the OCS :-)


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "Related to the editions:
I actually found something in a note on the text in my edition.
The Penguin edition is based on the first single-volume edition of 1848.
Apparently the Charles Dickens Edit..."


Thanks a lot, Hedi!


Lynnm | 3027 comments Zulfiya wrote: "I apologize for an off-topic post, Lynnm, but have you watched the movie Peter Pan? "

I haven't watched it, but it sounds good! I'll put it in my Netflix queue.

I enjoy watching film/tv shows put new spins on old characters.


Lynnm | 3027 comments Zulfiya wrote: "I think it is safe to say this novel is Dickens' anti-capitalistic stand."

His anti-capitalist stands are probably why I love Dickens so much. :-) Not that I'm anti-capitalist, because I think capitalism can be a good thing. My humble opinion, but what we have then and now isn't about capitalism, it is about greed.


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Melanie | 48 comments Dickens seems to like to compare people's faces to apples. The description of the Toodles reminded me of this passage in David Copperfield.
(view spoiler)

I think Mr Dombey's offering Mrs Richards a mere business deal, not allowing the formation of any personal attachment, is also due to the low social rank of the Toodle family. Dombey is very particular about the people Paul is going to associate with, and he accepts Mrs Richards's company only to ensure that the needs of the child are taken care of, but wants her to leave once her services are not needed anymore and doesn't allow her to let Paul meet with her family, so that none of her children can become his friends. Interestingly he is not concerned about Susan Nipper spending time with Florence, although Susan's background is comparable to Mrs Richards's, and she has clear and not very favourable opinions about the conventions in the Dombey family, but obviously finding "good company" for Florence is not one of his priorities.


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Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
How about Dombey's insistence that Polly Toodle be known as Richards? Is it a way to make her more anonymous, as well as being a more respectable-sounding name?


message 36: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Garrett (amandaelizabeth1) | 154 comments It's good to be back to the Dickens Project. It's good to see so many people discussing this lovely novel and appreciating the work of the incomparable Mr. Dickens.

My observations:

* Dickens really doesn't like the middle class, does he? We just finished Martin Chuzzlewit, where he skewered the pretensions of the various Chuzzlewits and Pecksniffs. Now we've moved on to the Dombeys and Chicks. I don't think this was a political stance by Dickens. He just looked at society and didn't like what he saw there. I believe we will begin reading the Forsyte Saga in a few weeks and I think the two novels will make interesting companion pieces. Both are about middle class values and "Men of Property."

* Paul Sr. is not really as selfish as he seems. At first I thought Paul was just Pecksniff Jr., but then Dickens made me change my mind. He really struggles to hide his feelings and be an important man of business, but the actual fact that he has feelings is significant. Like Scrooge, he may not turn out so bad after all.

* I'm enjoying Florence despite myself. After Little Nell and company, I thought I had saintly orphan burnout, but Dickens made me really care about Florence. I'm just praying she doesn't die, but I don't know if Dickens will be able to resist the urge to kill off another young girl.


Lynnm | 3027 comments Amanda - is it the middle class or what we could call today that upper middle class that is heavily populated by people in business? It might be more the "business" class or people who get their money by exploiting other people. He doesn't seem bothered by people who have money who do the right thing.


message 38: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1776 comments Mod
Hedi wrote: "Zulfiya wrote: "Hedi wrote: "BTW, one thing I did not quite understand is that she had to leave her 6-weeks old child. Who is nursing him? Or did I miss something? Are they forced to hire a wet-nur..."
There was a fascinating (to me) brief line in
My Lady Ludlow when, in discussing how Lady Ludlow had lost her children, it stated "Five had died in infancy-sacrificed to the cruel system which forbade the mother to suckle her babies." So clearly at the time Gaskell was writing it was understood that using a wet-nurse posed risks for the baby. I also agree that weaning at six weeks would be very young and that the infant handed over to its Aunt for care would likely suffer somewhat in losing access to its own mothers milk.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Lynnm wrote: "His anti-capitalist stands are probably why I love Dickens so much. :-) Not that I'm anti-capitalist, be..."

I know! Capitalism as an idea has been totally perverted. Now it is all about greed and a social darwinism in the cut-throat environment.


message 40: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1776 comments Mod
Zulfiya wrote: "Lynnm wrote: " My favorite characters so far are Sol and Walter. They seem more real. I can picture a Sol and Walter really existing."

The description of Solomon's shop triggered the memories of u..."


Also similar to TOCS is the description of how poorly the shop was doing-and good for Sol for looking around for something more promising for his nephew. The relationship between Sol and Walter is clearly a close one and provides a contrasting parent-child bond to that seen between Dombey and his children.


message 41: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Garrett (amandaelizabeth1) | 154 comments Lynnm wrote: "Amanda - is it the middle class or what we could call today that upper middle class that is heavily populated by people in business? It might be more the "business" class or people who get their m..."

Good point. I do think it was more middle class values than actual middle class people that bothered Dickens. He certainly does have some positive portrayals of middle class people in his novels, such as the Fezziwigs in A Christmas Carol, Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield and Gabriel Varden in Barnaby Rudge.

But he just hated the social-striving, false piety and especially the obsession with money that went along with middle-class life. This subject fills so many of his later novels.


message 42: by Frances, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Frances (francesab) | 1776 comments Mod
Amanda wrote: "It's good to be back to the Dickens Project. It's good to see so many people discussing this lovely novel and appreciating the work of the incomparable Mr. Dickens.

My observations:

* Dickens rea..."

I'm also hopeful that Florence will have a more well-rounded character than previous Dickens heroines. Given that Polly Toodles/Richards is well-defined and we can see her thinking and planning on how to improve Florence's situation (and how easily she manoeuvres Dombey into her plan) I have high hopes for the women in this novel. I agree that Susan Nipper has real potential, and I hope her rough edges may be smoothed out by spending time with Polly and seeing how she treats Florence.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Melanie wrote: "Dickens seems to like to compare people's faces to apples. The description of the Toodles reminded me of this passage in David Copperfield."

Apple seems to be a very influential fruit in mythology and folklore, and consequently it is often used symbolically in numerous books. In Russian Slavic
mythology of pre-Christian era (although it had such a strong grip that its influence is still present today) apples were the symbols of eternal youth and health. They were called youthening apples and were attributed magical and healing powers of giving back beauty, youth, and health.

Surprisingly, this concept fits nicely into the description of the Toodles and Mrs. Copperfield.

It is worth mentioning that Ancient Greeks and Christians also have myths about apples, the apple of discord and the fruit of knowledge of Good and Evil, respectively .


message 44: by Zulfiya (last edited Jun 03, 2013 10:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Frances wrote: "Susan Nipper has real potential, and I hope her rough edges may be smoothed out by spending time with Polly and seeing how she treats Florence. "

I think Susan is just a teenager and is going through the state of negativism and rebelliousness. She does look promising as a character, though. That's what I like about Dickens - his fringe characters are very memorable.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Frances wrote: "Also similar to TOCS is the description of how poorly the shop was doing-and good for Sol for looking around for something more promising for his nephew. The relationship between Sol and Walter is clearly a close one and provides a contrasting parent-child bond to that seen between Dombey and his children"

A good point, Frances. Fortunately, old Solomon is smart enough to understand that this life is not suitable and financially feasible for his nephew. So I hope Walter will not trapped as poor Nell was


message 46: by Hedi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hedi | 938 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Hedi wrote: "Related to the editions:
I actually found something in a note on the text in my edition.
The Penguin edition is based on the first single-volume edition of 1848.
Apparently the Charles..."


No problem. Sorry for bringing this topic up before actually searching for an answer.


message 47: by Hedi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hedi | 938 comments Frances wrote: "...The relationship between Sol and Walter is clearly a close one and provides a contrasting parent-child bond to that seen between Dombey and his children.
..."


That is a good point. It will be interesting to see how these lines/ families develop and maybe cross paths e.g. in form of marriage.


message 48: by Hedi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hedi | 938 comments Melanie wrote: "...I think Mr Dombey's offering Mrs Richards a mere business deal, not allowing the formation of any personal attachment, is also due to the low social rank of the Toodle family. ..."

Mr. Dombey is definitely very concerned about the welfare and health of his son and only wants the very best for him - esp. as he waited so long for "his arrival" - which surely does not include a close relationship to servants. As you said, Melanie, it seems, however, that he does not care whom Florence is close with. It will be interesting to see how the 2 children develop with regards to the relationship each of them has with his father and with the other people, incl. servants, in the Dombey household.


message 49: by Pip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pip | 468 comments I've read the first 4 chapters and am finding this really hard to get into :-( Can someone give me some motivation to keep going??!! (It could be that I was quite tired when I was reading it - I'm also reading the Age of Innocence with another group and I can't seem to get enthusiastic about that either!)


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Pip wrote: "I've read the first 4 chapters and am finding this really hard to get into :-( Can someone give me some motivation to keep going??!! (It could be that I was quite tired when I was reading it - I'm ..."

Plot-wise, Dickens is not the most exciting writer, but personally I like his characters (excluding angelic, saccharine ladies), memorable and haunting urban descriptions, his angry stands against vices, and his humor that later turns into bitter and vitriolic satire.

I would encourage you to enjoy the wording and characterization. Personally, sometimes I have to re-read some of his passages to appreciate them. There is definitely a plot line, but for me these small things matter more than anything else.


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The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910

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Books mentioned in this topic

My Lady Ludlow (other topics)
Dombey and Son (other topics)