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Dombey and Son
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The Dickens Project - Archives > Dombey and Son, Chapters 5-8, June 08 -14

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hello, dear participants. This week we are discussing the next four chapters (V-VIII) of the Dombey family saga. Please share your thoughts and ideas.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Dickens continues to intensify the ominous setting for his novel: Paul's christening took place on a cold bitter day, but it is the cold in human hearts of the Dombeys that makes it even more tangible: everything and everybody is cold on this day. I physically had the shivers down my spine, and I swear my fingertips were cold too. This chapter was indeed very atmospheric.
I actually like chapter VI very much – it is a fairy-tale experience: a little princess lost in the underbelly of London, finds herself a captive in the hands of an ugly and malicious witch; under her spells she parts with her beautiful clothes and has to escape to avoid the further misfortunes, and readers are left to imagine what kind of fate would have Florence faced if she had stayed in this part of the city. Walter is a noble knight who rescues the little damsel in distress and what's more, he finds that she is that little Dombey they were talking about with Sol and Captain Cuttle.
Dombey's entrepreneurship-like attitude towards his household is further satirized in the novel: he fires Richards because she undermined the security of Paul and ignores the dangers his daughter had to face.
I am happy that Flo and Paul form a certain twosome, and what a character little Paul is. He is a visionary eccentric, asking questions a grown-up does not ask, making them think about the world from a new angle, a Buddha child. He is equally eerie and endearing. On the other hand, I do not like this feeling of foreboding around Paul: asking about coffins, about the death of his mother, relatives worrying about his physique and weak health, but I do like how he questions and challenges the ogress of a private boarding school, Mrs. Pipchin. When it comes to denouncements of public vices, Dickens is at his best. This how he criticizes the lovely lady who was in charge of her boarding school.

She was generally spoken of as 'a great manager' of children; and the secret of her management was, to give them everything that they didn't like, and nothing that they did— which was found to sweeten their dispositions very much. She was such a bitter old lady, that one was tempted to believe there had been some mistake in the application of the Peruvian machinery, and that all her waters of gladness and milk of human kindness, had been pumped out dry, instead of the mines.

As some mentioned, plot-wise this is not the most exciting read, but when it comes to insightful characterization, ominous and augural settings, piercing satire, Dickens is at his best in this novel.


message 3: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I laughed a lot at the satire in this first section of the novel. As you say, Dickens at his best and full of Victorian melodrama.


Sarah | 269 comments I loved these chapters for the character development and the subsequent foreshadowing that Dickens writes into them. Miss Tox seems likely to live up to her name and become toxic to the Dombeys, for all that Paul Sr. views her “as a woman of great natural good sense, whose feelings did her justice and deserved encouragement” (chapter 5). She earns her merit in Dombey’s eyes for her deference to and veneration of the all-encompassing idea of Dombey and Son, and I suspect that her ulterior motive is to become Dombey’s wife and thereby marry into his fortune. (Incidentally, I wonder what was in the letter of Fanny’s that Dombey found and destroyed.) Louisa Chick appears to be a superficial, self-important character, and her naïve husband has the potential to be likeable as a character but is so far too minor to factor into the larger scheme of the novel.

As for young Paul, it seems obvious that he will never live up to his father’s impossibly high standards, particularly given his sickly nature. Dickens very skillfully wrote the scene of his christening and the similarity between the dismal weather and the coldness of the atmosphere and of Dombey himself, who reminded me of Scrooge in not lighting a fire for either his own comfort or that of the others. Perhaps Paul’s fate was set when Richards was dismissed after the disastrous visit to Scraggs’s Gardens, in the description of which Dickens alludes to a criticism of the railroad: “the yet unfinished and unopened Railroad was in progress; and, from the very core of all this dire disorder, trailed smoothly away, upon its mighty course of civilisation and improvement” (chapter 6). As Paul grows, he becomes a strange child who is old beyond his years in both infirmity and in thinking: “Naturally delicate, perhaps, he pined and wasted after the dismissal of his nurse, and, for a long time, seemed but to wait his opportunity of gliding through their hands, and seeking his lost mother. This dangerous ground in his steeple-chase towards manhood passed, he still found it very rough riding, and was grievously beset by all the obstacles in his course” (chapter 8). He will be an interesting character to follow, although I do not foresee that he will accomplish much. He seems to think that money is useless because it couldn’t save his mother. Dombey foolishly proclaims that “I am enough for him, perhaps, and all in all. I have no wish that people should step between us.” (chapter 5). I think that this plays into his overall uncaring manner toward Florence, of whom he is likely jealous for her closeness to Paul. When Florence lamented the dismissal of Richards, we are told that “The swift sharp agony struck through him [Dombey], as he thought of what his son might do” (chapter 6), yet he continues to be a distant father.

Florence, on the other hand, shows much more promise. “Florence will never, never, never be a Dombey,” said Mrs. Chick, “not if she lives to be a thousand years old” (chapter 5)—a declaration that will likely prove to be Florence’s salvation. She is stronger than her brother and a likely heroine, although hopefully she will not always be so saccharine in her sweetness and perfection. She could end up becoming Walter’s wife, as he was portrayed as the fairy-tale knight in shining armor when he came to her rescue after her kidnapping: “Walter picked up the shoe, and put it on the little foot as the Prince in the story might have fitted Cinderella’s slipper on” (chapter 6). Even at the Mrs. Pipchin’s Castle, she is Paul’s favored and only companion, and her role as the family’s heroine seems imminent.


message 5: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments The first couple of chapters featuring Florence must be amongst the most sexist ever written! It can only get better:)


message 6: by Hedi (last edited Jun 09, 2013 01:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hedi | 923 comments Here are some of my thoughts, though you, Sarah and Zulfiya, have already mentioned the most important ones:

In addition to what you have already said about the coldness of the weather and of the Dombey family I think it is very interesting that Dombey does not even really seem to warm up for his son, as also alluded in chapter 5:

In the course of these remarks, delivered with great majesty and grandeur, Mr Dombey had truly revealed the secret feelings of his breast. An indescribable distrust of anybody stepping in between himself and his son; a haughty dread of having any rival or partner in the boy's respect and deference; a sharp misgiving, recently acquired, that he was not infallible in his power of bending and binding human wills; as sharp a jealousy of any second check or cross; these were, at that time the master keys of his soul. In all his life, he had never made a friend. His cold and distant nature had neither sought one, nor found one. And now, when that nature concentrated its whole force so strongly on a partial scheme of parental interest and ambition, it seemed as if its icy current, instead of being released by this influence, and running clear and free, had thawed for but an instant to admit its burden, and then frozen with it into one unyielding block.

He obviously does not even know how to handle other people except in business and this cannot even be changed by his long expected son. So even though he seems to be more devoted to Paul than to Florence, he is not able to build up relationships. He cannot even smile or show any sign of affection when he sees how much love there is between Florence and her little brother.
There are more allusions to Dombey being responsible for coldness, fall, fading... e.g. Mr Dombey represented in himself the wind, the shade, and the autumn of the christening. He stood in his library to receive the company, as hard and cold as the weather; and when he looked out through the glass room, at the trees in the little garden, their brown and yellow leaves came fluttering down, as if he blighted them.
Another sign of his lack of building relationships was to me that he called Polly's son by his number as a pupil - 147. People are in his mind not human, they are just objects maybe like on chess board that you move around strategically, but who do not have a soul or any kind of individuality.

In contrast to these relationships, Dickens describes the love and affection in Mrs. Toodle's family to the utmost and it must have been weird for Florence to see how a family can also be.

Very significant to me was the fact that Dombey dismissed Richards because she took his son to this awful neighborhood, but as mentioned already did not care at all what happened to Florence, who after all was in a much bigger danger. He even said to his sister "that she would certainly be found"

Mrs Chick is definitely selfish, self-absorbed and superficial - and supports the whole Dombey and Son theme even though she herself was a daughter in the Dombey family. However, this does not make her more compassionate and aware of Florence's situation. Worse, she even complains about Florence never becoming a real Dombey.
It is sad for Florence that besides Susan Nipper, the only one who really cared about her was Polly who had to leave (e.g. when she is coming back home aftr her adventure). That must have been quite hard on her, too.

Zulfiya and Sarah, you already mentioned the little fairy-tale of the lost Florence. Besides the "prince rescuing the princess" I thought there was a second and third allusion to a possible marriage between Walter and Florence in the future in the form of Solomon mentioning Sir Richard Whittington again and the way Walter was trying to leave in order to inform the Dombey household. That I thought really over the top and satirical because Walter reacts as if he has found his one true love while she is actually a six-year old child. But who knows... :-)

Sarah, I fully agree with you that it seems as if Miss Tox wants to become Mrs Dombey, the second. I had that feeling already earlier when Dombey was urged to make her Paul's godmother, but in the following chapters after Richards's dismissal this became more clear to me. Interesting is that she seemed to have had another point of interest before she became involved in the Dombey household. And strangely she still seems to make the major decisions for them. She was the one who brought in Richards (if I am not mistaken) and she is the one who knows everything about Mrs. Pipchin which to me means that she actually recommended her. And was it supposed to be a mockery that she lives in the Princess's Place? :-)

Dickens succeeds in this novel again to introduce us to extremely satirical and comical characters or what do you all think? Mrs Chick, born Dombey, is maybe (again) a reflection of this self-absorbed elderly lady that we have already found in e.g. Mrs. Nickleby and is supposed to mirror Dickens's own experiences with his mother. And then there is Mrs. Pipchin, and , of course, little Paul himself, which has already been described by you, guys. I fund it interesting that in contrast to the first page of the novel, Dombey and his son were now compared as "the two so very much alike, and yet so monstrously contrasted."
It is also interesting that little Paul is attracted by this strange Mrs. Pipchin and vice versa. It will be interesting to see what will happen there.

And related to the forebodings, I was wondering as Mrs. Wickam (or was not it her?) alluded by Paul's comparison with her Uncle's child that he might die or at least that in some way death is around them, which also fits very well with the coldness of the christening.

I guess I should stop now... Sorry for the length of my comment.


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Robin P | 1964 comments Mod
I had the misfortune the read the christening chapter on a chilly day.and as Zulfiya said, it made me feel cold myself. I will have to remember to go back to it on a sweltering day!

The description of Miss Tox's house reminded me of some we have seen in other Dickens works like Nickleby and Chuzzlewit, where any natural element, tree, grass or even sun, is beaten back by ugly man-made squalor. The description of the railroad was great. I was thinking "I don't remember any earthquake in London" before he revealed the true cause of the neighborhood upheaval. Capitalism shows up here too, as everyone tries to set up or name a business for the railroad and thereby make a fortune.
Florence has some grit, she doesn't faint or even cry much until she is rescued.
The "good woman"/witch was tempted to chop off Florence's hair, which reminded me of the cutting of hair in Gaskell's Ruth, that some of us just read. It seems to me that hair can symbolize femininity or temptation, and cutting it off deprives her of identity and power.


Hedi | 923 comments One more thing I was wondering a little about.
In the beginning of chapter VI Dickens mentioned an earthquake that had rent the whole neighborhood to its centre. Was that a real event? Does anybody know about an earthquake that hit London at that time?


Hedi | 923 comments Robin wrote: "I had the misfortune the read the christening chapter on a chilly day.and as Zulfiya said, it made me feel cold myself. I will have to remember to go back to it on a sweltering day!

The descripti..."


Robin, now you answered my question. Thanks! :-) I must have missed that when reading on. I had just marked it and did not get the connection.


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Hedi | 923 comments Robin wrote: "The "good woman"/witch was tempted to chop off Florence's hair, which reminded me of the cutting of hair in Gaskell's Ruth, that some of us just read. It seems to me that hair can symbolize femininity or temptation, and cutting it off deprives her of identity and power.
..."


I was actually thinking of the same thing at the point and also thought of the temptation coming from visible hair, as still considered in some cultures nowadays...


message 11: by Lynnm (last edited Jun 08, 2013 01:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynnm | 3027 comments As others have pointed out, there is a lot of foreshadowing. Although, the Grim Reaper seems to point at both Paul and Florence. Paul because he is so sickly (and all the talk to bones and funerals), and Florence because there was talk about how Paul reminded Berry of her uncle's daughter - everyone around her that she loved died. And then it turns to Florence.

I like Paul. He is an odd little child. Definitely spoiled and ordering people around like a Prince, but at the same time, very likable. So blunt and honest, and all those philosophical thoughts.

I was sad - although not surprised - to see Richards go. I hope she makes some type of reappearance.


message 12: by Lynnm (last edited Jun 08, 2013 02:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynnm | 3027 comments Hedi wrote: "One more thing I was wondering a little about.
In the beginning of chapter VI Dickens mentioned an earthquake that had rent the whole neighborhood to its centre. Was that a real event? Does anybody..."


That passage was odd. At first I thought it was a real earthquake. But then realized that it was an analogy for the railroad being built through that neighborhood and the changes that it brought about.

Does England have a lot of earthquakes? I remember from grad school that an earthquake that hit London after Fielding's Tom Jones was published was blamed on the book.


Lynnm | 3027 comments MadgeUK wrote: "The first couple of chapters featuring Florence must be amongst the most sexist ever written! It can only get better:)"

Dickens is VERY sexist. While I love him, his depiction of "good" women makes me cringe.


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Melanie | 48 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Dickens continues to intensify the ominous setting for his novel: Paul's christening took place on a cold bitter day, but it is the cold in human hearts of the Dombeys that makes it even more tangi..."
I think the coldness of this event is even more striking considering that this is a christening, which should be a joyful occasion, full of hopes and good wishes for the newborn child. Paul’s christening is not very promising, so this might really be some kind of foreshadowing. Only Mr Dombey is even colder than the food and the house and thus doesn’t mind its temperature:).

As to Mrs Richards’s dismissal, Dombey probably doesn’t even consider this a harsh measure, but only the logical consequence of a breach of contract. She clearly broke a taboo here. Paul meeting the Toodles is exactly what he wanted to prevent by all the precautions when hiring her. And I think it is not only that he doesn’t care that Florence was in danger – he is actually glad she got lost because he wouldn’t have learned that Paul had met the Toodles otherwise: “I regard that as a happy circumstance, inasmuch as, but for that occurrence, I never could have known of what you had been guilty.”


message 15: by Melanie (last edited Jun 08, 2013 09:33PM) (new) - added it

Melanie | 48 comments Sarah wrote: "I loved these chapters for the character development and the subsequent foreshadowing that Dickens writes into them. Miss Tox seems likely to live up to her name and become toxic to the Dombeys, fo..."

I found this passage about the question if a fire should be lighted also interesting. Dombey actually asks his sister if she would like a fire, and although she is cold she declines. She is careful to always act “like a Dombey” and is proud of “making the efforts” she thinks other people fail to make.

Interestingly I had a more favourable impression of Ms Tox than most of you. But I am still not exactly sure what to think about her and what she is up to (other than wanting to marry Dombey, but this seems to be an idea also supported by Mrs Chick). We don’t know much about her past and how she got to know the family. Mrs Chick probably prefers having her friend Ms Tox, whom she might be able to manipulate, as the godmother to having someone else she doesn’t know that well. I didn’t think Dickens’s desciption of Ms Tox as a naturally modest person was ironic, and don’t think she is malicious. I had the impression that Ms Tox really admires the Dombeys (maybe she is just a quite naïve person, because she seems to admire pretty much everyone) and that they feel flattered and like her for that. Mr Dombey would prefer not to make anyone the godmother because he would like to be the only person Paul will become attached to (“I am enough for him”). But as it is expected from him, he chooses to have Ms Tox close to the family, because she always sais what she feels is being expected from her and doesn’t question any of his opinions. As he tells Mrs Richards, “the lower classes should know their position and conduct themselves properly”. Ms Tox definitely acts according to this rule. And so she becomes Paul’s godmother “in virtue of her insignificance”.


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Melanie | 48 comments Lynnm wrote: "As others have pointed out, there is a lot of foreshadowing. Although, the Grim Reaper seems to point at both Paul and Florence. Paul because he is so sickly (and all the talk to bones and funera..."

I also like Paul – he is really cute with all the questions he asks Mrs Pipchin and his father without caring if it is appropriate to ask them. In this respect he is like other children, being curious and talking about everything that’s on his mind. On the other hand he is already very wise for a little child and asks the important questions of life.


message 17: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Garrett (amandaelizabeth1) | 154 comments Excellent observations as usual. Everyone really captured what I was thinking.

My observations:

* I really thought the earthquake description was brilliant. There must have been much less noise in the 19th century and everything moved at a much slower pace, a la Cranford. The noise of a train must have been truly terrifying. I lived next to a train track as a child and the walls certainly shook every time a train passed.

* As others pointed out, Paul Jr. seems destined for a Little-Nell-like demise ( I have never read the novel before so I don't know what happens). He has all the classic signs. He is a child wise beyond his years although otherworldly and he is in a questionable state of health. Dickens hasn't been shy about laying on large doses of death-related foreshadowing and I think he is going in the direction of grinding all of Paul Sr.'s well-laid plans into dust .

* The chapters about Florence also struck me as being sexist and just a little creepy. She is sort of being paired off with Walter although she is still quite young. Obviously, the Victorians had different standards about these things.


message 18: by Melanie (last edited Jun 08, 2013 09:39PM) (new) - added it

Melanie | 48 comments Hedi wrote: "Here are some of my thoughts, though you, Sarah and Zulfiya, have already mentioned the most important ones:

In addition to what you have already said about the coldness of the weather and of the ..."


Maybe Mrs Chick was once in a similar situation like that Florence is now in, as a girl in the Dombey family with no hopes for her future, and, seeing that this would be her only chance, took the decision to flatter her brother, act like him, become close to him and hope to be favoured by him. Mrs Chick and Mr Dombey have an interesting relationship. She is the person he consults with, and she tries to influence him so that he takes the decisions that suit her plans. She is very attentive to the way he reacts to her suggestions. Once she thinks he doesn’t support them, she takes one step back and pretends never to have thought that way. She is quite opportunistic, always pretending to be of the opinion that is most to her advantage. She takes her suggestion back of making Ms Tox Paul’s godmother, because she thinks her brother doesn’t like it (although it turns out then that it suits his interests very well, too).

I also thought that these chapters show how little Dombey is used to social relationships. Even shaking hands, a formal kind of greeting, seems to be too personal for him and he gives Mr Chick his hand quickly back as if it were a fish. (I think Dickens was practising here for the description of Uriah Heep’s fishy hand). In a way Dombey is pitiable - as he has never learned to open up, people don’t see any likeable traits in his character and so he is not a person that naturally wins people’s sympathy and friendship. Now that it is so important to him that Paul should become attached to him, he is helpless and maybe worried that Paul might prefer someone else over him and tries to keep people out of Paul’s life.
As Sarah said, he is already experiencing this with Florence – when she is sad about Mrs Richard leaving, he suspects that she likes a “stranger” more than her father. He once again feels shut out, like in the scene of her mother dying in her arms. Maybe he had thought that being Paul’s father should be enough to be his number 1, and now realizes that building a relationship requires more than being related. It is also interesting that whereas most other parents regret that the childhood of their children goes by so fast and they don’t stay little for long, Dombey can’t wait for Paul to be old enough to start working. Also, although his thoughts circle around Paul, he has no interest at all for his character and personality, other than related to the question if he is likely to function in the company.


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Melanie | 48 comments Both Mrs Richards and Uncle Sol have received an offer of education for her/his son/nephew. They react very differently to it. Uncle Sol hopes that this is Walter’s chance to become more succesful in his working life than he himself has been. Mrs Richards is sceptic and worried about her son’s happiness. She is afraid that the Dombey world with all its formality and sternness will not be an environment her son will feel comfortable in. However, she doesn’t dare to reject Dombey’s offer. We’ll see who had the better gut feeling. To me, Uncle Sol seems a little naïve. When reading chapters 1-4 I was somehow worried about Walter, he doesn’t really fit in the Dombey world and might be taken advantage of.

I was wondering what had become of Mrs Brown’s daughter. Mrs Brown is a mysterious and weird person but becomes quite melancholy when she is being reminded of her daughter and appears to regret that she is so far away. Something must have happened between them that may have led to her leaving.

Walter is happy to be given the opportunity to be Florence’s hero and likes his role as her guardian and rescuer. I found it very cute how they are walking the streets home, Walter trying to look as fierce as possible.


message 20: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie | 48 comments According to the introduction in the Penguin Classics version, Dickens modelled Mrs Pipchin on the Camden Town lodging-house keeper of his boyhood, Mrs Roylance. It states that Paul’s sense of weekend release might owe much to Dickens’s escapes from Mrs Roylance during the weekends with his sister Fanny. Fanny was his main confidente and almost like a mother to him during the most miserable period of his childhood with his father in prison and he himself having to work in the blacking-factory. The introduction brings up the theory that this might be the reason for his creating all the bloodless perfect boring girls. The idolization of his own sister (and maybe later also his sister-in-law:) might be reflected in these girls that are too good to be real and that his male child characters look to for comfort and emotional sustenance. I haven’t read a Dickens biography and don’t know if it is true, but I think there must be a personal reason behind this pattern that runs like a thread through so many of his novels. In D&S, Florence offers Paul the companionship, emotional security and affection that he is denied in the otherwise cold Dombey household. Maybe Dickens had similar experiences during his childhood.

The introduction also states that although Mr Dombey is no gentlemen in the strict Victorian understanding of that term (he is in “trade”), his money and his style allow him to pass for one. This would explain why money is so important to him and why he also wants Paul to understand that through money, one can become “honored, feared, respected, courted and admired”. This explanation makes sense to me, considering for example that Doctor Parker Peps who takes care of Mrs Dombey in chapter 1 is one of the Court Physicians and also serves the royal family.


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Frances (francesab) | 1766 comments Mod
Hedi wrote: "Robin wrote: "The "good woman"/witch was tempted to chop off Florence's hair, which reminded me of the cutting of hair in Gaskell's Ruth, that some of us just read. It seems to me that hair can sym..."

I assumed she was going to be able to sell the hair (presumably to be made into wigs) and in fact shows a little humanity in leaving Florence her hair, therefore depriving herself of a little more income (and lets face it, she was clearly very impoverished and Florence would have appeared a very wealthy and privileged girl).


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Frances (francesab) | 1766 comments Mod
Melanie wrote: "Zulfiya wrote: "Dickens continues to intensify the ominous setting for his novel: Paul's christening took place on a cold bitter day, but it is the cold in human hearts of the Dombeys that makes it..."

The loss of Richards was clearly devastating to both Paul and Florence, and Paul actually sickened after her departure, presumably from the loss of milk. I am still not clear on whether Susan is a benign caregiver for Florence-she speaks to her very harshly and seems to physically pull her about a fair bit, although it is hard to tell sometimes if there is kindness and warmth under it all or not (I grew up with a caregiver who used to shout and threaten to trade us in for a little yellow dog if we didn't behave, but we all new she adored us and wouldn't hurt a fly).


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Frances (francesab) | 1766 comments Mod
Amanda wrote: "Excellent observations as usual. Everyone really captured what I was thinking.

My observations:

* I really thought the earthquake description was brilliant. There must have been much less noise i..."

I didn't feel Walter's attention to Florence were creepy, he just seemed like a kind young man who felt protective towards the clearly lost and frightened girl. His attentions seem courtly and somewhat avuncular, although I assume that as Florence matures his feelings are likely to change. He strikes me as similar to the Kit in TOCS and Florence is his Nell.

I do find that Dickens has a stock set of female characters that he recycles and I understand he was very cruel to his wife in the later years of their marriage. Has there been any talk of reading a Dickens Biography at some point during the project?


message 24: by Melanie (last edited Jun 08, 2013 09:26PM) (new) - added it

Melanie | 48 comments My impression is that Susan is a passionate and rebellious character that sometimes just likes to argue, but very good-natured.


message 25: by Hedi (last edited Jun 09, 2013 10:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hedi | 923 comments Lynnm wrote: "Hedi wrote: "One more thing I was wondering a little about.
In the beginning of chapter VI Dickens mentioned an earthquake that had rent the whole neighborhood to its centre. Was that a real event?..."


Yes, I completely missed that. I think I was not very attentive when reading those chapters and had maybe a break in reading them in between, so I did not make the connection. I had a little bit of a hard time this week convincing myself to read and the length of the chapters did not help very much. :-(

I cannot remember having heard of an earthquake in London and England in general, but sometimes an earthquake does hit places that usually do not get one, e.g. in Germany or in Richmond, VA, approx. 2 years ago, which could even be felt in South Central PA where I was living then.


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Hedi | 923 comments Frances wrote: "Hedi wrote: "Robin wrote: "The "good woman"/witch was tempted to chop off Florence's hair, which reminded me of the cutting of hair in Gaskell's Ruth, that some of us just read. It seems to me that..."

Good point, Frances, I had not thought about it, even though Fantine in Les Miserables had to sell her hair, too. I think I was still too influenced by the reading of Ruth like Robin. :-)


message 27: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I cannot remember having heard of an earthquake in London and England...

The UK does have minor earthquakes. The last earthquake to have its epicentre in London was in 1750. There have been a number of earthquakes in Scotland, especially in Comrie in the Scottish Highlands where there were several quite severe ones in the 1840s - the time when Dombey was written.


message 28: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 09, 2013 11:15AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments On the subject of Dickens' attitude towards women, his biographers think that he was severely affected by his mother's acquiescence in letting him go into the hated and demeaning boot polishing trade and in keeping him there even when the family fortunes improved. Although he idolised young women all of his life, like most Victorians he believed that a woman should be 'the angel of the house', devoting her life to housekeeping and child rearing. The actress Miriam Margoyles, who has researched and portrayed many of his female characters, believes that he abused women and thinks many of his own relationships were 'damaged, incomplete or destructive'.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/ch...


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Hedi | 923 comments Melanie wrote: "Maybe Mrs Chick was once in a similar situation like that Florence is now in, as a girl in the Dombey family with no hopes for her future, and, seeing that this would be her only chance, took the decision to flatter her brother, act like him, become close to him and hope to be favoured by him...."

I agree with you on Mrs. Chick's development, but if she was in a situation like Florence herself before, I would expect more compassion and maybe more moral support or advice. I think I am a little disappointed in her as she seems so ignorant even though I assume she knows better...


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Hedi | 923 comments Melanie wrote: "Both I was wondering what had become of Mrs Brown’s daughter. Mrs Brown is a mysterious and weird person but becomes quite melancholy when she is being reminded of her daughter and appears to regret that she is so far away. Something must have happened between them that may have led to her leaving.
..."


I was thinking abut that, too. When it was mentioned that her girl was gone, I briefly thought she had kidnapped Florence as a substitute for her own daughter, but in the end she let Flroence go so I dismissed that thought again.

Maybe she will reappear at a later point of time. Knowing Dickens that might be possible. The same applies to Richards as well.


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Hedi | 923 comments MadgeUK wrote: "I cannot remember having heard of an earthquake in London and England...

The UK does have minor earthquakes. The last earthquake to have its epicentre in London was in 1750. There have been a numb..."


Thanks for that information, Madge. :-)


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Hedi | 923 comments MadgeUK wrote: "On the subject of Dickens' attitude towards women, his biographers think that he was severely affected by his mother's acquiescence in letting him go into the hated and demeaning boot polishing tra..."

... and thanks for the link, too. That is interesting.

Maybe we should consider once to read a biography or such a book about Dickens in our Dickens project. We have already been spending 2 years with him and will probably spend another couple of years with his works. :-)
That might be interesting and give us a new insight to his works, as well.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Wow, I was out with friends for a day, and what a lively and inspiring discussion! It will take me a while to read the posts and comment:-) Great job!


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "Maybe we should consider once to read a biography or such a book about Dickens in our Dickens project. We have already been spending 2 years with him and will probably spend another couple of years with his works. :-)"

Hedi, an excellent idea. I am all for it.


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MadgeUK | 5214 comments The actor who recreates Dickens' monologues, Simon Callow, has recently written a biography of Dickens which is quite an entertaining read:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Charles-Dicke...


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Amanda Garrett (amandaelizabeth1) | 154 comments Frances wrote: "Amanda wrote: "Excellent observations as usual. Everyone really captured what I was thinking.

My observations:

* I really thought the earthquake description was brilliant. There must have been mu..."


I didn't mean to imply that Walter was creepy. He seems like a really sweet guy and his motives were pure in helping Florence and honestly in the marriage sweepstakes she could do a lot worse.

It's just the whole scenario of young girl under the protective wing of an adult man (although Walter is a young man) that makes me cringe. Dickens repeats this over and over as we all know by now, and it just strikes me as really strange, especially the obsession of several characters in TOCS over Little Nell. I know the Victorians had different standards about these things, so this may be just my reaction as a 21st century reader.


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Robin P | 1964 comments Mod
Hedi wrote: "Frances wrote: "Hedi wrote: "Robin wrote: "The "good woman"/witch was tempted to chop off Florence's hair, which reminded me of the cutting of hair in Gaskell's Ruth, that some of us just read. It ..."

I knew that Mrs. Brown's interest in the hair was monetary, but it seemed to have other overtones. And of course she overcomes the temptation.


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Amanda Garrett (amandaelizabeth1) | 154 comments MadgeUK wrote: "The actor who recreates Dickens' monologues, Simon Callow, has recently written a biography of Dickens which is quite an entertaining read:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Charles-Dicke......"


Peter Ackroyd wrote a massive biography of Dickens. It's huge and takes forever to read, but it certainly captures the man and his times.

Claire Tomalin also wrote a biography of Dickens that contains a lot of information about his relationship with women, especially his mother, wife and reputed mistress Ellen Ternan.


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Hedi | 923 comments Sorry, Robin! I did not mean that you did not think of the monetary aspect. You had mentioned Ruth and I was very much reminded by it and just thought about that when reading. However, as already mentioned I think I was not a very attentive reader last week. :-(


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Hedi | 923 comments Amanda, just FYI:
I do not know whether this a bug of the goodreads app or not, but somehow your comment about the biography shows approx. 7 times. :-)


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Melanie | 48 comments Hedi wrote: "Melanie wrote: "Maybe Mrs Chick was once in a similar situation like that Florence is now in, as a girl in the Dombey family with no hopes for her future, and, seeing that this would be her only ch..."

I think she is too much of a coward to contradict her brother, the influential patriarch, and take sides with Florence. I also don't think she fought much for her own rights, but just took the easy way. It is disappointing in her, because she is the only one who might be able to improve Florence's situation.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Robin wrote: "I knew that Mrs. Brown's interest in the hair was monetary, but it seemed to have other overtones. And of course she overcomes the temptation. "


As a modern reader, I could not get rid of the sexual harassment feeling. It seems to me that this part of the story was sexually electrifying. The second part of the chapter is also quite sexually meaningful. I wonder whether it is our modern reaction or Dickens indeed was trying to convey something in between the lines.


Lynnm | 3027 comments MadgeUK wrote: "The actor who recreates Dickens' monologues, Simon Callow, has recently written a biography of Dickens which is quite an entertaining read:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Charles-Dicke......"


Looks good - I certainly would be up for a Dickens biography!


Lynnm | 3027 comments MadgeUK wrote: "On the subject of Dickens' attitude towards women, his biographers think that he was severely affected by his mother's acquiescence in letting him go into the hated and demeaning boot polishing tra..."

I agree that Dickens didn't understand women - you can see that in his writings. Sad to think that it may have been more and that he was abusive. This is the first time that I read that though - it would be interesting to see what other biographies have to say about it.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Guys, if you want to read a biography of Dickens, I am with you here. We might read it either after this novel or after the next novel David Copperfield.


Lynnm | 3027 comments MadgeUK wrote: "The UK does have minor earthquakes. The last earthquake to have its epicentre in London was in 1750. There have been a numb..."

This for the information. I just never think of the UK as having earthquakes but I guess they can happen anywhere. (We have minor jolts now and again even in CT.)


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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Amanda wrote: "Peter Ackroyd wrote a massive biography of Dickens. It's huge and takes forever to read, but it certainly captures the man and his times."

Amanda, thank you for bringing these books to our attention. I own Ackroyd's chunkster, but there are other interesting biographies, so we will have a choice, and any choice is ALWAYS good.

BTW, because of the software malfunction, I am going to delete the six identical messages. I will keep the first one of these septuplets, though:-) I apologize for the censorship:-)


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments As far Simon Callow's book is concerned, the USA edition of this book can be found here

http://www.amazon.com/Charles-Dickens...


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Amanda Garrett (amandaelizabeth1) | 154 comments Zulfiya wrote: "Amanda wrote: "Peter Ackroyd wrote a massive biography of Dickens. It's huge and takes forever to read, but it certainly captures the man and his times."

Amanda, thank you for bringing these books..."


My apologies for spamming everyone. It was unintentional. Goodreads has been giving me fits lately. Also thank you to Zulifya for deleting the extras.

Hopefully, you're not seeing this seven times :)


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Amanda Garrett (amandaelizabeth1) | 154 comments An interesting item from the June 9th edition of The Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1870 that the novelist Charles Dickens died (books by this author); he had a stroke and fell off his chair at the dinner table.
Dickens asked to be buried "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner," so even though he was buried in Westminster Abbey, it was a secret funeral, early in the morning, with only 12 mourners. But the grave was left open for a week and thousands of people, all types of people, came to throw in flowers for the man whose tomb is inscribed with the words "He was a sympathiser to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world."

What a fitting epitaph.


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