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Dombey and Son
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The Dickens Project - Archives > Dombey and Son, Chapters 49-51, August 24 - August 30

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments It is time to start picking up loose ends in the novel, and although the conclusion is not in sight yet, it is definitely on its way. This relay in the Dickethon is three chapters long (49 -51).


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Let me start my post with the question. Is there anyone who actually doubted that Walter will come back? It was not my first read, but even when I was reading the novel for the first time, I still remember how inevitable it was. I have a suspicion that almost everyone has had the same feeling. Walter has been alluded all the time, and the characters never actually moved on with their lives, and it only means that Dickens planned this move ahead. This fact per se is a significant step forward for Dickens, but it is also a very visionary statement. Usually, most of the angelic young ladies in his novels were previously expected to sit and wait when their knights in shining armor would come back after an adventure that would mold and strengthen them. All these adventure, on another continent, at sea, in the army, or in a boarding school, all these adventures and rites of passages were about men and young gentlemen. Here, gentle Florence is in focus, and she is still predominantly a Dickens heroine, but the perspective is changing, and HER life is under scrutiny. It is definitely a DIFFERENT novel for Dickens.
It is interesting to observe how Dickens attempts to deal with the situation that depicts sexual awareness. Florence and Walter often used the language of the sibling affection. We all understand, and I am sure Victorians did too, that it was a euphemistic tool for the lack of the verbal architecture to express their relationship and feelings. Usually, the scenes of love and other intimate confessions were left behind the scenes, but here Dickens is bravely and, let's be honest, slightly clumsily attempts to demonstrate that Victorians were guarding so closely.
His third chapter is an excellent example of different emotional tones. We have already discussed how present-tense narrative is used as a tool to create a certain cinematic effect, but I think I finally figured out why Dickens relies on this type of narration. Present-tense narrative voice is not only characterized by its unique narrative perspective, but it also helps to create the specific tone – the detached, abstract, factual tone, a very unemotional approach. It is as if these present- tense fragments create emotionally cold pockets in the warm, past-tense fabric of the novel. Every time this technique was used, Dombey was the center of attention: wedding, reception, and now a state of disgrace and solitude. How cold and miserable his world it!


Sarah | 269 comments After the maelstrom of the previous section, these three chapters offer an uneasy calm in which the stormy waters have abated but not cleared. Will there be another storm or will the sun shine on our cast? In some respects, events seem to have taken a providential turn. Poor Florence has at last seemingly forsaken her father, the very title of which she cannot bear to hear. Although she supposedly has forgiven him, she can no longer reconcile her idyllic view of him: “Homeless and fatherless, she forgave him everything; hardly thought that she had need to forgive him, or that she did; but she fled from the idea of him as she had fled from the reality, and he was utterly gone and lost. There was no such Being in the world” (chapter 49). The mark that he left on her breast is the only evidence of her past life (aside from Diogenes), and despite this scar of sorts she is still like a celestial creature: “The Captain’s delight and wonder at the quiet housewifery of Florence in assisting to clear the table, arrange the parlour, and sweep up the hearth…were gradually raised to that degree, that at last he could not choose but do nothing himself, and stand looking at her as if she were some Fairy, daintily performing these offices for him” (chapter 49).

Walter’s return was a bit anticlimactic thanks to Captain Cuttle’s repeated affirmation that he was drowned, which of course indicate otherwise and which was quite inconsiderate because of the pain it initially caused Florence. Of course, Cuttle doesn’t intend to cause distress but is simply blind as ever to the damage he could cause. He and Florence share a naiveté: “Unlike as they were externally…in simple innocence of the world’s ways and the world’s perplexities and dangers, they were nearly on a level” (chapter 49), although in the time since she and Walter parted, she has grown into a woman. This causes friction in the happy reunion, which peaks when Walter is pressed to explain: “I have not a brother’s right. I have not a brother’s claim. I left a child. I find a woman” (chapter 50). The result is the engagement that we have been waiting for, although I am not convinced that it will go off without a hitch (no pun intended). In spite of his quirkiness, I continue feel sorry for Mr. Toots, whose unrequited love is doomed. Nevertheless, he proves his goodness by continuing to help Florence in any way he can and by remaining loyal to her.

Dombey, on the other hand, is as cold and unaffected as ever. Or is he? His appearance and air supposedly tell of his being humbled, but in all other aspects he is unchanged and hopelessly narcissistic. He, of course, has been wronged, and he fully believes that Florence (and probably Edith and Carker) will come crawling back: “But this is sure; he does not think that he has lost her. He has no suspicion of the truth. He has lived too long shut up in his towering supremacy, seeing her, a patient gentle creature, in the path below it, to have any fear of that. Shaken as he is by his disgrace, he is not yet humbled to the level earth. The root is broad and deep, and in the course of years its fibres have spread out and gathered nourishment from everything around it. The tree is struck, but not down” (chapter 51). His disgrace provides fodder for the rumor mills in his own home among the servants and at the Counting House, and his only concern is how he will be perceived and what damage has been done to his reputation. This sums up Dombey’s life and concerns: “What the world thinks of him, how it looks at him, what it sees in him, and what it says—that is the haunting demon of his mind. It is everywhere he is; and, worse than that, it is everywhere where he is not” (chapter 51). His sun revolves around being seen as all-powerful, and now that both his wife and daughter have dared to defy him, he can only continue on as though nothing has happened—while seeking out Carker’s whereabouts in the meantime—which makes him even more ridiculous. Dickens’ closing statement on the scene, that “Mr. Dombey and the world are alone together” (chapter 51), would be sad if Dombey had any semblance of a compassionate heart, but as it is, this fact is only pathetic. In keeping with our chess analogy, I wonder which king will succeed in the final checkmate.


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Robin P | 2115 comments Mod
Such a contrast between the warmth of the shop, even before Walter arrives, and the coldness of Dombey's house and emotions! At the shop, Florence is surrounded by people who love her and see her as "heart's delight" , the Captain, Walter, and Mr Toots (and I would guess Sol Gills is coming back too). At the mansion Florence lost her mother, her brother, her stepmother, her confidante Susan, and never had any affection or even consideration from her father.


message 5: by Lynnm (last edited Aug 25, 2013 07:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynnm | 3027 comments Even though you knew that Walter would come back, and then with the Captain being called to meet up with someone and his continued refrain whether Walter drowned, the two chapters on Walter's return and subsequent engagement to Florence were quite lovely.

And to keep it from being too sugary sweet, there was the comic relief of Mr. Toots - although I did feel sorry for him.

Dombey is a cold lonely man. I have no sympathy for his character. The only question is, where will his pride lead him?


Elizabeth (Alaska) Notes:

Yes, the mystery person is Walter, as anticipated. The first two chapters of this section are very sweet. Walter is aware of the impropriety of having her there, yet they can do nothing else. Toots shows up (how convenient!) and offers to do whatever they need. There seems to be some forecasting that Toots will commit suicide and leave his money to Florence (and Walter). In any case, Toots is off to try to find Susan to come be with Florence.

Walter bares his heart. This is in rather oblique language, but Florence understands that Walter wants to marry Florence. She is ecstatic!

It’s interesting that we have had to wait to learn Dombey’s feelings about having been abandoned. He seems not to know that Florence, as well as Edith, has left him. Carker is also among the missing. Will have to wait to see whence they have gone.


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Melanie | 48 comments Mr Toots could probably say nothing less appropriate than greeting Walter with the words “I’m afraid you must have got very wet. I hope you left everybody quite well upon the ship” and Florence with the words “I am pretty well Miss Dombey, I hope all the family are the same.”:) Of course he has no idea what he is talking about and means well.:) And he really deserves credit for trying so hard not to be jealous, accepting Walter, going out in search of Susan, wanting to support them financially and, in spite of his disappointed hopes, doing everything he can to help Florence & Walter. He really has a big heart.


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Robin P | 2115 comments Mod
Yes, I love Mr. Toots' attempts at polite conversation which are always difficult. We saw that from back when he was first introduced. But I think we all know people like that. Maybe today he would be diagnosed with some sort of social disorder or Asperger's syndrome. He is living in the wrong era, as his only wish is to be a knight putting his life at stake for a fair lady who in his mind is much above him. I certainly hope he lives on, but clearly he has offered his fortune to the engaged couple.

As it turns out, Florence is the one who proposes to Walter, in the sense that she offers to be his wife. She thought he was uncomfortable because she would cause him harm in the firm. That is a good point, I can't imagine Walter would even want to work for Dombey if he could after all that has happened.

My guess is that there is still some mystery about Walter's father that will end up helping out the young couple.


Hedi | 960 comments I must admit that I have already read on, so I will not comment on any speculations this time.

I thought it was a little cruel of Captain Cuttle to remind poor Florence the whole time of the "drowned" Walter, even if he did not mean it that way and only wanted to steer Florence to the greater effect of Walter's sudden appearance.
Dickens makes again an allusion to fairy-tales, which he often seems to do when relating to Florence.
"A wandering princess and a good monster in a storybook might have sat by the fireside, and talked as Captain Cuttle and poor Florence and not have looked very much unlike them."

I agree with Melanie on Mr. Toots, who really seems to be so noble with respect to his love triangle situation. That must be hard for him. I think he is so perplexed about Walter's appearance that he encountered nothing better than the phrase Melanie mentioned.

Interesting is that Ms. Tox has a reappearance after some time again. This time she is communicating directly with Mrs. Pipchin whom she knows from her time in Brighton. I was just wondering whether she is still in contact with the Toodles. Or did she not get the information from them she was hoping, esp. as Rob is engaged in a working relationship with Mr. Carker?


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Hedi | 960 comments Zulfiya wrote: "It is interesting to observe how Dickens attempts to deal with the situation that depicts sexual awareness. Florence and Walter often used the language of the sibling affection. We all understand, and I am sure Victorians did too, that it was a euphemistic tool for the lack of the verbal architecture to express their relationship and feelings. Usually, the scenes of love and other intimate confessions were left behind the scenes, but here Dickens is bravely and, let's be honest, slightly clumsily attempts to demonstrate that Victorians were guarding so closely ..."

Zulfiya, I was thinking the same. It was such a lovely and romantic scene, not saying directly what they meant (in a modern way), but not holding back this emotionally exciting and tense encounter.
I was waiting for the proper proposal, but as already mentioned it is Florence who makes this move, which must have been quite progressive for the Victorian readers. This could also be interpreted as "feminism by Dickens". :-)


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Pip | 468 comments I finished the novel a couple of weeks ago, so am afraid to comment on specific points now until the end, as I can't remember what happened in which order. I'm one of those people who can reread books any number of times as if new due to my appalling memory ;-)

I have to agree, though, that Mr Toots' dilemma was truly sorrowful. This is pure literary mastery; to create a character who essentially provides comic relief, but who at the same time is so fragile that we feel so very strongly for him in these heart-breaking moments is a rarity in literature of any age.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Pip wrote: "I finished the novel a couple of weeks ago, so am afraid to comment on specific points now until the end, as I can't remember what happened in which order. "

I would be in the same situation, except that, having the schedule, I stopped to make notes at each weekly break. As to memory, I often can't recall the names of the main characters months after reading, although their characterizations and plot stay much longer - sometimes years longer.


Christopher | 1 comments I had a hard time keeping up for a while. This book dragged through the middle third, and like many of his novels took some time to become interesting. Now I've sailed past the schedule and have been enjoying the high drama, and even some action. I had a little trouble believing that Floy could continue in such love of her terrible father with no nurturing and being left alone in the big house so much. Then, he suddenly became dead in her mind, which too seemed a little far fetched. She is a likable character if a little uni-demensional. I particularly enjoyed laughing along with "Captain Gills" and Toots, both dimwitted, socially inept, but so much fun. Dickens did well carrying along Cuttles mariner view of the world.

It will be particularly satisfying to see what happens to our curious Cheshire Cat and eventually to the big Dombey himself.


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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Christopher wrote: "It will be particularly satisfying to see what happens to our curious Cheshire Cat and eventually to the big Dombey himself.
"


Equally abominable characters. Will they be granted a literary salvation? Are they eligible? Will Good triumph over Evil or will it transform Evil? - this is the question. In two weeks we will get the answers:-)


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Sarah wrote: "Walter’s return was a bit anticlimactic thanks to Captain Cuttle’s repeated affirmation that he was drowned, which of course indicate otherwise and which was quite inconsiderate because of the pain it initially caused Florence. "

I know that it was very inconsiderate that he kept reminding Florence about Walter's alleged death, and I felt so bad about it because I still think he has a noble heart, but his insensitivity is due to his childish naivete and social ineptitude and clumsiness.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi wrote: "Dickens makes again an allusion to fairy-tales, which he often seems to do when relating to Florence.
"A wandering princess and a good monster in a storybook might have sat by the fireside, and talked as Captain Cuttle and poor Florence and not have looked very much unlike them." "


She is indeed an enchanted princess. A very good quotation, Hedi.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Pip wrote: "IThis is pure literary mastery; to create a character who essentially provides comic relief, but who at the same time is so fragile that we feel so very strongly for him in these heart-breaking moments is a rarity in literature of any age. "

We all praised Dickens for his other mature characters, namely Edith, but Mr. Toots is quite a remarkable one. Thank you for highlighting this. A very valuable point!


Lynnm | 3027 comments Pip wrote: "I have to agree, though, that Mr Toots' dilemma was truly sorrowful. This is pure literary mastery; to create a character who essentially provides comic relief, but who at the same time is so fragile that we feel so very strongly for him in these heart-breaking moments is a rarity in literature of any age.
"


There is nothing more sad than unrequited love.

We can all relate to Mr. Toots because we've all been there.

Reminds me of Kate Winslet's character in the film "The Holiday":

"I've found almost everything ever written about love to be true. Shakespeare said "Journeys end in lovers meeting." What an extraordinary thought. Personally, I have not experienced anything remotely close to that, but I am more than willing to believe Shakespeare had. I suppose I think about love more than anyone really should. I am constantly amazed by its sheer power to alter and define our lives. It was Shakespeare who also said "love is blind". Now that is something I know to be true. For some quite inexplicably, love fades; for others love is simply lost. But then of course love can also be found, even if just for the night. And then, there's another kind of love: the cruelest kind. The one that almost kills its victims. Its called unrequited love. Of that I am an expert. Most love stories are about people who fall in love with each other. But what about the rest of us? What about our stories, those of us who fall in love alone? We are the victims of the one sided affair. We are the cursed of the loved ones. We are the unloved ones, the walking wounded. The handicapped without the advantage of a great parking space! Yes, you are looking at one such individual. And I have willingly loved that man for over three miserable years! The absolute worst years of my life! The worst Christmas', the worst Birthday's, New Years Eve's brought in by tears and valium. These years that I have been in love have been the darkest days of my life. All because I've been cursed by being in love with a man who does not and will not love me back. Oh god, just the sight of him! Heart pounding! Throat thickening! Absolutely can't swallow! All the usual symptoms."


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Melanie | 48 comments Mr Toots's magnanimity is truly admirable. That must have required a lot of strength and not everybody would have been able to react that way. I love this quote (and the whole movie:). Fortunately Kate finds someone better.


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Frances (francesab) | 1818 comments Mod
Zulfiya wrote: "Pip wrote: "IThis is pure literary mastery; to create a character who essentially provides comic relief, but who at the same time is so fragile that we feel so very strongly for him in these heart-..."

Mr. Toots reminds me a bit of Tom Pinch in Martin Chuzzlewit-a very kind, somewhat simple character who is deeply in love with the heroine.


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Frances (francesab) | 1818 comments Mod
I agree, a lovely proposal.

I was also intrigued by the pause that ensues in ch. 50, after the proposal is made and accepted. They embrace, the Sunday Bells are ringing and the story pauses.

Meanwhile, downstairs, "The Captain remained in the little parlour until it was quite dark. He took the chair on which Walter had been sitting, and looked up at the skylight until the day, by little and little, faded away, and the stars peeped down. He lighted a candle, lighted a pipe, smoked it out, and wondered what on earth was going on upstairs, and why they didn't call him to tea." When Florence finally joins him, he can tell by looking at her that something has happened: "Catching by this means a more distinct view of Florence, he pushed back his chair, and himself with it as far as they could go. 'What! Heart's Delight!" cried the Captain, suddenly elated. Is it that?' "

This is as close as Dickens will come to implying physical intimacy, but it is certainly pretty suggestive.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Frances wrote: "This is as close as Dickens will come to implying physical intimacy, but it is certainly pretty suggestive. "

Dickens is neatly changing the perspective and allows readers do the intimate job:-)


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Hedi | 960 comments Lynnm wrote: "Pip wrote: "I have to agree, though, that Mr Toots' dilemma was truly sorrowful. This is pure literary mastery; to create a character who essentially provides comic relief, but who at the same time..."

I love that quote and the movie, too. However, Kate Winslet finds her love in the movie after all. Hollywood could not take away the happy ending.

The song "Nature Boy" says "the greatest thing you'll ever learn is how to love and be loved in return"...
Just to complete our philosophizing about love... :-)


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Hedi | 960 comments Frances wrote: "Zulfiya wrote: "Pip wrote: "IThis is pure literary mastery; to create a character who essentially provides comic relief, but who at the same time is so fragile that we feel so very strongly for him..."

You are right, Frances. They do have some similarities, esp. related to the unrequited love and their naivety.


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