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Archived Group Reads - 2017 > Old Curiosity- Week 4: Jan. 22-28: Ch. 37-48

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message 1: by Renee, Moderator (last edited Jan 28, 2017 12:46PM) (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Hello, Curious Victorians! Sorry for posting so late in the day, but I was a grading machine all weekend. :p
Just a few questions for this section... Use them to generate discussion or comment on any aspect of this section that strikes you.

1) Who is the mysterious Single Gentleman and how does he affect the action so far?
2) Who is Barbara and do you think she will supplant Nell in Kit's affection?
3) For what reason do Nell and her grandfather run away from the waxwork?
4) What does Dickens show us as Nell is forced to beg for their survival?
5) Where do Dick Swiveler and Daniel Quilp come in and why?
6) What do you make of the lighter scenes (an outing for the Nubbles family and the wedding of Mrs. Jarley)? How do these events add to the story?

Happy Reading!


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter Well, the single gentleman keeps up the mystery as he appears to have great interest in finding Nell and her grandfather. After much back and forth questioning and banter Codlin and Short recall that Nell and her grandfather were rumoured to be travelling with a wax-work. The single gentleman increases the reader's interest and also contributes to the tension of the story. Who is the single gentleman and why does he want to find Nell? Will he be more successful in finding them than Quilp? The plot is getting more crowded; the hunt is on.


message 3: by Peter (last edited Jan 22, 2017 10:18PM) (new)

Peter In the opening of chapter 42 Dickens informs us that we will once again "follow the fortunes of little Nell" and we quickly learn that her life is going from bad to worse. We learn that Nell's grandfather has, once again, fallen into the clutches of the gamblers. The scene, which occurs at night, recalls again a feeling of unease, threat and confusion. The men goad and push the grandfather to rob Mrs Jarley and finally he says "I'll do it ... I'll have it, every penny."

Within this event, Dickens creates a scene that is representative of
more dreams and mutated landscapes. The next morning the sun is seen as "driving the mists in phantom shapes before it and clearing the earth of their ghostly forms." Nell awakes to " a confused sound of voices, mingled with her dreams" to see a man "of very uncouth and rough appearance" before her. This man proves to be harmless but Nell and her father are soon with a group of barge men who are lurid drunks. They bring Nell and her grandfather to yet another place of surreal appearance. They enter a place with " clustered roofs ...piles of buildings trembling with the working of engines ... shrieks and throbbings; the tall chimneys vomiting forth a black vapour, which hung in a dense ill-favoured cloud ... and filled the air with gloom." This is a place that fulfills and even exceeds the worst of Nell's nightmares. It is yet another nightmare landscape, but this time concretely realized. At the end of Chapter 43 Dickens tells us that as Nell and her grandfather stand in the rain surrounded by this town they felt as if "they had lived a thousand years before, and were raised from the dead and placed there by a miracle."

In this final sentence of the chapter Dickens has wed the nightmares of surreal settings and the elements and references to death. The innocence of Nell, and her mothering of her grandfather, are thrust against all that is wrong in the world. A true David and Goliath experience.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Renee wrote: "Who is the mysterious Single Gentleman."

Of course we aren't told, but I'm speculating that he's maybe Nell's father (we were told that her mother died, but were we told what happened to her father?) or uncle, or maybe her grandfather's brother. Anyhow, I suspect some relation who's been out of England for a long time and has come back wealthy and looking to find Nell to take care of her.

But I have no reason for these speculations other than that there must be some link there.


message 5: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Great comments on the descriptive language employed, Peter. Mr. Dickens is so wonderful with his character descriptions that we can sometimes overlook the way he sets a tone or utilizes setting. Great stuff!

I agree that the Single Gentleman could be a long, lost relative Everyman. I found his addition surprising, but am enjoying his search for Nell and its revival of past characters.


message 6: by Lynne, In Memoriam (new)

Lynne Pennington (bluemoonladylynne) | 243 comments Mod
I have just started this section, and like everyone else who has not read OCS before, am intrigued by the mysterious "gentleman". He obviously has some benign interest in Nell and her grandfather, so is most likely a long-lost relative. Dickens abounds in those. I also like the revival of previous likable characters, but as someone who has never read this before, can't help but feel a sense of foreboding. I should be feeling hopeful that someone well-inclined to Nell is closing in on her, but the rest of the imagery, description, is leading me to feel it will not have a happy ending. Does Dickens mean to do this? Or is it just me?


message 7: by Peter (new)

Peter Lynne wrote: "I have just started this section, and like everyone else who has not read OCS before, am intrigued by the mysterious "gentleman". He obviously has some benign interest in Nell and her grandfather, ..."

Well, Lynne ... I have found that Dickens enjoys bringing us readers along for a good ride. On this journey there are several signals that will point the reader in the direction his narrative will probably lean. I blush to recall how often I have picked up the "signals" and interpreted them incorrectly. Still, the journey is always exciting and the destination well worth the voyage.


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Renee wrote: "Great comments on the descriptive language employed, Peter. Mr. Dickens is so wonderful with his character descriptions that we can sometimes overlook the way he sets a tone or utilizes setting. Great stuff!"

As I was reading OCS during breakfast, I couldn't help thinking how challenging he must be for young readers today who are so accustomed to a fast paced experience in almost all aspects of their lives, from movies and TV shows which introduce and resolve a story in from 30 minutes to 2 hours, to texting, to Facebook and Twitter, etc.

To enjoy Dickens requires a willingness to slow one's pace of life and wallow in the richness of his language and the extent of his descriptions which can go on and on with little action happening. Is it possible that people who live their lives in 140 character bites can learn to appreciate Charlie?


message 9: by Peter (new)

Peter Everyman wrote: "Renee wrote: "Great comments on the descriptive language employed, Peter. Mr. Dickens is so wonderful with his character descriptions that we can sometimes overlook the way he sets a tone or utiliz..."

Sadly, Everyman, I think not. You can't rush Dickens; you enter his world.


message 10: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Yes, you do have to give yourself up to the pace, the story, the character development, the detail... Enjoying the immersion and the feeling of being carried along in the stream of it. I keep thinking of one friend, who, when reading Austen, kept referring to the language as "old English." Still makes me chuckle.


message 11: by Lynne, In Memoriam (new)

Lynne Pennington (bluemoonladylynne) | 243 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "Renee wrote: "Great comments on the descriptive language employed, Peter. Mr. Dickens is so wonderful with his character descriptions that we can sometimes overlook the way he sets a tone or utiliz..."

Not just Dickens, but many of the classics are probably getting short-shrift these days. I also feel sorry for those who are functionally illiterate except in Twitter-speak. There have been many studies done that show an actual alteration of brain function in those who are perpetually wired and digitized. The latest I read seems to show that young people are losing the ability to read facial expressions and body language---this being the case, how can someone who can't recognize "the signs" begin to understand description? Oh for a time machine!!! I would go back and give it a go----at least temporarily. I think the thing I would miss most would be reliable cleanliness!


message 12: by Kerstin, Moderator (new)

Kerstin | 620 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: " Is it possible that people who live their lives in 140 character bites can learn to appreciate Charlie?"

Of course!
As with anything that can be learned, a love for stories can be too. I see here the distinction between entertainment and story telling or the difference between consuming versus savoring.


message 13: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
On that note... Back to Dickens. :)

Anyone want to take a crack at the use of comedy in this section?


message 14: by Jane (new)

Jane Greensmith (janegs) | 149 comments I absolutely loved the bit about the single gentleman tearing off at every sound of a Punch show and dragging them back to the Brass establishment to perform and be interviewed. The mental picture of this along with Sally Brass and Dick Swiveller hanging out the window watching was simply wonderful.

OCS simply wouldn't work without bizarre scenes like this, as the pathos would be overwhelming.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of the single gentlemen in the carriage with Mrs. Nubbles. I think the nervous energy the narrator described is not unlike that of Mr. Dickens himself, which makes me wonder whether Dickens did write himself in the story in the character of the single gentleman who sets out to rescue Nell.

The furnace man-child was also a fascinating part of the story. It was a description of Nell and her grandfather's descent into Hell, and yet here was the lovely person who was sheltering Nell and caring for her, despite the fact that he was completely a prison of the hell he called home.

Finally, the description of Little Bethel was priceless--Dickens had no use for hypocritical, sanctimonious drivel, and I loved Kit's argument with the preacher and his "rescue" of his family.

Barbara and her mother were silly--Kit is as much an innocent as Nell, and their designs on him and their jealousy of Nell were a bit irritating. I trust that Barbara will see the error of her ways.


message 15: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
I was really struck by the seesaw of comedy vs drama in this section as Dickens bounces us between what's going on with Nell and, well, pretty much anyone else. I agree that the pathos might have been overwhelming otherwise. It's such a clever way to keep readers hooked between publications. I also agree with Lynne's comment about the overall sense of foreboding. It's a toss-up whether this can end well, with the Single Gentleman racing with the darker elements (Fate?) to rescue Nell & her grandfather from ruination.


message 16: by Peter (new)

Peter Renee wrote: "I was really struck by the seesaw of comedy vs drama in this section as Dickens bounces us between what's going on with Nell and, well, pretty much anyone else. I agree that the pathos might have b..."

Yes. The elements of good vs evil do not hide in the shade, do they? I think that the race to find Nell and her grandfather give us a fairytale aura to the novel. A very long and delightful fairytale indeed.


message 17: by Kerstin, Moderator (new)

Kerstin | 620 comments Mod
Renee wrote: " I agree that the pathos might have been overwhelming otherwise."

Definitely! There were moments when I thought, do I really want to continue reading this maudlin tale? And then Dickens leaves the scene behind and becomes rather delightful.


message 18: by Jane (new)

Jane Greensmith (janegs) | 149 comments Renee wrote: "I was really struck by the seesaw of comedy vs drama in this section ...It's such a clever way to keep readers hooked between publications."
I would love to find a schedule of the serialization to see how the balance between Nell and the rest of the story was balanced. A few years ago, I joined in a group read of The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins, that followed the serialization of the novel exactly 150 years after it was first published.


message 19: by Lynne, In Memoriam (new)

Lynne Pennington (bluemoonladylynne) | 243 comments Mod
I try to keep the serialization at the back of my mind and I wonder also if the cliff-hangers come at the end of the installment. Surely they must. I have not been near a decent research library in a loooooog time, but used to love to go look at the old publications. No mistake that Nell ends up "waiting" in another cemetery. I feel certain in my own mind that that is where she is going to end up---whether by the neglect of her grandfather, the fact that the gentleman doesn't get there in time (wherever there is), or by something Quilp does.


message 20: by Lynne, In Memoriam (new)

Lynne Pennington (bluemoonladylynne) | 243 comments Mod
The notes in my version of OCS say that the nightmare route through the industrial area described is one that Dickens himself had traversed with a friend (obviously under different circumstances than Nell). We know the toll that mining coal, burning coal, had (and has) on the environment---and it is one that Dickens returns to. Juxtaposing the blackness against the poverty conjures up true horrors.


message 21: by Kerstin, Moderator (new)

Kerstin | 620 comments Mod
I wonder if Nell and her grandfather went through existing places in their wanderings or were they all made up?


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Kerstin wrote: "I wonder if Nell and her grandfather went through existing places in their wanderings or were they all made up?"

I'm betting existing. Dickens used real places in most, if not all, of his novels. London, of course, which he knew well, but other areas, too -- he doesn't always use the real place names, but like Hardy he tends to use real places and describe them quite accurately.


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Kerstin wrote: "I wonder if Nell and her grandfather went through existing places in their wanderings or were they all made up?"

Here's a link to a map that purportedly shows the probable and a possible track of the journey.

However, be careful: the description under the map contains a massive, massive spoiler. If you don't know the end of the story, I suggest waiting until you have read it all before looking at the map. But it's up to you; you have been warned!

http://charlesdickenspage.com/images/...


message 24: by Kerstin, Moderator (new)

Kerstin | 620 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "I wonder if Nell and her grandfather went through existing places in their wanderings or were they all made up?"

Here's a link to a map that purportedly shows the probable and a po..."


I've finished the book, so it's OK to peek :)
Thanks!


message 25: by Lynne, In Memoriam (new)

Lynne Pennington (bluemoonladylynne) | 243 comments Mod
Kerstin wrote: "I wonder if Nell and her grandfather went through existing places in their wanderings or were they all made up?"

The nasty manufacturing stretch of road was real. See my note above from Jan25. And thanks to E-Man for the link to the map. Dickens was famous for using sites he knew well, but they can be difficult to find today because things have changed so drastically. There are marvelous walking tours in London, and in all of England, where you can follow the footsteps and see actual sites for all kinds of things. Shakespeare, Dickens, Jack the Ripper!---when in England, I loved the walking tours.


message 26: by Lynne, In Memoriam (last edited Jan 27, 2017 12:45PM) (new)

Lynne Pennington (bluemoonladylynne) | 243 comments Mod
I like this map because it is easy to read, and I like the key to locations below the map.

http://charlesdickenspage.com/dickens...


message 27: by Jane (new)

Jane Greensmith (janegs) | 149 comments Lynne wrote: "I like this map because it is easy to read, and I like the key to locations below the map.

http://charlesdickenspage.com/dickens..."


I love that map--thanks for sharing!


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Lynne wrote: "I like this map because it is easy to read, and I like the key to locations below the map.

http://charlesdickenspage.com/dickens..."


Excellent map. It will be particularly useful when we get into reading some of Dickens's books which are more centered on London.

I didn't find Tower Hill on it, nor the location of Quilp's Wharf. I'm not sure we were ever told exactly where the Old Curiosity Shop is, were we?

But even it doesn't have these locations, the map is great fun to look at. And it will definitely be useful with other Dickens books.


message 29: by Lynne, In Memoriam (new)

Lynne Pennington (bluemoonladylynne) | 243 comments Mod
Tower Hill was an elevation just a bit north and west of the actual Tower of London. If you visit the Tower today and try to find it, I think there is a memorial of some kind there, though it is very hard to tell there is or was much of a hill. This would have been on the East End, much of which during Dickens's day is not a place you would have wanted to go wandering alone at night, though Dickens himself was noted for his long nighttime rambles all over the city.

As for Quilp's Wharf, I wonder if we could extrapolate where it might have been by looking at old pictures of the Thames right around the Tower and Tower Bridge? Something that shows lots of the old wharves, which were thick thereabouts.


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