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The Old Curiosity Shop > TOCS Chapters 51-55

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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Chapter the Fifty-first

Hello Fellow Curiosities

In this week’s chapters we will spend much time with Little Nell. Is it fate or planning that I get most of the Nell chapters rather than Tristram? We will never tell.

These chapters will be somber. If we have found Dickens’s portrayal of Little Nell to be melodramatic before, this week will try our patience even more. It is my intention to focus on the style and structure of only a few paragraphs from the appropriate chapters. Hopefully, if our opinion of Little Nell does not change, our appreciation of Dickens’s writing style will be increased.

In this chapter, however, we find ourselves with Quilp. There is a possible revelation of his character awaiting us. Let’s get to it.

We find Quilp at Bevis Marks intending to visit Sampson Brass. He is not home, but through repeated knocking the Brass’s servant opens the door. As short as Quilp is he finds himself looking down on the Brass’s tiny servant who asks Quilp to leave a card or message. The small servant fascinates Quilp and he asks her “[w]here do you come from?” Quilp “stroked his chin” and then “looked at her covertly but very narrowly ... . The result of this secret survey was, that he shaded his face with his hands, and laughed slyly and noiselessly, until every vein in it was swollen almost to bursting.” Later, Sally and Sampson Brass visit Quilp in his damp Wilderness retreat where Quilp greets them by remarking “Sweet Sally! ... Gentle, charming, overwhelming Sally.” As the group prepares for tea Quilp seats himself on an empty beer-barrel.

Quilp then proceeds to tell Sampson and Sally that he does not like Kit. Kit is compared to “a prowling prying hound; a hypocrite; a double-faced, white liveried, sneaking spy; a crouching cur to those who feed and coax him, and a yelping dog to all besides.” After calling Kit “a yelping insolent dog” Quilp sums up his rant by stating “I owe him a grudge.” Quilp says that Kit stands between him and a “golden” end and directs Sally and Sampson to put Kit out of the way, “and execute them. Shall it be done?”


Thoughts


Have you noticed how Quilp is frequently portrayed as sitting on objects that are unusual, large, uncomfortable, or otherwise not much like a normal chair? Do you think Dickens has a reason for such behaviour?

This brief chapter presents us with a couple of puzzles. The first is why Quilp seems so fascinated with the Brass’s maid. Why would Quilp be so interested in her size, appearance, and connection to the Brass’s? How do you account for Quilp’s comments to “Sweet Sally ...”? Is Quilp being sarcastic, ironic ... sincere? Have you noticed any extra bizarre action or interaction between Quilp and Sally?

Since this is not the maid’s sole appearance in the novel it suggests Dickens may have some future plans for her. What could these plans possibly be?

The second question is why does Quilp hate Kit so much? Is it simply because he is connected with old Trent and Nell? Does Quilp still really believe that old Trent has gold or its equivalent and Kit can lead him to it?

How would you characterize the tone and mood of this chapter? In terms of structure, let us compare this chapter’s overall presentation with that of the next chapter.

There is a point in this chapter where Quilp compares Kit to a dog and Quilp’s terminology is very rough. Mary Lou has noted earlier the repeated references to dogs in TOCS. To what extent do you think such references and illustrations are by chance? If they are, in fact, deliberate, what larger reason may be at play in the novel?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Chapter the Fifty-second


This chapter begins with a major symbol. The schoolmaster presents Nell with “a bundle of rusty keys” that turn out to be for a door which admits Nell into a new home. Let us pause here. We have seen Nell with keys before. In that earlier scene Nell had snuck into her old room where Quilp lay asleep, stolen his keys, and with those keys unlocked the Curiosity Shop’s door and fled into the streets of London with her grandfather. They have been wandering homeless through the countryside every since and been part of many adventures and experiences. Now, in this chapter, we have Nell using keys again to open a door, but this time it is to enter a place that will become her home. I am going to reproduce the paragraph for our close study of this chapter.


“The room into which they entered was a vaulted chamber once nobly ornamented by cunning architects, and still retaining, its beautiful groined roof and rich stone tracery, choice remnants of its ancient splendour ... the broken figures supporting the burden of the chimney-piece, though mutilated, were still distinguishable from what they had been - far different from the dust without - and showed sadly by the empty hearth, like creatures who had outlived their kind, and mourned their own too slow decay.”


Nell calls this location “a place to live and learn to die in.” The schoolmaster tells Nell that this old house is hers. From this place Nell will be able to earn a small allowance of money by keeping the keys to the church and showing it to strangers.

Keys can be seen in many ways. Earlier I suggested that Quilp’s possession of the Curiosity Shop’s keys could have a sexual suggestion. Now, we have keys as a centre focus as well. This time, however, we see the “rusty keys” are used by Nell to gain entry into a residence. Keys were used by Dickens in many occasions to indicate domesticity and order. Keys were an indication of trust and authority. Perhaps the best example from Dickens occurs in Bleak House. When Esther receives the keys to Bleak House it symbolizes that she has found a home, she has been granted trust and authority, and that she had a defined domestic role within society. The same is true of Nell.

Let’s deconstruct the above passage from Chapter 52.


Thoughts


They are “rusty” keys. What does this suggest? They have been given to Nell. How might this action suggest a change in role for Nell?

The keys grant Nell and her grandfather entry into a place that has “remnants of ... ancient splendour.” The room is a place of “broken figures” many of which are “mutilated” but “were still distinguishable from what they had been.” The place has an “empty hearth.” In general the artifacts in the room are “like creatures who had outlived their kind, and mourned their own too slow decay.”

I am going to suggest that Dickens was creating a flashback with this description to the interior of the Curiosity Shop in the early chapters of the novel. Do you think that is possible? To me, I see the keys as a central metaphor and symbol of the novel. First, Nell had to escape from her London home through stealth and the stealing of keys. Here, Dickens has her obtaining keys in order to gain entry into her new home. What might Dickens’s purpose be?


If we go back to look at the description of the interior of the Curiosity Shop in London we will find much of it replicated in this chapter. Indeed, if we take a retrospective look at Samuel Williams’s illustration “The Girl in her Gentle Slumber” we find the letterpress description of the interior space in this chapter. The illustration “Nell’s New Home” in this chapter is somewhat different. Indeed, the absence of the scattered objects seen in the Williams illustration functions as a visual sub-text. Nell’s new home is an unencumbered place, a place that Nell calls “a place to live and learn to die in.”

The passage we are focussing on mentions “the empty hearth, like creatures who had outlived their kind, and mourned their own too slow decay.”

What might an “empty hearth” symbolize?

There is a mention of “creatures who had outlived their kind, and mourned their own slow decay.” Have we met any characters who have been, literally or figuratively, living in the past and are now in a situation where they are in a “slow decay.”? How could this place, with a graveyard so close, and a world crushing in on them, become a suitable extended metaphor in the novel? My opinion is that Nell and her grandfather are people who are in their own stages and forms of decay. What do you think?



This chapter is one of melodrama and pathos. Indeed, this week’s chapters are enough to send most people to a box of Kleenex or into fits of laughter. Oscar Wilde remarked that one must have a heart of stone to read TOCS without laughing. If any reader was wondering what the fate of Nell is to be, this week’s chapters should leave little doubt in even the most optimistic mind of what is coming. So my plan is to use this chapter as a place to suggest how Dickens is incorporating analepsis, a looking back, a reflection of earlier events. Did you notice the reference to fire, which was a “solemn presence, within, of that decay which falls on senseless things the most enduring in their nature: and without and round about on every side, of Death.” In Chapter 44 we saw how fire was used as a life force, to keep Nell and her grandfather safe and warm. In that chapter we read how the furnace keeper watched the “white ashes as they fell into their bright hot grave below.” Later in the chapter the furnace keeper says that the fire is “like a book to me ... . It has its pictures too.” Here we see yet another reference to a book with pictures that takes us back into earlier chapters and the reference to Pilgrim’s Progress with its strange pictures.

Next we have Dickens discussing sleep. To date, this book has been one of nightmares, distorted visions, and a disruptive world view. Now, Nell is surrounded by “dreamless sleepers.” Nell feels a chill, but she thinks of peaceful dreams and recalls some “old scriptural picture” that looked down on her asleep that “was a sweet and happy dream.”


Thoughts


In this chapter Dickens is signalling a shift in tone and focus. He is drawing upon what has previously occurred and blending these events into Nell’s present reality. How successful has he been? Does the transition occur too quickly?


The other major event in this chapter is the mention of another character. He is called “the bachelor.” We know some of his background yet it seems to me that Dickens is holding something back. What we do know is that he is a good man and that, for some reason, “none of the simple villagers had cared to ask his name.” Now that alone makes me suspicious. What is Dickens up to here? When the bachelor meets Nell he immediately offers to help her become more comfortable by finding furniture and other items for Nell’s new home. If I was a suspicious person I would key in on the fact that all the new items were “cast to the floor in a promiscuous heap.” Sounds to me like the Curiosity Shop is being replicated. The bachelor then brings the students to Mr Marton. The chapter ends with the bachelor and his friend gazing at the home of Nell and her grandfather and speaking softly “of the beautiful child” as they “looked round upon the churchyard with a sigh.”


Thoughts


I can’t think of many passages in Dickens that are imbued with as much pathos and melodrama as we find here in TOCS. Did you survive it? Well, I hesitate to tell you but Dickens isn’t finished yet, so buckle your seatbelts. Before we proceed, however, let’s think about a few events.

What do you make of the bachelor? How could Dickens incorporate him into future chapters?

How did you respond to the obvious pathos in this chapter?

What do you think would have appealed to Dickens’s first readers of this chapter? Why?


message 3: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Chapter the Fifty-third


We begin this chapter with Nell busy with her “little bundle of keys.” She is now firmly embedded in her role of housekeeper. Perhaps we should give her the title of head of the household since grandfather Trent’s role in these chapters has been diminished significantly. When Nell goes out she sees young children sporting among the tombs and we read that they have laid an infant playmate of theirs upon a child’s grave that has recently been dug. Upon asking the name of the dead child she is told the burial plot is not a gravesite but rather a garden.

She then meets the sexton who invites her to his little cottage. As Nell looks at the sexton’s tool he tells her that he is a gardener. He digs the ground and plants things that will grow. The comparison of graves and gardens continues. The sexton then asks Nell if she is going to the church. He tells Nell that at the church there is a well that was once full of water, but, decade by decade, it has held less water. Now the well is dry. Here is yet another metaphor of life and death that Dickens presents to his readers. He then shows Nell some miniature boxes carved from scraps of oak and “sometimes bits of coffins.” Still, The old and sickly sexton says he will be alive for much longer; for Nell, she realizes that “the old sexton, with his plans for next summer, was but a type of all mankind.” With a jingle of her keys, Nell proceeds to the church.

In a meditative mood, Nell realizes that “because of the dark and troubled ways that lay beyond and through which she had journeyed with such failing feet ... . Time, stealing on the pilgrim’s steps, had trodden out their track, and left but crumbling stones.” She finds a Bible on a shelf and read it and realizes that life offers the “songs of birds, and the growth of buds and blossoms out of doors.” Looking around at the tombs in the church Nell realizes that “[i]t would be no pain to sleep amidst them.” At night Nell is found in the church and is taken home. As the poor schoolmaster stops down to kiss Nell’s cheek “he thought he felt a tear upon his face.”


Thoughts



Yes, pathos. Yes, melodrama. There is little question that Dickens hoped for a tear or two upon the face of his readers. Why might this chapter appeal so much to a Victorian audience? How did you respond to it? If these two opinions are different, why do you think they are?

I often wonder if Dickens was thinking of the loss of his sister-in-law Mary Dickens in these chapters. There seems to be a continual debate among the experts. In fact the introduction to the Penguin addition raises this question and seems to dismiss the possibility. Still, Dickens’s grief at Mary’s untimely and unexpected death was deep. Her death was the only time in Dickens’s writing career that he missed a deadline for the submission of the next part of his serialized novels. Do you think that writers often draw heavily on their own life experiences in their novels? Can you recall any examples?


message 4: by Peter (last edited Mar 30, 2019 06:15AM) (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Chapter the Fifty-fourth

This chapter begins with a brief profile of the bachelor who we learn loves to study the legends and lore of the town and its church. He chose to believe that the ancient coffins held the remains of people who had done good deeds, repented their evil, and done great charity. It is from him that Nell learns the lives, deaths, and legends of those whose remains are found in the church. She learned that there “was another world, where sin and sorrow never came; a tranquil place of rest, where nothing evil entered.” And yes, I admit the pathos is getting rather thick in places. Still, let’s push ahead.

The sexton soon gets better and Nell accompanies him to the preparation of a grave for a 64 year old, or is it a 79 year old person? The sexton and his assistant debate the age of the person to be interred. Nell then spots the schoolmaster and in their conversation Nell admits that she grieves to think “that those who die about us, are soon forgotten.” To sooth Nell, the schoolmaster says that “there may be people busy in the world at this instant, in whose good actions and good thoughts these very graves - neglected as they look to us - are the chief instruments.” He then tells Nell that “[t]here is nothing ... no nothing innocent or good, that dies, and is forgotten. Let us hold to that faith, or none.”


Thoughts

Let us stop here for a moment. What do you think the purpose and meaning of the disagreement over the dead person’s age was?

How could the schoolmaster’s thoughts about those who died be of relevance to the novel?



What happens next is of extreme importance. After an absence of some time from our story Nell’s grandfather arrives and comments on how good the schoolmaster is. Nell’s grandfather then pats Nell’s cheek and comments “she needs her rest ... too pale - pale. She is not like what she was.” Nell tells her grandfather that the past must be forgotten, and if they do recall it to mind “it shall be only as some uneasy dream that has passed away.” What follows is a lengthy conversation between Nell and her grandfather where old Trent comments “I will be patient ... humble, very thankful and obedient, if you will let me stay. ... let me keep beside you. Indeed, I will be very true, and faithful, Nell.” As the day progresses and Nell and her grandfather continue to clean some graves where “something long forgotten appeared to struggle faintly in his mind. ... It did not pass away ... but came uppermost again, and again, and many times that day, and often afterwards.”



Thoughts


What transformation has apparently happened to grandfather Trent? Is it believable? Do you think it will last?

If this is a major change in the character of old Trent why might Dickens have presented it at this particular point in the novel? How could this altered character of the grandfather transform the remainder of the novel?

Do you see any links to Shakespeare’s King Lear in this chapter? If so, what are they?



When Kim posts the illustrations for this section I hope one will astound you. How do you imagine an illustration could summarize the events of this week’s discussions?

How can an illustration help link the novel’s letterpress?


Thoughts

If we look back on the previous chapters we see that Nell has met many guides as she settles into her new life. The school master, the sexton, the bachelor, the children playing in the graveyard, Nell’s reading of the Bible, and her time spent absorbing the sights, sounds and ambiance of the church conflate to be her new guides. Why might Dickens have given Nell so much support?


message 5: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Chapter the Fifty-fifth


This is a chapter of major transition. From this point on we see how Nell’s grandfather changes from a man who robbed his own granddaughter to feed his own gambling addiction to a man who has total love for his granddaughter. Is this transition too rapid, too unbelievable, too out of character? We will discuss that, but for now I would like to do a close reading of part of the first paragraph of the chapter and explore Dickens’s style in presenting the change to the readers.


“... . From that time, the old man never for a moment forgot the weakness and devotion of the child: from the time of that slight incident, he, who had seen her toiling by his side through so much difficulty, and had scarcely thought of her otherwise than as the partner of miseries which he felt severely in his own person, and deplored for his own sake at least as much as hers, awoke to a sense of what he owed her, and what miseries had made her. Never, no never once in one unguarded moment from that time to the end, did any care for himself, any thought of his own comfort, any selfish consideration or regard, distract his thoughts from the gentle object of his love.”


First, Dickens uses anaphora to establish the importance of time. The use of the phrases “From that time” and “from the time” firmly establish the concept of transition and change in Nell’s grandfather. We see how Dickens creates an insight into old Trent’s mind. Now he “awoke to a sense of what he owed her.” The use of the word “awoke” is a reminder of the nightmares they have shared earlier in the novel. These nightmarish incidences have been both literal and symbolic. Consider his midnight theft of the coin from Nell, the swirling vortex of the protesters, the blazing furnace, the encounters with Quilp and the drudgery of their pilgrimage. All these nightmares are now over; grandfather Trent has awoken to the truth that has always been present and beside him. Nell will be the object of his attention and his love. Through the repetitive phrase “[n]ever, no, never once” the reader is assured that old Trent will focus all his thought on Nell, the gentle object of his love.” Dickens uses a long periodic sentence “from the time ... miseries had made her” which, when read aloud, finds it emphasis in the repeated use of the word “and.” Stylistically, the first paragraph of this chapter is a masterful work of prose.

What occurs next is an interesting shift. It is not so much that grandfather develops an alternate set of skills when with Nell, but that he assumes the role that Nell earlier performed for him. Now old Trent helps with “household duties” and it is he who watches over Nell as she sleeps. As Dickens succinctly observes: “What a change had fallen on the old man.” Now he reads to Nell at night. The roles of Nell and her grandfather have been altered. We also read that many children from town and the surrounding areas bring her “little presents.”

On one occasion a child comes to Nell and begs her not to die. When Nell questions him he responds that “they say ... you will be an angel, before the birds sing again.” What follows is much more pathos and talk of death. I stop here for a breath.


Thoughts


We are deep, perhaps too deep into pathos by this point in this week’s discussions. If you can step away from the cascade of words, images and melodrama for a moment can you find a sentence or two that you find especially powerful or moving? In what ways is your choice powerful in your opinion?

Have you found any Biblical allusions in this chapter? Did you find it/them effective?

There is mention again of books and reading in this chapter. Could there be any reason for so many references to books and reading in this novel?

There is yet another reference to birds in this chapter. What is the bird meant to symbolize?



The chapter ends with Nell going to visit the well with the sexton. Nell calls it [a] black and dreadful place.” The Old man says [i]t looks like a grave itself.” Now, even to me, a staunch defender of Nell, these last short paragraphs of the chapter are a bit too much. The sexton’s digging of graves and now the well. Enough already! The sexton explains that the well is to be “closed up, and built over.” With that, an interesting formatting occurs. Rather than the next paragraph - the final paragraph - of the chapter being formatted as all the preceding paragraph breaks, we get another line of spacing. The letterpress itself drops down, forming a visual break, a distancing from the remainder of the chapter.

What is also interesting to note is that the last paragraph that has been separated from the remainder of the chapter by the break moves the reader from the well in the church basement to Nell’s new home without any indication of movement. Now, we have the following as the final paragraph:

“‘The birds sing again in the spring,’ thought the child, as she leant at her casement window, and gazed at the declining sun. ‘Spring! a beautiful and happy time!’” Consider the metaphors that crowd into this very brief paragraph that has been obviously highlighted by the letterpress presentation. We have “birds sing[ing]” the mention of “spring” which symbolizes re-birth and the image of Nell “gaz[ing] at the declining sun.” Then appears the last sentence “Spring! a beautiful and happy time!” Here, in one brief and metaphorically charged paragraph, we have all the information we need to realize what will happen to Nell. If I was a grump, I would say this paragraph could replace many paragraphs (or chapters) in this week’s summary. ;-)


My Reflections

This week we have faced Dickens at full throttle with his use of pathos and melodrama. Admittedly, it is rather thickly laid on in places. Still, I think no one is better at melodrama and pathos than Dickens so I enjoyed sitting back and reading each chapter and each paragraph. Too ease the pain of the chapter, I hope you enjoyed an attempt to do a closer reading of selected paragraphs.

This week we have seen a major shift in character. Nell’s grandfather has changed from being a self-centred and greedy person into one that is kind, considerate, and even doting to his granddaughter. It was a rather rapid transition, one that we might well question as possible. Since my recent opportunity to listen to a lecture at the Toronto Dickens Fellowship lunch on Dickens and disease, and how accurate Dickens was in his description of disease in Bleak House, I now wonder if Dickens did not portray the grandfather’s rather abrupt transition with accuracy as well. Is it possible that a person suffering from Dementia or possibly Alzheimer’s can change their personality so quickly? Before Dickens there was, of course, Shakespeare. How similar is the Lear - Cordelia relationship to grandfather and Nell?

I also found that these chapters were often tightly connected to previous chapters, places, characters and events. Our novel is progressing towards its conclusion and Dickens is clearly beginning to braid the seemingly separate pieces of the novel together.


message 6: by Alissa (last edited Mar 30, 2019 11:18PM) (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Nell's new home seems like an upgraded version of the Curiosity Shop. Her previous home was disorderly and polluted with smoke. Her new home is a vaulted, holy place. Nell and Grandpa have gone through cleansing and refinement on their journey.

Paradoxically, though, the new place is old and associated with death and decay. I've wondered throughout the novel if death is a metaphor for the afterlife or the realm of spirit. Maybe this is why Nell hangs out at graveyards. She is spiritual, not meant for this world. Her rusty keys indicate decay too, but I'm not quite sure what the rust symbolism means.


message 7: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Quilp's interest in the small servant supports our earlier theories that the small servant is his child.

Quilp's interactions with Sally are very bizarre. His compliments seem sarcastic at times, but I also think he has a genuine interest in her. Otherwise, he wouldn't be lavishing her with compliments. Sally never reciprocates, though. She is immune to his wiles.


message 8: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay Korner | 9 comments mms


message 9: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2311 comments Peter wrote: "Keys were used by Dickens in many occasions to indicate domesticity and order. Keys were an indication of trust and authority. Perhaps the best example from Dickens occurs in Bleak House. ..."

Esther is a great example. The other one that popped into my head was John Chivery from Little Dorrit.

The place has an “empty hearth.” In general the artifacts in the room are “like creatures who had outlived their kind, and mourned their own too slow decay.”

This reminded me of my dad, who outlived many friends and relatives, and was very depressed in his last years. I think I mentioned once before that watching TV with him was agony because on every old rerun, with each actor coming on the screen, my dad would proclaim, "He's dead now." "She's dead." Sadly, I catch myself doing it now.


message 10: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2311 comments Peter, you (and Oscar Wilde) weren't kidding -- Dickens laid it on pretty thick in these chapters. A little symbolism goes a long way, and we were mired in it.

While reading about Grandfather's miraculous transformation, I had to stop and go back to try to find the catalyst for such an amazing occurance. There was none. Miraculous, indeed! There is no doubt in my mind that if one of those visitors to the church had suggested that Grandfather join him in a game of chance, he'd be back to his old habits in a heartbeat. I can't help but think he's got a shilling riding on whether Nell hears the birds sing again.


message 11: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2311 comments Peter wrote: "What do you make of the bachelor? How could Dickens incorporate him into future chapters? ..."

I don't know what to make of the bachelor, but I am intrigued by Dickens' use of this methodology in this novel. We also have "the lodger" / "the single man". Will their identities be revealed? What other Dickens characters went unnamed? We have the Fat Boy, but we know his name is Joe.

While some characters have no names, we have at least one other in TOCS with several names, i.e. Harris/Short/Trotters. What are we to make of that?

It seems logical that "the single man" and "the bachelor" should be one and the same, but at this point in the novel, I can't reconcile the two. But it does seem as if the single man lost Nell's trail and hasn't been heard from since Nell and Grandfather's arrival to their new home. But I recall no indication upon their meeting that the bachelor and the single man might be the same character. Still, an odd coincidence, no?


message 12: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Peter wrote: "Chapter the Fifty-second ... This chapter begins with a major symbol. The schoolmaster presents Nell with “a bundle of rusty keys” that turn out to be for a door which admits Nell into a new home ...

Keys can be seen in many ways . Earlier I suggested that Quilp’s possession of the Curiosity Shop’s keys could have a sexual suggestion. Now, we have keys as a centre focus as well. This time, however, we see the “rusty keys” are used by Nell to gain entry into a residence. Keys were used by Dickens in many occasions to indicate domesticity and order. Keys were an indication of trust and authority. Perhaps the best example from Dickens occurs in Bleak House. When Esther receives the keys to Bleak House it symbolizes that she has found a home, she has been granted trust and authority, and that she had a defined domestic role within society. The same is true of Nell.


Keys seem to proliferate in Dickens. I remember Estelle locking up Satis House with a great bundle of keys in Great Expectations, but the main person I associate most with keys (in all his novels) is Miss Murdstone (Jane Murdstone, sister of Clara's new husband).

"She brought with her two uncompromising hard black boxes, with her initials on the lids in hard brass nails. When she paid the coachman she took her money out of a hard steel purse, and she kept the purse in a very jail of a bag which hung upon her arm by a heavy chain, and shut up like a bite. I had never, at that time, seen such a metallic lady altogether as Miss Murdstone was.

... her room, which became to me from that time forth a place of awe and dread, wherein the two black boxes were never seen open or known to be left unlocked, and where (for I peeped in once or twice when she was out) numerous little steel fetters and rivets, with which Miss Murdstone embellished herself when she was dressed, generally hung upon the looking-glass in formidable array."


After Davy has been (view spoiler) locked in his room, it is his only friend (apart from his mother) and nurse Peggotty, who:

"fitted her mouth close to the keyhole, and delivered these words through it with as much feeling and earnestness as a keyhole has ever been the medium of communicating, I will venture to assert"

I agree keys - and keyholes - are powerful symbols of different things in different situations. With Estelle, it is the entry into a privileged domain, which is denied to all except Pip at that moment. With Jane Murdstone, it is absolute power, and cruelty. The keyhole represents escape, and the only communication Davy has with any who show friendship, such as Peggotty and Clara.


message 13: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Alissa wrote: "Nell's new home seems like an upgraded version of the Curiosity Shop. Her previous home was disorderly and polluted with smoke. Her new home is a vaulted, holy place. Nell and Grandpa have gone thr..."

Hi Alissa

Yes. I always take a slow look around the homes and other physical spaces that Dickens creates for his characters. To me, these physical spaces are both extensions and definitions of the characters that inhabit them. As you note, The Old Curiosity Shop and Nell’s new home are examples of how Dickens weds character to place, both physically and symbolically.

I also agree that with Nell Dickens has created a rather spritual character. She seems both of and above the daily reality of the world. This presentation may be clunky at times, but I do see the presence of the possibility. It is interesting to me that many Dickens readers accept the loveable Mr Pickwick as being a real-life possibility, but do not believe Nell to be credible. Perhaps that is due, in part, because Pickwick does display a temper at times and likes his drink. :-)


message 14: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Hi Mary Lou and Bionic Jean

One of the best parts of the Curiosities is that we help round out and offer further details of our readings of Dickens. Thanks for the other examples of keys and characters. While the presence of any object may be simply part of a plot a continued repetition of an object sets my mind to making connections and wondering about other meanings and interpretations. Keys. Birds. Hands. I find them all endlessly fascinating.


message 15: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Indeed Peter! And I love your focusing on them, to bring connections to mind :)


message 16: by Julie (last edited Mar 31, 2019 06:06PM) (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1141 comments Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "What do you make of the bachelor? How could Dickens incorporate him into future chapters? ..."

I don't know what to make of the bachelor, but I am intrigued by Dickens' use of this m..."


I noticed this too--first the bachelor, then the single man! And everyone with such a keen interest in Nell.

At least no one seems matrimonially interested in her any more, despite all the single bachelors hanging around.

And speaking of men with an interest in Nell, it's going to be sad for the schoolmaster if he loses two favorites in such short order.


message 17: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod


Uproarious Hospitality

Chapter 51

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

It was not precisely the kind of weather in which people usually take tea in summer-houses, far less in summer-houses in an advanced state of decay, and overlooking the slimy banks of a great river at low water. Nevertheless, it was in this choice retreat that Mr Quilp ordered a cold collation to be prepared, and it was beneath its cracked and leaky roof that he, in due course of time, received Mr Sampson and his sister Sally.

‘You’re fond of the beauties of nature,’ said Quilp with a grin. ‘Is this charming, Brass? Is it unusual, unsophisticated, primitive?’

‘It’s delightful indeed, sir,’ replied the lawyer.

‘Cool?’ said Quilp.

‘N-not particularly so, I think, sir,’ rejoined Brass, with his teeth chattering in his head.

‘Perhaps a little damp and ague-ish?’ said Quilp.

‘Just damp enough to be cheerful, sir,’ rejoined Brass. ‘Nothing more, sir, nothing more.’

‘And Sally?’ said the delighted dwarf. ‘Does she like it?’

‘She’ll like it better,’ returned that strong-minded lady, ‘when she has tea; so let us have it, and don’t bother.’

‘Sweet Sally!’ cried Quilp, extending his arms as if about to embrace her. ‘Gentle, charming, overwhelming Sally.’

‘He’s a very remarkable man indeed!’ soliloquised Mr Brass. ‘He’s quite a Troubadour, you know; quite a Troubadour!’

These complimentary expressions were uttered in a somewhat absent and distracted manner; for the unfortunate lawyer, besides having a bad cold in his head, had got wet in coming, and would have willingly borne some pecuniary sacrifice if he could have shifted his present raw quarters to a warm room, and dried himself at a fire. Quilp, however—who, beyond the gratification of his demon whims, owed Sampson some acknowledgment of the part he had played in the mourning scene of which he had been a hidden witness, marked these symptoms of uneasiness with a delight past all expression, and derived from them a secret joy which the costliest banquet could never have afforded him.

It is worthy of remark, too, as illustrating a little feature in the character of Miss Sally Brass, that, although on her own account she would have borne the discomforts of the Wilderness with a very ill grace, and would probably, indeed, have walked off before the tea appeared, she no sooner beheld the latent uneasiness and misery of her brother than she developed a grim satisfaction, and began to enjoy herself after her own manner. Though the wet came stealing through the roof and trickling down upon their heads, Miss Brass uttered no complaint, but presided over the tea equipage with imperturbable composure. While Mr Quilp, in his uproarious hospitality, seated himself upon an empty beer-barrel, vaunted the place as the most beautiful and comfortable in the three kingdoms, and elevating his glass, drank to their next merry-meeting in that jovial spot; and Mr Brass, with the rain plashing down into his tea-cup, made a dismal attempt to pluck up his spirits and appear at his ease; and Tom Scott, who was in waiting at the door under an old umbrella, exulted in his agonies, and bade fair to split his sides with laughing; while all this was passing, Miss Sally Brass, unmindful of the wet which dripped down upon her own feminine person and fair apparel, sat placidly behind the tea-board, erect and grizzly, contemplating the unhappiness of her brother with a mind at ease, and content, in her amiable disregard of self, to sit there all night, witnessing the torments which his avaricious and grovelling nature compelled him to endure and forbade him to resent. And this, it must be observed, or the illustration would be incomplete, although in a business point of view she had the strongest sympathy with Mr Sampson, and would have been beyond measure indignant if he had thwarted their client in any one respect.



Commentary:

Dickens divided the labor between Phiz and Cattermole very carefully in the later parts of Nell's odyssey through the English countryside. Between Numbers 29 and 31, Nell is brought through the hellish part of her story into a temporary Slough of Despond, and thence to the gateway of Paradise; for the reader she is brought, literally, from the fantasy world of Dickens and Phiz to the fantasy world of Dickens and Cattermole. Phiz illustrates the old man's temptation by List and Jowl (ch. 42); his rescue as Nell takes him across on the ferry (ch. 43); the night spent by the furnace (ch. 44) and the rebellious mob (ch. 45), both in the same number; and finally, Nell lying unconscious in the inn, where the schoolmaster has taken her (ch. 46). To Cattermole falls the task of depicting the church and house to which she finally comes, and Phiz has only one more cut including Nell.

It is, however, as a caricaturist that Dickens regarded Browne at this point. It is possible that Phiz's designs for The Old Curiosity Shop presented Dickens with disturbing visual evidence of his text's implications. Never again do the original illustrations for a Dickens novel portray so much low life or so much exuberant energy. The character who epitomizes both is Quilp.

When we realize that the number of illustrations featuring Quilp is close to half the total number of drawings for the considerably longer novels in monthly parts, we get some statistical sense of the impact of Quilp's visual presence. Surely, illustrations make it impossible to conceal from oneself the dominant role of this delightful villain.

But the visual immediacy of violence and low life in the novel is not limited to the appearances of Quilp. There are the slovenliness and drinking of Dick Swiveller; the monstrousness of Sally and Sampson Brass; the caricaturistic excesses of Mrs. Jarley, Codlin and Short, the gamblers, and even Kit and his mother; and the boisterous drinking of Nell's and her grandfather's companions on the raft. In The Old Curiosity Shop more than in any of the other novels, Phiz's illustrations — and the more noticeably so in their contrast with Cattermole's — emphasize the unruliness of the energies unleashed by Dickens' imagination. Thanks to Phiz to some extent the illustrated novel is dominated by those energies rather than by the idealizing and religious sentiments which Dickens himself evidently wished to consider the main thrust of the work.


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Elevating his glass, drank to their next merry meeting in that jovial spot.

Chapter 51

Charles Green

Text Illustrated:

It is worthy of remark, too, as illustrating a little feature in the character of Miss Sally Brass, that, although on her own account she would have borne the discomforts of the Wilderness with a very ill grace, and would probably, indeed, have walked off before the tea appeared, she no sooner beheld the latent uneasiness and misery of her brother than she developed a grim satisfaction, and began to enjoy herself after her own manner. Though the wet came stealing through the roof and trickling down upon their heads, Miss Brass uttered no complaint, but presided over the tea equipage with imperturbable composure. While Mr Quilp, in his uproarious hospitality, seated himself upon an empty beer-barrel, vaunted the place as the most beautiful and comfortable in the three kingdoms, and elevating his glass, drank to their next merry-meeting in that jovial spot; and Mr Brass, with the rain plashing down into his tea-cup, made a dismal attempt to pluck up his spirits and appear at his ease; and Tom Scott, who was in waiting at the door under an old umbrella, exulted in his agonies, and bade fair to split his sides with laughing; while all this was passing, Miss Sally Brass, unmindful of the wet which dripped down upon her own feminine person and fair apparel, sat placidly behind the tea-board, erect and grizzly, contemplating the unhappiness of her brother with a mind at ease, and content, in her amiable disregard of self, to sit there all night, witnessing the torments which his avaricious and grovelling nature compelled him to endure and forbade him to resent. And this, it must be observed, or the illustration would be incomplete, although in a business point of view she had the strongest sympathy with Mr Sampson, and would have been beyond measure indignant if he had thwarted their client in any one respect.


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Nell's new home

Chapter 52

George Cattermole

Text Illustrated:

Without saying any more, or giving the child time to reply, the schoolmaster took her hand, and, his honest face quite radiant with exultation, led her to the place of which he spoke.

They stopped before its low arched door. After trying several of the keys in vain, the schoolmaster found one to fit the huge lock, which turned back, creaking, and admitted them into the house.

The room into which they entered was a vaulted chamber once nobly ornamented by cunning architects, and still retaining, in its beautiful groined roof and rich stone tracery, choice remnants of its ancient splendour. Foliage carved in the stone, and emulating the mastery of Nature’s hand, yet remained to tell how many times the leaves outside had come and gone, while it lived on unchanged. The broken figures supporting the burden of the chimney-piece, though mutilated, were still distinguishable for what they had been—far different from the dust without—and showed sadly by the empty hearth, like creatures who had outlived their kind, and mourned their own too slow decay.

In some old time—for even change was old in that old place—a wooden partition had been constructed in one part of the chamber to form a sleeping-closet, into which the light was admitted at the same period by a rude window, or rather niche, cut in the solid wall. This screen, together with two seats in the broad chimney, had at some forgotten date been part of the church or convent; for the oak, hastily appropriated to its present purpose, had been little altered from its former shape, and presented to the eye a pile of fragments of rich carving from old monkish stalls.

An open door leading to a small room or cell, dim with the light that came through leaves of ivy, completed the interior of this portion of the ruin. It was not quite destitute of furniture. A few strange chairs, whose arms and legs looked as though they had dwindled away with age; a table, the very spectre of its race: a great old chest that had once held records in the church, with other quaintly-fashioned domestic necessaries, and store of fire-wood for the winter, were scattered around, and gave evident tokens of its occupation as a dwelling-place at no very distant time.

The child looked around her, with that solemn feeling with which we contemplate the work of ages that have become but drops of water in the great ocean of eternity. The old man had followed them, but they were all three hushed for a space, and drew their breath softly, as if they feared to break the silence even by so slight a sound.

‘It is a very beautiful place!’ said the child, in a low voice.

‘I almost feared you thought otherwise,’ returned the schoolmaster. ‘You shivered when we first came in, as if you felt it cold or gloomy.’

‘It was not that,’ said Nell, glancing round with a slight shudder. ‘Indeed I cannot tell you what it was, but when I saw the outside, from the church porch, the same feeling came over me. It is its being so old and grey perhaps.’

‘A peaceful place to live in, don’t you think so?’ said her friend.

‘Oh yes,’ rejoined the child, clasping her hands earnestly. ‘A quiet, happy place—a place to live and learn to die in!’ She would have said more, but that the energy of her thoughts caused her voice to falter, and come in trembling whispers from her lips.

‘A place to live, and learn to live, and gather health of mind and body in,’ said the schoolmaster; ‘for this old house is yours.’

‘Ours!’ cried the child.

‘Ay,’ returned the schoolmaster gaily, ‘for many a merry year to come, I hope. I shall be a close neighbour—only next door—but this house is yours.’


Commentary:

Although the first number of Master Humphrey's Clock appeared on 4 April 1840, the first three weekly numbers contained no numbers of The Old Curiosity Shop. After Dickens realized that what had begun on 25 April as a short story would make a full-length story, mindful of his public's taste for serialised novels, he began publishing instalments of The Old Curiosity Shop in earnest on 16 May 1841. The initial number opened with a wood engraving by Cattermole of the shop's interior, and number 43 ended with "Kit hurries to his journey's end" by Cattermole. In both plates, the artist has subordinated figures to the furnishings and architectural elements. Usually two wood engravings accompanied each weekly number, but some numbers contained additional vignettes, elaborate initial letters, tail-pieces, and even regular illustrations. In all, 75 half-page plates were "dropped into the text," along with eight initial-letter vignettes, all of the latter being by Phiz. The wrapper design and the frontispiece of Volume One, however, were both by Cattermole. Not surprisingly, the weekly and monthly wrappers placed Cattermole's name before Browne's:

Master
Humphrey's
Clock
By "Boz."
With Illustrations
By
G. Cattermole and H. K. Browne.


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Resting among the tombs

Chapter 53

George Cattermole

Text Illustrated:

Some part of the edifice had been a baronial chapel, and here were effigies of warriors stretched upon their beds of stone with folded hands—cross-legged, those who had fought in the Holy Wars—girded with their swords, and cased in armour as they had lived. Some of these knights had their own weapons, helmets, coats of mail, hanging upon the walls hard by, and dangling from rusty hooks. Broken and dilapidated as they were, they yet retained their ancient form, and something of their ancient aspect. Thus violent deeds live after men upon the earth, and traces of war and bloodshed will survive in mournful shapes long after those who worked the desolation are but atoms of earth themselves.

The child sat down, in this old, silent place, among the stark figures on the tombs—they made it more quiet there, than elsewhere, to her fancy—and gazing round with a feeling of awe, tempered with a calm delight, felt that now she was happy, and at rest. She took a Bible from the shelf, and read; then, laying it down, thought of the summer days and the bright springtime that would come—of the rays of sun that would fall in aslant, upon the sleeping forms—of the leaves that would flutter at the window, and play in glistening shadows on the pavement—of the songs of birds, and growth of buds and blossoms out of doors—of the sweet air, that would steal in, and gently wave the tattered banners overhead. What if the spot awakened thoughts of death! Die who would, it would still remain the same; these sights and sounds would still go on, as happily as ever. It would be no pain to sleep amidst them.

She left the chapel—very slowly and often turning back to gaze again—and coming to a low door, which plainly led into the tower, opened it, and climbed the winding stair in darkness; save where she looked down, through narrow loopholes, on the place she had left, or caught a glimmering vision of the dusty bells. At length she gained the end of the ascent and stood upon the turret top.

Oh! the glory of the sudden burst of light; the freshness of the fields and woods, stretching away on every side, and meeting the bright blue sky; the cattle grazing in the pasturage; the smoke, that, coming from among the trees, seemed to rise upward from the green earth; the children yet at their gambols down below—all, everything, so beautiful and happy! It was like passing from death to life; it was drawing nearer Heaven.

The children were gone, when she emerged into the porch, and locked the door. As she passed the school-house she could hear the busy hum of voices. Her friend had begun his labours only on that day. The noise grew louder, and, looking back, she saw the boys come trooping out and disperse themselves with merry shouts and play. ‘It’s a good thing,’ thought the child, ‘I am very glad they pass the church.’ And then she stopped, to fancy how the noise would sound inside, and how gently it would seem to die away upon the ear.

Again that day, yes, twice again, she stole back to the old chapel, and in her former seat read from the same book, or indulged the same quiet train of thought. Even when it had grown dusk, and the shadows of coming night made it more solemn still, the child remained, like one rooted to the spot, and had no fear or thought of stirring.

They found her there, at last, and took her home. She looked pale but very happy, until they separated for the night; and then, as the poor schoolmaster stooped down to kiss her cheek, he thought he felt a tear upon his face.


Commentary:

Since Cattermole had already illustrated Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain (1821-23), Leitch Ritchie's analysis of the works of Sir Walter Scott (Scott and Scotland, 1833), and the earlier "period" novels of Sir Edward G. D. Bulwer-Lytton, Dickens felt that sentimental and tender-hearted "Kittenmoles" (to use Boz's 1841 nickname for him) would be the ideal companion-illustrator for Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne), who was perfectly suited to the execution of the numerous rascals, rogues, and scape-graces of the story. Responding to the sentiments thereby aroused rather than to the designs themselves, Dickens constantly praised Cattermole's contributions to The Old Curiosity Shop, and, despite the artist's occasional tardiness in delivering the required designs for the weekly serialisation, always treated him with deference. After the conclusion of The Old Curiosity Shop, Cattermole contributed highly effective interior and architectural scenes for its successor, the historical romance Barnaby Rudge. "Cattermole drew with a painter's hand and an antiquarian's fancy" (Patten 69), so that two of his finest paintings he executed are the watercolours which Dickens commissioned after the novel's conclusion, one is of the Old Curiosity Shop's interior- reflecting the fascinating jumble of mediaeval tapestries, armour, and weapons in the artist's Bedford Terrace studio. Although, as Jane Rabb Cohen has remarked, his Gothic buildings are so distinct and lifelike that they acquire the status of characters, Cattermole's uninspired mob scenes in the second Clock novel, Barnaby Rudge, are less effective, perhaps reflecting the fact that Cattermole was frequently ill during the later stages of the book, and perhaps also reflecting his chafing under Dickens's micro-managing of his illustrations.


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The child sat down in this old silent place.

Chapter 53

Charles Green

Text Illustrated:

Some part of the edifice had been a baronial chapel, and here were effigies of warriors stretched upon their beds of stone with folded hands—cross-legged, those who had fought in the Holy Wars—girded with their swords, and cased in armour as they had lived. Some of these knights had their own weapons, helmets, coats of mail, hanging upon the walls hard by, and dangling from rusty hooks. Broken and dilapidated as they were, they yet retained their ancient form, and something of their ancient aspect. Thus violent deeds live after men upon the earth, and traces of war and bloodshed will survive in mournful shapes long after those who worked the desolation are but atoms of earth themselves.

The child sat down, in this old, silent place, among the stark figures on the tombs—they made it more quiet there, than elsewhere, to her fancy—and gazing round with a feeling of awe, tempered with a calm delight, felt that now she was happy, and at rest. She took a Bible from the shelf, and read; then, laying it down, thought of the summer days and the bright springtime that would come—of the rays of sun that would fall in aslant, upon the sleeping forms—of the leaves that would flutter at the window, and play in glistening shadows on the pavement—of the songs of birds, and growth of buds and blossoms out of doors—of the sweet air, that would steal in, and gently wave the tattered banners overhead. What if the spot awakened thoughts of death! Die who would, it would still remain the same; these sights and sounds would still go on, as happily as ever. It would be no pain to sleep amidst them.



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Little Nell leaving the Church

Chapter 53

James Lobley

Text Illustrated:

She left the chapel—very slowly and often turning back to gaze again—and coming to a low door, which plainly led into the tower, opened it, and climbed the winding stair in darkness; save where she looked down, through narrow loopholes, on the place she had left, or caught a glimmering vision of the dusty bells. At length she gained the end of the ascent and stood upon the turret top.

Oh! the glory of the sudden burst of light; the freshness of the fields and woods, stretching away on every side, and meeting the bright blue sky; the cattle grazing in the pasturage; the smoke, that, coming from among the trees, seemed to rise upward from the green earth; the children yet at their gambols down below—all, everything, so beautiful and happy! It was like passing from death to life; it was drawing nearer Heaven.

The children were gone, when she emerged into the porch, and locked the door. As she passed the school-house she could hear the busy hum of voices. Her friend had begun his labours only on that day. The noise grew louder, and, looking back, she saw the boys come trooping out and disperse themselves with merry shouts and play. ‘It’s a good thing,’ thought the child, ‘I am very glad they pass the church.’ And then she stopped, to fancy how the noise would sound inside, and how gently it would seem to die away upon the ear.

Again that day, yes, twice again, she stole back to the old chapel, and in her former seat read from the same book, or indulged the same quiet train of thought. Even when it had grown dusk, and the shadows of coming night made it more solemn still, the child remained, like one rooted to the spot, and had no fear or thought of stirring.



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Nell's garden

Chapter 54

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

‘I will be patient,’ said the old man, ‘humble, very thankful, and obedient, if you will let me stay. But do not hide from me; do not steal away alone; let me keep beside you. Indeed, I will be very true and faithful, Nell.’

‘I steal away alone! why that,’ replied the child, with assumed gaiety, ‘would be a pleasant jest indeed. See here, dear grandfather, we’ll make this place our garden—why not! It is a very good one—and to-morrow we’ll begin, and work together, side by side.’

‘It is a brave thought!’ cried her grandfather. ‘Mind, darling—we begin to-morrow!’

Who so delighted as the old man, when they next day began their labour! Who so unconscious of all associations connected with the spot, as he! They plucked the long grass and nettles from the tombs, thinned the poor shrubs and roots, made the turf smooth, and cleared it of the leaves and weeds. They were yet in the ardour of their work, when the child, raising her head from the ground over which she bent, observed that the bachelor was sitting on the stile close by, watching them in silence.

‘A kind office,’ said the little gentleman, nodding to Nell as she curtseyed to him. ‘Have you done all that, this morning?’

‘It is very little, sir,’ returned the child, with downcast eyes, ‘to what we mean to do.’

‘Good work, good work,’ said the bachelor. ‘But do you only labour at the graves of children, and young people?’

‘We shall come to the others in good time, sir,’ replied Nell, turning her head aside, and speaking softly.

It was a slight incident, and might have been design or accident, or the child’s unconscious sympathy with youth. But it seemed to strike upon her grandfather, though he had not noticed it before. He looked in a hurried manner at the graves, then anxiously at the child, then pressed her to his side, and bade her stop to rest. Something he had long forgotten, appeared to struggle faintly in his mind. It did not pass away, as weightier things had done; but came uppermost again, and yet again, and many times that day, and often afterwards. Once, while they were yet at work, the child, seeing that he often turned and looked uneasily at her, as though he were trying to resolve some painful doubts or collect some scattered thoughts, urged him to tell the reason. But he said it was nothing—nothing—and, laying her head upon his arm, patted her fair cheek with his hand, and muttered that she grew stronger every day, and would be a woman, soon.


Now he notices.


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A Black and Dreadful Place

Chapter 55

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

Yet the child could make him no answer, and sobbed as though her heart were bursting. ‘Why would you go, dear Nell? I know you would not be happy when you heard that we were crying for your loss. They say that Willy is in Heaven now, and that it’s always summer there, and yet I’m sure he grieves when I lie down upon his garden bed, and he cannot turn to kiss me. But if you do go, Nell,’ said the boy, caressing her, and pressing his face to hers, ‘be fond of him for my sake. Tell him how I love him still, and how much I loved you; and when I think that you two are together, and are happy, I’ll try to bear it, and never give you pain by doing wrong—indeed I never will!’

The child suffered him to move her hands, and put them round his neck. There was a tearful silence, but it was not long before she looked upon him with a smile, and promised him, in a very gentle, quiet voice, that she would stay, and be his friend, as long as Heaven would let her. He clapped his hands for joy, and thanked her many times; and being charged to tell no person what had passed between them, gave her an earnest promise that he never would.

Nor did he, so far as the child could learn; but was her quiet companion in all her walks and musings, and never again adverted to the theme, which he felt had given her pain, although he was unconscious of its cause. Something of distrust lingered about him still; for he would often come, even in the dark evenings, and call in a timid voice outside the door to know if she were safe within; and being answered yes, and bade to enter, would take his station on a low stool at her feet, and sit there patiently until they came to seek, and take him home. Sure as the morning came, it found him lingering near the house to ask if she were well; and, morning, noon, or night, go where she would, he would forsake his playmates and his sports to bear her company.

‘And a good little friend he is, too,’ said the old sexton to her once. ‘When his elder brother died—elder seems a strange word, for he was only seven years old—I remember this one took it sorely to heart.’

The child thought of what the schoolmaster had told her, and felt how its truth was shadowed out even in this infant.

‘It has given him something of a quiet way, I think,’ said the old man, ‘though for that he is merry enough at times. I’d wager now that you and he have been listening by the old well.’

‘Indeed we have not,’ the child replied. ‘I have been afraid to go near it; for I am not often down in that part of the church, and do not know the ground.’

‘Come down with me,’ said the old man. ‘I have known it from a boy. Come!’

They descended the narrow steps which led into the crypt, and paused among the gloomy arches, in a dim and murky spot.

‘This is the place,’ said the old man. ‘Give me your hand while you throw back the cover, lest you should stumble and fall in. I am too old—I mean rheumatic—to stoop, myself.’

‘A black and dreadful place!’ exclaimed the child.

‘Look in,’ said the old man, pointing downward with his finger.

The child complied, and gazed down into the pit.

‘It looks like a grave itself,’ said the old man.

‘It does,’ replied the child.

‘I have often had the fancy,’ said the sexton, ‘that it might have been dug at first to make the old place more gloomy, and the old monks more religious. It’s to be closed up, and built over.’

The child still stood, looking thoughtfully into the vault.

‘We shall see,’ said the sexton, ‘on what gay heads other earth will have closed, when the light is shut out from here. God knows! They’ll close it up, next spring.’

‘The birds sing again in spring,’ thought the child, as she leaned at her casement window, and gazed at the declining sun. ‘Spring! a beautiful and happy time!’



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Nell's tuin

Chapter 55

Frank Reynolds

Text Illustrated:

She had sought out the young children whom she first saw playing in the churchyard. One of these—he who had spoken of his brother—was her little favourite and friend, and often sat by her side in the church, or climbed with her to the tower-top. It was his delight to help her, or to fancy that he did so, and they soon became close companions.

It happened, that, as she was reading in the old spot by herself one day, this child came running in with his eyes full of tears, and after holding her from him, and looking at her eagerly for a moment, clasped his little arms passionately about her neck.

‘What now?’ said Nell, soothing him. ‘What is the matter?’

‘She is not one yet!’ cried the boy, embracing her still more closely. ‘No, no. Not yet.’

She looked at him wonderingly, and putting his hair back from his face, and kissing him, asked what he meant.

‘You must not be one, dear Nell,’ cried the boy. ‘We can’t see them. They never come to play with us, or talk to us. Be what you are. You are better so.’

‘I do not understand you,’ said the child. ‘Tell me what you mean.’

‘Why, they say,’ replied the boy, looking up into her face, that you will be an Angel, before the birds sing again. But you won’t be, will you? Don’t leave us Nell, though the sky is bright. Do not leave us!’

The child dropped her head, and put her hands before her face.

‘She cannot bear the thought!’ cried the boy, exulting through his tears. ‘You will not go. You know how sorry we should be. Dear Nell, tell me that you’ll stay amongst us. Oh! Pray, pray, tell me that you will.’

The little creature folded his hands, and knelt down at her feet.

‘Only look at me, Nell,’ said the boy, ‘and tell me that you’ll stop, and then I shall know that they are wrong, and will cry no more. Won’t you say yes, Nell?’

Still the drooping head and hidden face, and the child quite silent—save for her sobs.

‘After a time,’ pursued the boy, trying to draw away her hand, ‘the kind angels will be glad to think that you are not among them, and that you stayed here to be with us. Willy went away, to join them; but if he had known how I should miss him in our little bed at night, he never would have left me, I am sure.’

Yet the child could make him no answer, and sobbed as though her heart were bursting. ‘Why would you go, dear Nell? I know you would not be happy when you heard that we were crying for your loss. They say that Willy is in Heaven now, and that it’s always summer there, and yet I’m sure he grieves when I lie down upon his garden bed, and he cannot turn to kiss me. But if you do go, Nell,’ said the boy, caressing her, and pressing his face to hers, ‘be fond of him for my sake. Tell him how I love him still, and how much I loved you; and when I think that you two are together, and are happy, I’ll try to bear it, and never give you pain by doing wrong—indeed I never will!’



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Kim wrote: "Nell's garden

Chapter 54

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

‘I will be patient,’ said the old man, ‘humble, very thankful, and obedient, if you will let me stay. But do not hide from me; do not steal away ..."


Ah yes, Kim. Now grandfather Trent notices. There is much going on in this powerful illustration by Phiz. The letterpress tells us that it is at this location that grandfather begins his too late reversal of emotions and begins to realize how much Nell has done for him and how much he owes to his granddaughter.

This alteration will seem too rapid and too unbelievable for most readers. I too have issues with him and cannot completely forgive his attitude or actions to Nell. Still, however, this reversion to being cognizant of Nell’s true character is important.

First, the change occurs in a garden. Now this garden is really a graveyard, and we see both Nell and her grandfather tending the location. Are they tending a garden, or are we seeing them symbolically preparing for their own passing? This image is reminiscent of the world of guilded butterflies that King Lear talks about as he holds the body of Cordelia. Lear, like Nell’s grandfather, was horrible to his daughter. When the truth of how good and how much Cordelia loved him becomes obvious, Lear embraces Cordelia. If we can accept Lear’s change of nature, should we not at least consider grandfather Trent’s change of nature as well?

Also, this illustration can be compared to the earlier Phiz illustration in Chapter 15. In the illustration in Chapter 15 we have Nell and her grandfather looking back to London. In the top right quadrant the dome of Saint Paul’s is seen. In the bottom right quadrant we see cows grazing in lush grass. The tree that bisects the illustration forms the shape of a person kneeing in prayer. In the left centre over the grandfather’s shoulder is a stately home.

In the Phiz illustration in Chapter 55 we see Nell and her grandfather in similar poses. This time, however, their heads are bowed. Phiz has replaced the dome of Saint Paul’s in the right upper quadrant with a small county church, the lush grass and grazing cows are replaced with an indistinct field, and rather than the comfortable lushness of the grass where Nell and her grandfather rest in the earlier chapter here we have a broken down, weedy graveyard. The stately home of the earlier illustration is replaced by a small country home. Most noticeably, of course, is the absence of the praying tree. To replace this tree Phiz has incorporated the bachelor, who is himself a guardian of their lives in the village. Perhaps the most powerful and least recognized alteration in the illustrations is the fact that in the earlier illustration we see grandfather’s walking stick, an emblem of their pilgrimage, resting in the left foreground with his hat. In this chapter, the walking stick is replace with a shovel, emblematic of digging of both soil for gardening and for the digging of graves. Notice that his hat is still in its place in the second illustration to create and complete the balance of the two images.

And, as we look at the graves we see the initials HKB in the far left middle of the picture. Hablot Knight Browne has left his mark in the graveyard.


message 27: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1141 comments Peter wrote: "This alteration will seem too rapid and too unbelievable for most readers. I too have issues with him and cannot completely forgive his attitude or actions to Nell. "

I agree. It's helped me to read this book as allegory, but sometimes the length and level of detail you get in a novel like this seems at odds with allegorizing. It's too personal. I feel like I know these characters as people, not as abstract principles, and I resent them accordingly, at least when they've been behaving the way Grandfather's been behaving.


message 28: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4459 comments Mod
Hello everyone,

Reading the contributions to this thread is by far more interesting than reading the row of chapters they refer to. Peter, I am soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo glad I did not have to cover these last four chapters because I would have utterly failed. To tell you the truth, I started reading Chapter 51 with interest and a keen feeling of being in the action, sitting there in that damp place with the musty conspirators, but the rest of this week's reading was a drudge. It made me hungry, indeed, because somehow I always kept thinking of cheese and ham, seeing that those chapters were cheesy and hammy in a way that proved a threat to my digestion. And so I found myself going from reading to skimming to just leaving through the chapters, stopping at individual paragraphs, finding that the ladling out of melodrama-cum-symbolism was yet in full swing, and therefore flying on to a later passage in the book. It was like a child who visits an old lady with his or her grandmother, and is offered there by the host some sticky, moist clump of sweets, which the child has to eat out of politeness. So, I will not be able to say anything about what happened in those chapters.

I liked Chapter 51, though, and yes - the weird interest Quilp takes in the little servant and his exuberant greeting of Sally later on, don't they suggest that Quilp might be the father to the little servant? It remains to be seen whether, apart from the apparent satisfaction of having made a child, our antagonist will develop any human feelings with regard to his potential daughter.

Sally's indifference to Quilp fits in with her spite towards the little servant: Maybe, she feels that Q. should have married her, and that's why she gives a cold shoulder to all his sweet talk, and why she eventually vents her spleen on the little servant as the innocent cause of her feeling exploited and then discarded.

Why Quilp should harbour such a deep grudge against Kit as to actively try to harm him, and do it at such a great expense of effort, is beyond me. There are two reasons I can think of and neither of them appears very convincing to me: Either Quilp is such a vengeful and evil little man that he simply enjoys playing nefarious tricks on people. He seems to hate just about everybody, doesn't he? Or - and this is on a meta-level - Dickens felt that he was running out of material for the non-Nell part of the story, in other words the interesting bit, and he just came up with this scheme at the eleventh hour?


message 29: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4459 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "It is interesting to me that many Dickens readers accept the loveable Mr Pickwick as being a real-life possibility, but do not believe Nell to be credible. Perhaps that is due, in part, because Pickwick does display a temper at times and likes his drink. :-)"

Absolutely, Peter: Mr. Pickwick may be a genial, well-meaning and sometimes naive person, but he also has his little shortcomings, among which the shortness of his temper may be the most serious one. This makes him a lifelike character to me, whereas I cannot see any life, or anything of interest, in Little Nell. She is too perfect to be true, but also to be appealing as a literary character. As long as interesting, and whimsical characters were around her, like Mrs. Jarvey or the two Punch people, her journey held my curiosity but when she fell in with the melodramatic staff in the novel completely, I decided that my patience wouldn't bear it meekly, and so I just skipped those passages after a few sentences. Now, there was never a passage in PP that did not have me riveted and then laughing. If I were to spend an evening with Mr. Pickwick and another one with Little Nell, I would take more than just one little dram in both cases - but in each for different reasons ;-)


message 30: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4459 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "it's going to be sad for the schoolmaster if he loses two favorites in such short order."

If the Schoolmaster were cunning enough, he could start liking people he actually hates with a view of losing them, too. ;-)


message 31: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Hello everyone,

Reading the contributions to this thread is by far more interesting than reading the row of chapters they refer to. Peter, I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo..."


Tristram

Oh my. Thank you, I think. :-)

I have just completed the summary of the last chapters of the novel. Are you sure you would not like to do them???????


message 32: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4459 comments Mod
Ab-so-lute-ly sure, Peter! I don't even know if I am going to read a particular scene at the end of the book.


message 33: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Reading the contributions to this thread is by far more interesting than reading the row of chapters they refer to. Peter, I am soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo glad I did not have to cover these last four chapters because I would have utterly failed."

I was reading TOCS happily with you all wondering why it was that Tristram and I were so not looking forward to reading this together. Things seemed to be going along just fine with only a grumpy comment on poor Nell now and then. Now it has all come back to me. Here we have this poor little girl who has gone through her entire life with only her grandfather and her brother to take care of her, and such wonderful people they are. And yet through it all she has always managed to stay good, and sweet, and caring, and loving, and adorable, and perfect, and amazing, and kind, no matter how awful they were being which is most of the time. She has done everything for her awful grandfather, since she was only a tiny, little, small, saintly child. She has cooked for him, she has cleaned the many things in the curiosity shop - just dusting all that stuff must have taken her most of the week. She has sat up most of the night waiting to let him back in the door when he comes home from gambling away all the money that he made her go through the city streets alone to get from Quilp time after time. Why didn't he go get the money himself by the way?

And she has led him through the city, and the country, and down rivers, and she has taken him to inns, and to homes to beg for food, to races to sell flowers, to waxworks, to factories, to schoolhouses, and all the time her poor, poor feet are getting more sore and she is getting sicker, but she never complains and always thinks of her grandfather first. She is the perfect little child.

And yet someone comes along who can only see the bad part of poor, dear, sweet, kind, caring, wonderful little Nell, which I can't understand since there is no bad part of poor, wonderful, loving adorable little Nell. She is the most perfect character ever created, and yet someone can actually read about what she is going through without tears running down his face. I have spent five years trying to get him to see how wrong he is about that perfect child, but for now the only things I can say to him are:

GRUMP!!!!!!! GRUMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GRUMP!!!!!!!!!!!!! GRUMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GRUMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

and while I'm at it I'll throw in:

Poor, poor, poor, poor, poor, poor, poor, poor, poor Little Nell.

:-)


message 34: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Ab-so-lute-ly sure, Peter! I don't even know if I am going to read a particular scene at the end of the book."

I didn't realize that scene wasn't in your book, I'll email it to you. A couple of times just in case you don't get it the first time.


message 35: by Julie (last edited Apr 04, 2019 03:49PM) (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1141 comments Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Reading the contributions to this thread is by far more interesting than reading the row of chapters they refer to. Peter, I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo..."

Yes, Nell is admirable in so many ways and held my sympathy so much longer than I expected, but she's losing it in the last section with her enthusiasm about dying.

‘A peaceful place to live in, don’t you think so?’ said her friend.

‘Oh yes,’ rejoined the child, clasping her hands earnestly. ‘A quiet, happy place—a place to live and learn to die in!’ She would have said more, but that the energy of her thoughts caused her voice to falter, and come in trembling whispers from her lips.


Really?

I don't mind her being obsessed with graveyards (I like them myself), and I can certainly understand life's been miserable for her. Peace would be nice. But this seems like something else altogether. It's so martyred.


message 36: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4459 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "It's so martyred."

One might even say Little Nell is martyresome.


message 37: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4459 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "and yet someone can actually read about what she is going through without tears running down his face."

I didn't say that reading about Little Nell does not make tears running down my face. It's the same kind of tears that were running down Oscar Wilde's cheeks when he read about Little Nell ... ;-)

I think the problem with TOCS is that the author idolizes the heroine of his novel so much that he places her on a very high pedestal. I had the impression that he was telling a quasi-religious story of suffering, forbearing and self-sacrifice, and that mustering up all the pathos that is necessary in this context, Dickens forgot to throw in elements of what he was brilliant at - namely humour, satire, suspense. The fact that we are suddenly faced with characters who have no individual names but are called the Schoolmaster, the Bachelor, and the Reader Who Can Hardly Suppress a Yawn, indicates to me that Dickens wanted to tell a Story that was way larger than the story. This somehow makes Little Nell appear less of a real-life character to me.


message 38: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod
How did you know I meant you? ;-)


message 39: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4459 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "How did you know I meant you? ;-)"

It was hard to tell at first. But then I noticed a capitalized word with lots of exclamation marks in its wake, and I flatter myself to claim that word as a cognomen.


message 40: by Ami (last edited Apr 13, 2019 03:11PM) (new)

Ami | 372 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter the Fifty-first

Hello Fellow Curiosities

In this week’s chapters we will spend much time with Little Nell. Is it fate or planning that I get most of the Nell chapters rather than Tristram..."


Have you noticed how Quilp is frequently portrayed as sitting on objects that are unusual, large, uncomfortable, or otherwise not much like a normal chair? Do you think Dickens has a reason for such behaviour?
Ah, I did notice this but didn't pay any mind to it. You clearly have a better understanding of Dickens's motivations, did he have a reason behind this? I have not read the other comments, but I do hope to read if anybody has any thoughts about this! My take would be that it offers him a sense of grandeur, to be sitting on these...to appease his little man syndrome? IDK.

How do you account for Quilp’s comments to “Sweet Sally ...”? Is Quilp being sarcastic, ironic ... sincere?
Other than profiting and horrifying people, I find little else Quilp is sincere about. I don't think he cared a bit about her, instead using her to capitalize on some scheme.
Once on the street, moved some secret impulse, he laughed ...and tried to peer through the dusty area railing as if to catch another glimpse of the child (384)...
He's picked up on something through her, I missed what it was.

references to dogs... If they are, in fact, deliberate, what larger reason may be at play in the novel?
This type of commentary by Quilp may be influenced by his need to feel superior in a world where he is anything but. When he's cruel and inhumane, to most everybody around him, I can't imagine him not have received the same treatment 10X worse. He deflects when calling others dogs, or worse.

I am going to suggest that Dickens was creating a flashback with this description to the interior of the Curiosity Shop in the early chapters of the novel. Do you think that is possible?
This is clever, and it ties well with the rusty keys...one opened her way out of somewhere, the other leading her in.

The chapter ends with the bachelor and his friend gazing at the home of Nell and her grandfather and speaking softly “of the beautiful child” as they “looked round upon the churchyard with a sigh.”

Yes, melodrama. There is little question that Dickens hoped for a tear or two upon the face of his readers. Why might this chapter appeal so much to a Victorian audience? How did you respond to it?

It's as if everybody is on to something except for those involved (grandfather and Nell). Even later in these chapters, the young boy who had just lost his brother, he says to Nell everybody in town thinks she will be an angel, before the birds sing again (415). Honestly, I was torn in this section of reading; while Dickens is building upon what seems to be an eminent departure for Nell, he's laying it on quite thick...No? I was touched, Peter, and yet at the same time it felt smothering too.

Would he have written it this way for a Victorian audience to convey that children should be shown more compassion than they were, especially children of the poor?

What transformation has apparently happened to grandfather Trent?
Whatever the reasoning behind his transformation, I'm glad he finally sees what has become of his dearest Nell. It took long enough.

Is it believable?
Through Nell's eyes, and Nell's eyes alone...yes, it's believable. It's the only way she is able to comprehend her Grandfather, as benevolent and caring.

Do you think it will last?
Well, until somebody flashes a deck of cards in front of him; yes, it will last. Would Dickens have it in him for the two of them to coincidentally die together...it wouldn't surprise me. LOL!

Have you found any Biblical allusions in this chapter? Did you find it/them effective?
It's as you've mentioned in your post, Peter...spring, rebirth, Jesus/Nell. Yes, it works! It's heartbreaking to watch her suffer so.


message 41: by Peter (last edited Apr 13, 2019 01:48PM) (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter the Fifty-first

Hello Fellow Curiosities

In this week’s chapters we will spend much time with Little Nell. Is it fate or planning that I get most of the Nell chapters rather..."


Hi Ami

Thank you for your detailed responses to these chapters. You are rapidly catching up to us!

Quilp is a fascinating study in psychology and I agree with you that he tries to compensate for his size by finding over-sized objects to sit on, slump in and otherwise dominate and occupy. As you note, Dickens further develops Quilp’s active compensation for his own diminutive stature through his interactions, mocking, and teasing of dogs. It is entirely possible that he - like many people who have a short stature or physical deformities - suffer much bullying. How they respond to such attention says much about their characters. We need to remember that Dickens goes out of his way to refer to Nell as “little.” I find it interesting as well that the Marchioness is given a very diminutive stature. How will her character evolve?Time will tell. :-)

Ultimately, we may be able to make a generalization about people and their physical statures in Dickens novels.


message 42: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter the Fifty-first

Hello Fellow Curiosities

In this week’s chapters we will spend much time with Little Nell. Is it fate or planning that I get most of the Nell chapters rather..."


Ami

As we move into the final stages of TOCS Dickens begins to tie up the many various plot threads. He must reconcile his characters to their respective fates. Nell and her grandfather were quite the pair throughout the novel and grandfather a handful. What will be the final resolution?

I also find the spring season more than just happenstance. It might be a bit awkward but Dickens is still learning his craft. We forget how young he was when this novel was written.


message 43: by Ami (last edited Apr 13, 2019 03:31PM) (new)

Ami | 372 comments Peter wrote: "Ami wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter the Fifty-first

Hello Fellow Curiosities

In this week’s chapters we will spend much time with Little Nell. Is it fate or planning that I get most of the Nell cha..."


Thank you for your detailed responses to these chapters. You are rapidly catching up to us!
Oh, there's no need for thanks at all. In fact, I should be the one to thank you...for having to revisit these threads. I am caught up, it was just a matter of compiling all my notes and figuring out the best way to jump back in. :)

What will be the final resolution?
I'm not sure how it will all tie together, but in good vs evil novels like this one, I will say the good will prevail. In fact, as Quilp continues to creep up on us in this narrative, he's become all the more deranged and homicidal...doesn't he remind you of The Joker from Batman...London too, could very well substitute for Gotham all dark and dreary?


message 44: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "Peter wrote: "Ami wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter the Fifty-first

Hello Fellow Curiosities

In this week’s chapters we will spend much time with Little Nell. Is it fate or planning that I get most o..."


London and Gotham. Of course!


message 45: by Tristram (last edited Apr 14, 2019 03:47AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4459 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "I'm not sure how it will all tie together, but in good vs evil novels like this one, I will say the good will prevail. In fact, as Quilp continues to creep up on us in this narrative, he's become all the more deranged and homicidal...doesn't he remind you of The Joker from Batman...London too, could very well substitute for Gotham all dark and dreary? "

I have always wondered why many people regard Quilp as such an exceptionally evil character. He may be aggressive, vindictive, mean and treacherous, but he mostly seems to exhaust his evil potential in making faces at people, threatening them, rolling on the floor with dogs, popping in and out of windows, and so on. He does initiate and follow through a mean plan to incriminate Kit but apart from that, he does very little real evil ... at least to Nell and most others in the novel.

Consider, on the other hand, villains from other novels: Ralph Nickleby, whose machinations threaten his niece and his sister-in-law; Fagin and Sikes, who exploit boys and pickpockets, and young women as prostitutes; Mr. Murdstone, who systematically destroys his wife, Steerforth ... the list is endless. Most of those villains are by far less flaunting in their vileness, but much more efficient in being evil. Quilp almost seems like a caricature to me.

Maybe this is something I should post in a thread on the novel as a whole ...?


message 46: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3033 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Ami wrote: "I'm not sure how it will all tie together, but in good vs evil novels like this one, I will say the good will prevail. In fact, as Quilp continues to creep up on us in this narrative, h..."

Yes.

Who and what evil lurks in the hearts of people. Cue the music from the old radio series “The Shadow.”

Great talking points.


message 47: by Ami (last edited Apr 14, 2019 09:59AM) (new)

Ami | 372 comments Tristram wrote: "Ami wrote: "I'm not sure how it will all tie together, but in good vs evil novels like this one, I will say the good will prevail. In fact, as Quilp continues to creep up on us in this narrative, h..."

Hi! Yes, let's discuss this in the final thread. I'll touch on some of your points here because you took the time out to indulge us...

I think we must first define what evil is. For me, evil is the absence of any good. It's a characteristic present in those who are absent of a conscience, they have a lack of remorse. Quilp is therefore the embodiment of evil, in this novel, he checks those boxes.

Making faces at people and taunting most everybody... Yes, but he relishes in the fear and discomfort of others caused by him. In addition to what you have stated, I would also like to add that Quilp inflicts pain by physically assaulting and mentally abusing. He's a psychopath, wreaking havoc on those most vulnerable to him.

Most of those villains are by far less flaunting in their vileness, but much more efficient in being evil. Quilp almost seems like a caricature to me.
While Dickens has us pulled in a couple of directions with some of these characters, repeatedly painting them with fantastical elements rendering them unrealistic; I can see Quilp being read as a caricature*. His actions and treatment of others, through this point, overshadow any farcical aspects to his character. Quilp is a real enough boogey-man to be held in contempt for committing his brutal misdeeds...he's tangible enough to consider him truly evil.

When we read "David Copperfield" I remember a discussion similar to this one, about who was the most villainous character. I had made my list based on a character's intent to do harm. If I had to add Quilp to that list, Tristram, he would top Mr. Murdstone who landed 1st Place...for antagonizing the chained up dog alone.

* I am not implying this is why you see him this way, it's why I would see him as a caricature.


message 48: by Tristram (last edited Apr 14, 2019 10:26AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4459 comments Mod
Ami,

This is going to be an interesting discussion, and when I put my comment above in the final thread on the whole book, it would be good if you copied and pasted your last post, too. This way we may carry on the discussion after reading the whole book and be able to find it back more easily than by just keeping it in one of the chapter-related threads.

As always, it‘s a great pleasure to discuss these things with you all!


message 49: by Ami (new)

Ami | 372 comments Tristram wrote: "Ami,

This is going to be an interesting discussion, and when I put my comment above in the final thread on the whole book, it would be good if you copied and pasted your last post, too. This way w..."


I will! ;)


message 50: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "I have always wondered why many people regard Quilp as such an exceptionally evil character."

He's evil. How's that for discussion.


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