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Archived Group Reads 2011 > Little Dorrit: Book Two: Ch. 21-26

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver Here is for dicussion chapters 21-26 of Book Two. Be aware that if you have not completed these chapters there may be spoilers here.


message 2: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) Chapter 21: Ms. Wade
Ms. Wade is a jilted lover of Henry Gowan, and because he ran off and married Minnie, Ms. Wade now hates them both. I thought that was a bit much considering she met Gowan while engaged to another man. I was expected a lot more controversy than just a relationship gone sour.

News of Blandois and Mrs. Affrey's promise
I thought Mrs. Clennam took the news of Blandois being an assassin rather lightly. So if Arthur confronts Mrs. Affrey in front of "the other two", it sounds like she might tell her what she has "dreamed" about. That seemed like a strange thing to so, but I guess she's not quite right.

Mr. Merdle's suicide
This caught me by surprise! When I read this chapter, I thought of the Madoff ponzi scheme. I'm guessing Mr. Merdle's downfall is going to financially ruin a lot of people.

It seems Arthur really messed up. Maybe he'll end up As the new "Father of Marshalsea", and then Amy can return to take care of him!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I was surprised too, by that revelation about Miss Wade. She seemed ever so sinister and I really thought that Dickens picturing her as a jilted lover was a bit overly dramatic with that character.

I did have my suspicions about Mr Merdle though. He was a little too nervous, backwards, and anti social and I felt he was hiding something. Poor Arthur though! That man can't seem to catch a break, can he? ....but at least he can have Amy tending to him.


message 4: by Alasse (last edited Jan 22, 2011 02:32PM) (new)

Alasse Really? I totally saw it coming. Well, the suicide part I didn't foresee - until he asked Fanny for the penknife. Uh-oh. Run, Arthur, run! I didn't know this sort of scam was called a Ponzi scheme, so thanks for the tip!

As for Miss Wade's letter, I really really liked it. I had been looking forward to more information on this character's background, because I kind of sympathize with her. She's obviously very bitter, and not the sort of person I would choose as a personal friend, but it's strongly hinted that she's the product of an unhappy childhood. I was really glad that we finally got to learn more of it.

With all of the character development we've seen so far, I'm surprised to say this is one of the most complex personalities described in the novel. Maybe her motivations aren't that complicated, but the way it's all adressed is so... modern.

Seriously, this dates from before psychology was everywhere, with self-help books and therapists and whatnot. Even Freud hadn't developed psychoanalysis yet. Now it's perfectly natural to think about why people do what they do in these sort of terms (how would we survive in our workplace if we didn't? how would we give relationship advice?), but it must have taken a truckload of empathy and knowledge of the human nature to come up with Miss Wade's background on 1850.

This is a woman who realized, at a very early age, that she was less than her friends, that she was being pitied and patronized. This not only has made her bitter for the rest of her life, but has rendered unable to "filter out" all of those little moments everybody has to go through in their lives. Of course, even poor women with a mother and father had to have a position back then; they all had employers and had to pretend not to notice their efforts to play the cool boss. But she can't, and won't, filter out all of these little social things. Because for her, everything is potentially disrespectful or patronizing or a way of reminding her that she never knew her parents. Welcome to the concept of childhood trauma.

It's specially disturbing, because we have to wonder: were their employers really being disrespectful? Is she just paranoid? Or, most probable and most scary, both? Maybe, because she's overly sensitive and she's decided not to put up with all of those social pretenses, she's aware of a million little insults the rest of us don't even see anymore? Is she right and the rest of us are wrong?

Whoa this post is long.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Nope, Alasse, I did not see that at all. I thought perhaps she was a member of a anti slavery group, or a member of a smuggling organization. I guess the old saying of a woman scorned certainly applied to her!

I thought of her as being a bit of a sociopath. She really did scare me quite a bit.


message 6: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) Since Ms. Wade is a jilted lover, I wonder if she is scheming in some way with Blandois to strike at Henry and Minnie Gowan? I certainly hope she didn't try to get one or both killed given that Blandois is an assassin!

Or maybe she had a hand in outing Mr. Merdle's financial schemes?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) She does seem (at least to me) over the top and filled with hatred. I was not quite sure what she intended to accomplish with Harriet though. Is she trying to capture Harriet because she felt Harriet was the same as she? Was it something just intended to hurt the Meagles? It does not seem to me to be a strong story line at this point.


message 8: by Alasse (new)

Alasse I figured she just wanted to spare Harriet from a fate like hers. But, since she's not exactly well equipped to be a loving guardian, now they're basically stuck with each other.

I didn't think she was over the top, but the jilted lover subplot was completely out of the blue. I know it was just a pretext to justify Blandois's travelling with the Gowans, but it still seems counterproductive to me. With only her hatred and her pride to drive her, she has a bit of mystery around her and inspires a certain respect - but introducing jealousy as a motivation as well makes her sound psychopathic and whiny. I keep picturing Glenn Close as I write this. Not good.


message 9: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 495 comments I still like Ms Wade, and I agree with Alasse: she is really a complex character, one of the most complex in this book. Harriet is not as deep as she is...
I didn't forsee mr Merdle suicide, but I knew that something was cominci related to hi money and fortunes: what I had not anticipated is the ruin with which this downfall entraps several of our acquaintances. What will Fanny do? She doesn't look so satisfied with her marriage now that she's rich, afterwards?


message 10: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) I didn't get to the part of Mr. Merdle's suicide,but if it is because of Mr. Dorrit's outburst at the party. Fanny seems more spoiled and peevish as ever. Her husband cannot do anything right. I guess rich or poor it is what you bring with you that shows all. Her personality was not all that charming before, I wish Amy got to marry for love, and found great happiness. She is not written too much of in these chapters for my taste.


message 11: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) Robin wrote: "I didn't get to the part of Mr. Merdle's suicide..."

I think Mr. Merdle took his own life because his fraudulent dealings were about to be exposed, and he did not want to deal with the repercussion (e.g., financial loss, living with people no longer worshiping him, prison, etc.).


message 12: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 56 comments I wasn't necessarily surprised by Miss Wade's revelation of her difficult upbringing, since we already knew she must have experienced some of the same situations as Harriet, explaining her strong empathy with her. But I was completely caught off guard by the scorned lover scenario. Somehow I just assumed from the portrayal of her as strong and independent that men, lovers or anything of the sort were "below her". Sorry fellas, no offense intended...


message 13: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Ms. Wade didn't seem to me to be interested in men, and she did have some kind of Svengali hold on Harriet.


message 14: by Silver (new)

Silver I found the revelations about Miss Wade to be quite interesting as there was such a mystery about her when she was first introduced into the story. I cannot say I find the revelation of her as a jilted lover to be a "disappointment" per sae. Though one of the things of which I could not help but to be curious about as it tracked through her various experiences is if in fact things were truly as Miss Wade saw them to be. As she put it was she truly just not a fool like everyone else and could see the truth behind the actions and motives of other people and simply was not willing to buy into it. Or was she simply just given to be such a cynical person that as the chapter states "The History of a Self-Tormentor" did she simply presume that by default anyone attempting to be kind to her must be false and did she see ulterior motives and conspiracies against her, where they did not in truth actually exist.

Robin said: Ms. Wade didn't seem to me to be interested in men, and she did have some kind of Svengali hold on Harriet.

I have to admit that when she was talking of her friendship with Charlotte and how much she loved her, I did question as to just what the true nature of that love was. I agree that I myself do not see her as being much interested in men in spite of her presumed attachment to Mr. Gowan, which I saw drawing more from the fact that she saw herself within him and thus felt for the first time she was with someone whom she could trust to be honest with her and speak frankly to her instead of hiding behind fastness as she perceives everyone else.

In regards to Harriet, I think because she did see Harriet as being like herself she truly just wanted to shelter her and try and prevent Harriet from going through the same experiences and disappointments that she herself had. But because of the natures of both of them, well it is almost unavoidable that they would serve to torment each other because of the very likeness between them.


message 15: by Micaelyn (new)

Micaelyn (captaincaelyn) | 19 comments The suicide of Mr Merdle was completely unforseen by me - until he asked for the penknife, which was the red flag for others, as well. Somehow, I have to believe that the "scheme" Arthur is so preoccupied with has to be tied to Mr Merdle. Remember how he acted so ignorantly of the turn of fortune of the Dorrits? Maybe he was just playing it off, and in reality, he was the cause of the Dorrit's plummet into obscurity and poverty? And somehow Blandois & Miss Wade must be involved. My guess (thought it could be entirely wrong) is that Miss Wade hired Blandois to oust the financial truth of Mr Merdle, thereby leading to his suicide.

Such a twist!!! Can't wait to finish!


message 16: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) The way in which Dickens described the suicide, by finding him in the bathhouse, or the gentlemen's club was kind or gruesome not so much in the details, even though he mentioned the blood. I thought he was humiliated with Mr. Dorrit's outburst at the party. Lo and behold Merdle had secrets of his own. How was Merdle and Arthur hooked up business wise. Didn't see any correlation, or maybe I missed it.


message 17: by Silver (new)

Silver Robin wrote: "The way in which Dickens described the suicide, by finding him in the bathhouse, or the gentlemen's club was kind or gruesome not so much in the details, even though he mentioned the blood. I thoug..."

I was a bit confused by the Merdle and Arthur thing as well. I presumed that Arthur must have taken a loan from Mr. Merdle's bank when he was establishing the business with Doyle. But I did not see why it seemed that Arthur should be blamed for or seen as guilty or why his or Doyle's reputations should be in danger for something that Merdle did when they themselves were victims of his fraud, and ignorant of the truth.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I saw it as Arthur invested all of his and Doyle's money in Mr Merdle's fund. I believed Arthur just did it without informing Doyle. When Mr. Merdle's dealings fell apart, all Arthur and Doyle's money went down the tube. Whatever creditors there were could not be paid since all Arthur and Doyle's money was gone. Arthur was then thrown into debtor's prison because he could not pay any of the company's debts. Doyle was out of the country at that time. (although, I think he had money of his own, not connected to the business)


message 19: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Exactly, right Marialyce, and I believe Arthur's guilt and devastated feelings were due to his being an experienced businessman. So many others sort of blindly followed the Great Merdle, but Arthur knew more of the actual risk in speculative investments so he considered himself greatly at fault for having made the investment.

Again though, this circumstance ties back into what I have said in a comment in the later portion of the discussion. What is the main factor with Doyce's business having to struggle so to begin with -- the Circumlocution Office? As did Doyce for years, Arthur is still spending valuable time at the government office filling out forms to try to get a license for the one invention that Doyce believes will make him successful. So if not for the pitiful government office, D&C could have made their money through their own labors rather risky investments.


message 20: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 56 comments SarahC wrote: "Exactly, right Marialyce, and I believe Arthur's guilt and devastated feelings were due to his being an experienced businessman. So many others sort of blindly followed the Great Merdle, but Arthu..."

Excellent point Sarah. I found the build-up of complete and utter frustration with the C Office to be one of the strongest emotional parts of the novel.


message 21: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Lauri, I was really impressed by the emphasis placed on the Circumlocution Office also. It seemed the ultimate place where the wealthy and connected could establish a little job for themselves and then sit back and relax. An amazing description and still among our greatest frustrations today. I have certainly phoned public offices even to get the slightest bit of information and had the person answering seem to have no understanding of what I am talking about. I guess it causes fear too, because when a public office doesn't seem to be serving us, who will?


message 22: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) I have had the same thing happen at out local State Archives, try looking up something on microfiche,when you don't even know how to thread it,and they won't help at all. They are all quite useless, the workers that is.


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