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Archived Group Reads 2011 > Little Dorrit: Book Two: 31-End

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver This is for discussing the concluding chapters of the book. As well discussion for book as a whole. If you have not yet finished reading the book be warned that there may be spoilers here.


message 2: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 56 comments Does anyone understand why the house fell down and what the mystery of the little noises was? I am at a complete loss...


message 3: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) I know Dickens used this tactic in Bleak House, where a man combusted. I think he likes to uses this to show that the house was rickety and the evil person still was inside, maybe it is an allegory to say that the house had evil in it? At one part of the book there was a mention that someone was encased in the basement cemented in, I thought he was going to mention who that was, maybe it was another business partner?


message 4: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 495 comments I think like Robin that the house fall is a sort of metaphore for the evil going down in the end: almost all his books, apart from the last ones, end whith a reward to the good people!!!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I agree Laura. It was the evil that the house represented has been destroyed. My review: I only gave it three stars so Patrizia, you were more generous than I.

I did enjoy this book of family deception and interesting characters that they met along the way of their lives. Pursuing the point that all life lives in a prison of sorts, Dickens takes us to the debtor's prison, the Marshalsea where the Dorrit family is residing, to the lap of luxury enjoyed by many of the Victorians of the time. Into all of this comes Arthur Clennam, a man of principle and ethics, who feels that there is something greatly amiss in his family's dealings business wise. Left a cryptic death message by his father, Arthur returns home from China and tries to pick up with a bitterly cold mother and her servants Flintwise (a true vision of meanness) and his extremely frightened wife Affrey. The house is sinister and so is the plot of what his father meant by the words "Do not forget" enclosed within a gold pocket watch.

Little Dorrit's presence in the house starts Arthur wondering why she is there and whether his family has wronged her family or other families in their business dealings. We get to meet Amy's family who are a cast of controlling miscreants. They all want to return to their glory days and take on airs of haughtiness that are totally ridiculous and crass.

There are many other characters that Dickens presents that run from the wonderfully gracious to the evil side that humans can take when they are bereft of love. He presents them all with a flair for the silliness and pomp that so often accompanies those people we think of as being Victorians. He does this all by painting physical ddescription in your mind through their words and actions. Dickens is also the master of atmosphere and is able to create the dreariness of the prison as well as that of everyone's everyday life.

I liked the book, but did feel that Dickens went overboard in his disdain for the governmentally run offices and the waste he felt in these units. All in all, the novel could have been about two hundred pages shorter if these sections were eliminated and the story had been allowed to be told. A good story can often be marred by too many words.


message 6: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) I thought the noises and collapse of the house where from the ghost of Aurthur's biological mother. I was disappointed we never learned her name.

The whole ending was a bit of a let down for me. The blackmail scheme didn't seem plausible given Mrs. Clennam's lack of wealth. If she were loaded like Mrs. Merdle was (prior to the collapse) it would have made more sense.

The house blowing up and killing Blandois and Flitwick was rather convenient, and they all lived happily ever after -- except Mrs. Clennam who mysteriously became an invalid.


message 7: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 495 comments The ending of Dickens' novels are often little satisfacory - at least to me. In italian we say "E tutti i salmi finiscono in Gloria" or, more sarcasticly, "e mandiamo tutto a tarallucci e vino" meanning that Dickens tends to have improbable happy results after terrible mishappenings...


message 8: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Laura that is so true with Dickens endings. In the Bleak House book the man internally combusted in the middle of the book. But there were happy endings in that book, for some people that is.


message 9: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 495 comments Don't tell me! It's my next Dickens.


message 10: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) sorry should have put the spoiler thingee in. That is just one event that I will disclose, you must read the rest of the book to find out what else happens!


message 11: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 495 comments No problem!!!!


message 12: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments ****************SPOILER*****************************

I completely understand what you mean about the length and the endings. Dickens is often criticized for his sentiment, especially in the endings of some books. I just think that was Dickens' style. I saw one essayists who said, due to Dickens' own improbable life, perhaps he saw these endings as realistic as anything else. It is just very relative to taste too, especially in the modern reader who these days often sees different types of endings in modern novels.

So I am a complete devotee to Dickens' style, as you might have suspected! haha And his writing tone really appeals to me, so the longer novels I really love.

I think Dickens had a lot to say about government and he really wanted to emphasize that in this novel. For example, we have really been critical of Mr. Dorrit in our discussion, but after finishing the book and looking at the big picture, was government partially responsible for the creation of Dorrit as he was? And due to the powerful men that government so loved and supported, wasn't Dorrit actually ruined twice in this novel?


message 13: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I really think that the noises in the Clennam house were the slow rotting and breaking apart of the supports of the house -- just a creepy groaning as the wood gave way. That IS a very eerie symbolism for the disintegration of human beings. And even as early as the beginning of the story, doesn't the house just seem like a dead house to you?


message 14: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Jan 27, 2011 05:15AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) So true, Sarah. The house was dead, dreary, and crumbling, just like the people who dwelt within it. As the house fell, so did these peole succumb to their deviousness and evil doings.

I think the character I sympathized the most with was poor Affrey. What an abominable life she had! I hope that Arthur and Amy took her in when they married.


message 15: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) I don't think we ever learned the source or amount of Mr. Dorrit's debt. It was tied up with the Circumlocution office, but I couldn't tell if it was something they did to him or he did to himself.

I didn't see the government as being the downfall of everyone at the end of the story. That was faith in Mr. Merdle, who turned out to be like Barney Madoff and swindling millions of dollars.


message 16: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments What I was referring to as Dorrit's downfall was not who he owed the money to, but the system that created debtor's prison. And in the case of Merdle, at least a case a privileged man ruining the lives of many who had a trust in the financial system.

I am glad you brought up Affrey, Marialyce. Yes Dickens never comes out bluntly with Affrey's situation but this so-called marriage to Flintwinch was hideous. A woman likely with no place to go and at least a blind-type devotion to her lady Mrs. C. Mrs. C should have protected her from this "marriage of convenience" to Flintwinch. You can tell Arthur is suspicious of this set up because he probably knows is seems unlikely that Affrey would gain any benefit from it.


message 17: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Poor Affrey, I think she was looking for stability and someone to take care of her. She sure picked the wrong man.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I got the feeling Affrey had no choice in the marriage, Robin. Those two "smart ones" planned it all for her.


message 19: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahduncan) I really feel for Affrey and I do believe she just wanted someone to be there for her and take care of her. I agree with Marialyce in the end the marriage wasn't a choice she made it was made for her.


message 20: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) I agree with Marialyce and Bookbee that Affrey's wedding wasn't by her own choice.

I guess by marrying Affrey, it gave Mr. Flintwick a strangle hold (figuratively and literally) on her so she couldn't reveal the family/business secrets of Mrs. Clennam.


message 21: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Yes, and combined with my comment in message 17, "the clever ones" try to convince her she is insane so that she would be less likely to tell anyone about anything odd she sees. So there is both physical and mental abuse going on here. I do think she thinks Arthur is trustworthy but probably doesnt feel he could get her away to another household so she really is even afraid to talk to him completely too.


message 22: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) I feel that Affrey is a sympathetic character since she has been with Mrs. Clennam for years. Everyone should see the movie, the characters really come to life, The evil ones are much eviler. Just a side note to discussion.


message 23: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I agree about Affrey on that Robin, I think she did have loyalty to Mrs. C, whether it is justified in our eyes or not ;)

And was Affrey just another person in Mrs. C's life who either was overlooked due to Mrs. C's great piety or maybe she thought Affrey's sufferings were due to Affey's sins? It is hard to figure out the fine points of how/why Mrs. C ran her household. She is such a study in extremism.

The casting was very good in the film version. And the sights and sounds of all the surroundings and personalities did intensify the story.


message 24: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) I think Mrs. Clennam was too into her Bible, that she overlooked what was going on in her household. She thought Flintwinch had everything taken care of. He was a very dastardly character, You also see the juxtapostion of characters, and long for the good ones to come out well in the end. That is what I love about Dickens, he always to one extreme or another has a nice outcome in his novels,


message 25: by Micaelyn (new)

Micaelyn (captaincaelyn) | 19 comments I loved this novel - despite its arduous length - because of the wonderful way Dickens uses subtlety to unmask, so to speak, society. He presents you with Mrs Clennam; a self-proclaimed devout follower who is hypocritically guilty of many sins such as lying.
You are presented with Mr Dorrit; a man who by all means should be undyingly grateful to Arthur but forgets him and himself amongst all his wealth.
You're presented with Mr Merdle; a man who embodies all the greatness of society, who, in reality, is a swindling mastermind.
I love Dickens' way of showing the world for the way it is. True, good people frequently don't prosper the way Little Dorrit and Arthur did in the end, but it shows his undying faith that there is some fairness in the world.

I really wish the truth about Arthur's mother had been elaborated on, and I'm still very confused in regards to Frederick's involvement with the Clennams. Not to mention how Blandois and Miss Wade tie into everything...lots of loose ends to this one.


message 26: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) I think Frederick had a child, and maybe it was Arthur. Mrs. Clennam adopted him. So that is why she was not maternal toward Arthur. But wouldn't that make Arthur and Amy half siblings?


message 27: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments That's not quite how it ended, Robin. Partially, not quite though.


message 28: by Micaelyn (new)

Micaelyn (captaincaelyn) | 19 comments No, Mrs Clennam's husband was the father of Arthur, it's the mother's identity we don't know, so that rules Frederick out. Although he fits into the financial part of it all somehow.


message 29: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) I thought Frederick took in Arhtur's biological mother and helped her restart her life in music and/or dance (much the same way he did with Fanny).

I got the impression that Frederick was better off back then, and had fallen on hard times lately although he was still playing his clarinet.

I also got the impression that Arthur's father visited his former love, and that is why he left some money in his will for Frederick.


message 30: by Micaelyn (new)

Micaelyn (captaincaelyn) | 19 comments Ahhhh, so that's what happened?? That makes a lot more sense!


message 31: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments SPOILERS**********************

The relationships and the inheritance are explained in chapter 30. Frederick in his prosperous days had helped Arthur's real mother in her struggles. Gilbert Clennam, the uncle and guardian of Arthur's father, discovered this had been the case. As he was ill and dying he dictated a bequest to Arthur's mother and one to the youngest child of Frederick, or if he had none, the youngest child of his brother William (Amy). Mrs. C. believed all these people were sinners basically and she hid the bequest and they never got their money from his estate obviously.

But of course, Mrs. C's greatest crime could be seen that she removed Arthur from his real mother but then brought him up with such coldness and him not knowing all this time that he had another mother (she had died a very long time ago though).


message 32: by Silver (new)

Silver Kyle wrote: I got the impression that Frederick was better off back then, and had fallen on hard times lately although he was still playing his clarinet.."

It said sometime earlier in the book that Mr. Dorrit brought his brother to ruin with him when he got into debt.

I have to admit that I was sad to see Blandios get killed at the end. Even though I saw it coming one way or the other, and I know he was suppose to be the villain, but I always liked him.

I also found Mrs. Clennam's brief miraculous moment of being able to walk again to be a bit of a stretch.

And I was disappointed that Harriet went back to the Meagle's.

Also I wonder, what was the paper that Amy had Arthur burn before they left the prison? Was it the document of which was in the box that contained the truth about Arthur's history and who is mother really was?


message 33: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) Silver wrote: And I was disappointed that Harriet went back to the Meagle's.

I was glad Harriet went back, because I think she saw the the Meagles treated her better than Miss Wade could despite Miss Wade "understanding" Harriet's background. The difference being that Harriet didn't become jaded against the world like Miss Wade did.

Silver also wrote:
Also I wonder, what was the paper that Amy had Arthur burn before they left the prison? Was it the document of which was in the box that contained the truth about Arthur's history and who is mother really was?


I assumed this was the paperwork that would explain Arthur's real mother, and the bequest in his father's will. I was surprised that Amy burned it up. Do you think she would ever reveal the secret after Mrs. Clennam passed away?


message 34: by Silver (last edited Jan 31, 2011 06:03PM) (new)

Silver Kyle wrote: "Silver wrote: And I was disappointed that Harriet went back to the Meagle's.

I was glad Harriet went back, because I think she saw the the Meagles treated her better than Miss Wade could despite M..."


Personally I do not know if I would say being patronized is being treated better. While the Meagle's may have saw themselves as being charitable towards her, they also treated her as if she was just a plaything of Pet's. They may have been nicer than Miss Wade, but the very fact that they continue to call her Tatty shows that they never really have any true respect for her as a human being. Though perhaps without Pet around for them to dote on maybe they will at least treat more like one of the family than treating her as if she herself was a pet.

I have the feeling that Amy will never tell Arthur the truth because I do not think she sees how now after all this time it would in fact do Arthur any good, and growing up the way he did, it may even cause him pain if he were to learn of the truth.


message 35: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Then why did Mrs. Clennam take in Amy. Maybe should have taken notes while reading this book, so many intrigues.


message 36: by Silver (new)

Silver Robin wrote: "Then why did Mrs. Clennam take in Amy. Maybe should have taken notes while reading this book, so many intrigues."

I was also confused by the Clennam and Dorrit connection. And how the Clenaam's were releated to what happened to the Dorrit's if they were releated to it.


message 37: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) I know, maybe I should re-read that part, Dickens has a way of adding this to the mix besides all of his central characters are somehow all in everyone else's back pocket, so to speak. Also, the paperwork that they burned before he left the prison, was his mother's identity and the circumstances surrounding that. This was a very intriguing book from that standpoint.


message 38: by Silver (new)

Silver I was also confussed as to just what Miss Wade hired Blandios to do, she had a thing against the Meagel's and Growan and yet it did not seem as if anything actually came of that.


message 39: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Maybe she wanted Blandois to kill Gowan, but he killed the dog instead. She was a jilted lover, Gowan spurned her. Remember Blandois unexpectedly showing up in Italy. I think Pet didn't like Blandois since he was so crude. That is just what I surmised.


message 40: by Silver (new)

Silver Robin wrote: "Maybe she wanted Blandois to kill Gowan, but he killed the dog instead. She was a jilted lover, Gowan spurned her. Remember Blandois unexpectedly showing up in Italy. I think Pet didn't like Blan..."

Yes I remember that, but other than the dog incident Blandois did not actually really do anything but follow them around for a while. That did not seem like much of a plan. I do not know if he was suppose to kill Gowan or Pet or both and for some reason changed his mind or because Pet did not like him didn't get a chance, or if the poison the dog got was meant for Gowan. It just seemed kind of anti-climatic and did not go anywhere.


message 41: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) I didn't think Miss Wade hired Blandois for anything, but it was Blandois that hired Miss Wade to hold onto the box of papers. This would seem to explain the encounter where Arthur overheard Blandois meeting with Miss Wade and Harriet and stating he didn't have "it" yet.


message 42: by SarahC (last edited Feb 01, 2011 06:10PM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Reading Chaps 21 and 28 (Book Two) gives you about all the reveal of this part of the Wade-Gowan-Rigaud(Blandois) story. She hadn't hired him to murder, but simply spy on the newly-weds. (Of course, a little more is revealed when Harriet returns the Clennam papers near the end of the book also.)

I think it just shows what a troubled person Wade was. She had been thrown over by Gowan, but it doesnt seem there had ever been any real prospect of commitment really. There would have been no reason for her to actually hate Minnie Meagles, but she actually stalks her, --when we first meet Wade she is actually stalking the Meagles (this part is learned in Bk Two, ch 21). And then she hires Rigaud to stalk the Gowans after the marriage.

And her bitterness carries on to the point that she would have withheld the Clennam papers for no other reason than spite in general -- or maybe that Arthur was friends with the Meagles or also loved Minnie.

Harriet saw this as cruel and maybe realized these and other psychological tendencies in Wade, so probably thought it best to leave her company and return to the Meagles. Maybe hoping that the Meagles would improve in their views of her?

Maybe this all did seem anticlimatic as far as a mystery or crime drama, but for this story it was possibly more just a study of people and the results of their tendencies.

And discussing what Amy asked to be burned in the fireplace -- it seemed she burned only the written amendment to Uncle Gilbert Clennam's will, which would have shown that Mrs. C withheld inheritances from Arthur's mother and from Amy. The other papers seem to have been kept in the box by Amy, maybe for a future time -- these were papers and letters written by Arthur's own mother, asking forgiveness from Mrs. C. and possibly professing her love for Arthur.


message 43: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 56 comments Robin wrote: "Then why did Mrs. Clennam take in Amy. Maybe should have taken notes while reading this book, so many intrigues."

This is described in Chapter 30 when Mrs. Clennam is painfully explaining herself to Blandois in relation to the "stolen money" (the thousand pounds that was supposed to go by will to Arthur's real mother and another thousand to Amy as the youngest daughter of Frederick's brother). She tells us she found the niece (Amy) and "what I did for her was better for her, far, than the money of which she would have had no good."

I don't believe Mrs. C. knew that Amy's father was in debtor's prison, but if she did, do you think she would have felt guilty that she held back the thousand pounds? Although why she didn't feel that Amy would benefit from the money as opposed to her patronage is misguided at best...more like dillusional. She was so zealous in her pursuit of righting the wrongs of others in the name of her religious beliefs that she was blind to reality. Quite sad and frightening actually.


message 44: by Lauri (new)

Lauri | 56 comments Silver wrote: "Kyle wrote: "Silver wrote: And I was disappointed that Harriet went back to the Meagle's.

I was glad Harriet went back, because I think she saw the the Meagles treated her better than Miss Wade ..."


If you think about the options Harriet would have to choose from at that time as an orphan, I think being a servant with the Meagles was likely a comfortable choice. Even though they appeared to be somewhat patronizing, I don't honestly think it was with Harriet in particular. They seemed to treat almost everyone they came in contact with, both high and low, a bit strangely. For example, how Mr. Meagles refused to even attempt to speak the language in the foreign countries they traveled to. Anyway, I would imagine that being a house servant was an honorable choice for someone of Harriet's background and other choices likely a bit unsavory. She certainly couldn't have risen to the societal level to be considered for a position in a shop even. I think her life in the Meagle's home was probably more lenient than she would have encountered as a servant in other homes and she did go along with them on their travels, unlike the other house servants they kept. All in all, a good life...and despite their oddness, I think they truly loved Harriet.


message 45: by Silver (last edited Feb 02, 2011 01:05PM) (new)

Silver Lauri wrote: "Silver wrote: "Kyle wrote: "Silver wrote: And I was disappointed that Harriet went back to the Meagle's.

I was glad Harriet went back, because I think she saw the the Meagles treated her better ..."


I think one of the things which bothered me about Harriet's return to the Meagle's was it was a moment of in order to be a "good" person she had to give in and conform to society.

Though Miss Wade lived a life imprisoned in her own bitterness, she maintained a certain independence and individuality, she refused to accept societies rules, and falsities, and just smile and go along with it. She stood apart, because she knew she was different and though she let it drive her towards anger that she felt she was not accepted as she was, she was not willing to just give into societies expectations of how a person should behave.

In Harriet's returning to the Meagles, it was as if she had to repent for daring to be different, and apologize for who she was and for having sincere and honest feelings about her position and how she was treated, and in order to be happy she had to give in and go along with society and try to be like Pet or Amy all the time, instead of revealing real feelings any true emotion.

She refers to herself as being bad simply because she expresses her opinions and sometimes feels angry, and because she does see the faults in the why in which the Meagles act towards her.


message 46: by LauraT (last edited Feb 02, 2011 10:58AM) (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 495 comments Silver wrote: Personally I do not know if I would say being patronized is being treated better. While the Meagle's may have saw themselves as being charitable towards her, they also treated her as if she was just a plaything of Pet's. They may have been nicer than Miss Wade, but the very fact that they continue to call her Tatty shows that they never really have any true respect for her as a human being
I agree; I can't like the Meagles as perfect: in their treatment of Harriet I think they were a lot to be blamed. I think that her retourning to them is a mere expedient for the final recovery of the papers the Blandois had given miss Wade - whom I still like a lot in spite of herself!!!!


message 47: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I think Harriet was a stronger character than Wade. It seems that Miss Wade has compromised herself very much throughout her life through damaging relationships with men and then her continuing to stalk and actually paying a murderer to stalk people she should have let go of.

Harriet, on the other hand, is making choices and knows her own mind more. She did walk out from the Meagles with solid reasons why. And I give her credit to have made her own choice about returning to them. It is possible that over time she saw that with Meagles she was provided with a safe home (even thought they don't have perfect attitudes). With the Meagles she will also have the benefit of protection of the Clennams, Doyce, and other reasonable friends. I think she could anticipate a very uncertain and probably dangerous future with Miss Wade. After all, Wade's associate Rigaud was an interesting character, but he was also a murderer and a blackmailer.

I admire that Harriet made a conscious decision to rightfully return the Clennam papers and I see it for that rather than just an addition to the plot. I actually thought it was an admirable part of the story.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) I agree that Dickens' ending are long. But, I must admit that I picked it up at 9am this morning and it has kept me engrossed all day. I've at long last finished it.


message 49: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Yes, once Dickens hooks you in, it can be a rollercoaster ride from one characterization to the next.


message 50: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments I received 3 pages of forms from a state office and 9 pages of forms dealing with some issues from another place last week. Am I starting to look like Arthur Clennam as well as feel like him at the Circumlocution Office?! :0


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