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Nicholas Nickleby
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The Dickens Project - Archives > Nicholas Nickleby - Chapters 30-35

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Please join us in the discussion as a part of the Dickens project (Part 6, chapters 30-35).

message 2: by Zulfiya (last edited Feb 21, 2012 02:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments This is one of the most urban parts of the book so far. Dickens excels not only at the representation of his characters, but also has an excellent vision of the urban life. London of his vision is a big animal, ever watchful, never asleep, not necessarily evil, but somewhat restless, and it is also a place where dreams can be dashed or happiness can be earned in the human meaning of this word (by hard work, commitment, devotion, and diligence).
They rattled on through the noisy, bustling, crowded street of London, now displaying long double rows of brightly-burning lamps, dotted here and there with the chemists' glaring lights, and illuminated besides with the brilliant flood that streamed from the windows of the shops, where sparkling jewellery, silks and velvets of the richest colours, the most inviting delicacies, and most sumptuous articles of luxurious ornament, succeeded each other in rich and glittering profusion. Streams of people apparently without end poured on and on, jostling each other in the crowd and hurrying forward, scarcely seeming to notice the riches that surrounded them on every side; while vehicles of all shapes and makes, mingled up together in one moving mass, like running water, lent their ceaseless roar to swell the noise and tumult.
As they dashed by the quickly-changing and ever-varying objects, it was curious to observe in what a strange procession they passed before the eye. Emporiums of splendid dresses, the materials brought from every quarter of the world; tempting stores of
everything to stimulate and pamper the sated appetite and give new relish to the oft-repeated feast; vessels of burnished gold and silver, wrought into every exquisite form of vase, and dish, and goblet; guns, swords, pistols, and patent engines of destruction; screws and irons for the crooked, clothes for the newly-born, drugs for the sick, coffins for the dead, and churchyards for the buried-- all these jumbled each with the other and flocking side by side, seemed to flit by in motley dance like the fantastic groups of the old Dutch painter, and with the same stern moral for the unheeding restless crowd.

This part is also an interesting combination of hope, emotions, and noble intentions. Ralph and Mr. Squeers also feature there to add more realistic perspective. I also think that Mr. Squeers is a harbinger of bad things to come. On the other hand, to balance and fight the evil, we are introduced to a lovely, sunny couple of the Cheerybles. It is a bright ray of hope for Nicholas and Kate.
I tend to believe that shallow, naïve, and ever pretentious Mrs. Nickleby is a good example of devoted staunchest love and a test of endurance. Both Nicholas and Kate love their mother unconditionally even if she is vexatious. Nicholas is firmly portrayed as a Knight in Shining Armor, with the misfortunes only shaping his personality.

All in all, I really enjoyed this part. Though it is obvious that the characters will have to struggle in future, but there is definitely a message of hope and future familial happiness.

P.S. I find it truly disgusting how Mr. and Mrs. Squeers made their pupils pay their medical bills by making the boys sick and infecting them. That was really abominable. And the whole idea of him gloating over and considering this as their personal accomplishment was unbearable.

message 3: by Bob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 33 comments I had a similar reaction to Squeers as a harbinger and felt the same disgust at his gloating over his medical racket.

I loved the passage you quoted. London really fascinated Dickens, I guess. When I was a kid, I spent a year in Edinburgh and went to 6th grade there. My English teachers (among others) liked to give "dictation" exercises, and I have never forgotten one of them - a superb description of London fog, from Bleak House.

In your quoted passage, the part about "long double rows of brightly-burning lamps" made me curious as to when and how these gas lights came into being. It turns out that, before the gas light era, there were laws requiring private citizens to illuminate the streets: "By an Act of the Common Council in 1716, all housekeepers, whose houses faced any street, lane, or passage, were required to hang out, every dark night, one or more lights, to burn from six to eleven o'clock, under the penalty of one shilling as a fine for failing to do so." In case anyone is interested, here is a link to a Wikipedia article on the subject:

I'm also curious about the "chemists' glaring lights". (Fellow Americans: I believe "chemists" is British for "pharmacists".) I suppose their shops were specially lighted so that people with medical emergencies could find them easily?

message 4: by Robin P, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robin P | 2116 comments Mod
I'm sure I posted this earlier in the week, if it ended up somewhere else I apologize. In this section we have the contrast between Squeers & Ralph on the one hand and the Cheeryble brothers on the other. Squeers seems to be trying to impress Ralph with how stingy he can be. (I think the example of the doctor is supposed to be funny, the logical extension of Squeers' "domestic economy". ) Squeers and Ralph are both cruel to their employees or underlings, feeling that those lesser mortals are fortunate to be in their orbit.

The brothers however are the soul of generosity, and they only get angry at their employee when he refuses to take their gifts. Rather than feeling they deserve the best, these two are humble and grateful, never forgetting their modest origins. And who is really happier after all? There is a quote at the end of one chapter saying how the poor Nicklebys are happy and Ralph isn't.

message 5: by Bob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 33 comments Robin wrote: "I'm sure I posted this earlier in the week, if it ended up somewhere else I apologize. In this section we have the contrast between Squeers & Ralph on the one hand and the Cheeryble brothers on the..."

I hate to be negative, but I'm not fascinated with the Cheerybles. Their goodness is a bit cloying, I feel. A general problem I have with Dickens characters who are models of virtue.

message 6: by Lynnm (last edited Feb 25, 2012 04:12PM) (new) - added it

Lynnm | 3027 comments This was one of my favorite parts of the book so far. With apologies to Bob, I loved the Cheerybles...they truly are cheery. Which was particularly welcome by me after so many miserable, terrible characters.

And thoroughly thrilled that Sir Mulberry got his just punishment by Nicholas' hand. I do feel somewhat sorry for him ... even bad people shouldn't get injured ... but I can't help thinking that he brought it on himself.

Sir Mulberry proves that just because you have a title doesn't necessary mean you have any "class."

And the more I read about Miss La Creevy, the more I like her. She has pluck. :-)

message 7: by Bob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 33 comments Lynnm wrote: "This was one of my favorite parts of the book so far. With apologies to Bob, I loved the Cheerybles...they truly are cheery. Which was particularly welcome by me after so many miserable, terrible..."

My close friends call me Scrooge-Bob.

message 8: by Lynnm (new) - added it

Lynnm | 3027 comments Bob wrote: "My close friends call me Scrooge-Bob. "

Lol! I highly doubt it. ;) You seem like a very nice person. :-)

message 9: by Hedi (last edited Mar 03, 2012 09:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hedi | 960 comments Robin wrote: "...There is a quote at the end of one chapter saying how the poor Nicklebys are happy and Ralph isn't.

I am somehow behind with my readings, but trying to catch up again this weekend.

I had the same impression as Robin related to who is really the poor one in this tale. In the end it is not important how much money and material pleasures you have if you are not surrounded by people who care about you and take an interest in you and your situation and with whom you can share all of this.
I believe, Ralph is now in the situation of an inner struggle, as he seems to have gotten fonder of Kate than he can actually admit to himself and especially to others. - After all, he cannot ruin his "reputation". -

As discussed by you already, I also was disgusted by the way Mr. Squeers was bragging about his taking money from the parents of his pupils for his own medical sake. I mean - in times when children very often died of scarlet fever - how mean must you be to deliberately expose them to this illness. However, these things are happening partially still today. When visiting India once, I learned from a renowned travel guide that in the tourist area of the Taj Mahal, you had to be careful where to eat as there had been cases of deliberate foodpoisoning of Western tourists so they would use medical assistance there with their private travel insurances. I think 1 or 2 British tourists actually died of something like that in 2000 or the end of the 90s.
To me, it is just so awful and incredible how you can care so less about others.

The Cheerybles are the complete opposite of that and maybe keep up your/ the reader's hopes that the world is not only inhabited by people who only think of themselves and of materialistic pleasures.

So I am looking forward to seeing the further "battle between evil and good".

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Hedi, I also play catch-up during the weekend. Oh, busy life, you are trying hard, but you will not steal the pleasure of reading from us:-)

NB. Very valuable observations.

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