In Which We Have Our First Spat

*spoilers from Nicholas Nickleby ahead

I have finished reading Nicholas Nickleby now, and, honestly, I’m not so sure if I liked it or not. I didn’t know much about it when I started reading it, and, while the plot was interesting enough, the characters didn’t grip me like in other Dickens’ novels. Our hero and the title character didn’t seem to experience much growth throughout the novel. He was always in the right, whether he was beating up Mr. Squeers for being an abusive “teacher” or beating up Sir Mulberry Hawk for treating his sister wrongly or standing up to his uncle—he never does anything that the narrator or other good characters consider wrong. It would have been interesting to see what he was like before his father died and the novel began; maybe he grew from that, but the novel doesn’t show it. Also, he falls in love with a girl just from looking at her—and she loves him back even though they hardly have any normal interactions between them.

Kate was more interesting, being thrown into the working scene as a young and beautiful woman. And though she did experience growth at first through that and having to be away from her mother and brother, she quickly backpedals once she is re-situated with them and not working. But I think what made me upset with her the most was that she was so oblivious to the fact that Smike was in love with her. It was so obvious! I mean, she was the first woman who was ever kind to Smike; of course he was going to fall in love with her. What could have made for interesting character development for both characters would have been for Kate to find out that Smike loved her. I would have loved to see how both of them would have handled that situation, as well as Nicholas.

Newman Noggs was the best character and probably the only one who really changed. He starts out as a drunk with no ambition who does whatever Ralph Nickleby tells him to while secretly hating him. By the end, he finally acts, and not just secretly. His actions lead to the downfall of Ralph and the happiness of the rest of the Nickleby clan. Also, Newman always seems to be able to do whatever the heck he wants, no matter how odd it is. I do wish that the origin of his limp and the details of how Nicholas Nickleby, Sr., assisted him would have been explained.

Mrs. Nickleby truly annoyed me, with her selfish blindness to the truths of the world, her incessant chatter, and her inability to form any true opinion on her own. I was disappointed with the end of Ralph Nickleby—mainly because I was rooting for him to change his life and become a good character. (I’m all about the villains changing their tunes.) Instead, Smike is revealed to be his son—I knew his parentage would be important!—but only after he has died. This knowledge, along with the collapse of his kingdom of coins, drives Ralph to despair and his tragic end.

As for dates with Charlie, we haven’t gone on many lately because we’re fighting right now. He’s mad at me for not liking Nicholas Nickleby more, but I stand by my opinions. Also, I’m currently participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and trying to write 50,000 words in a month doesn’t leave much time for dates. Charlie thinks the whole idea of NaNoWriMo is silly, as he believes you should take your time with these things to produce the best story possible. He also thinks 50,000 words is a very small novel, even though I told him that you don’t have to stop at 50,000 words; that’s just the minimum goal. All that to say, we’re not currently speaking, but don’t worry—I’m sure we’ll be on speaking terms again soon.

2 thoughts on “In Which We Have Our First Spat

  1. Yes, relationships are hard. Nickleby isn’t one of my favourite Dickens, either, though I thought Mrs. Nickleby was kind of funny. My favourite part was the bit with the mad gentleman next door who threw vegetables over the wall as a token of his love for Mrs. Nickleby, and how she sees him as a legitimate suitor.

    I guess Old Curiosity Shop is next if you’re going in order of publication. Another of Dickens’ less read novels nowadays. It’s odd, these were among his most popular on original publication, but for modern-day readers they’re less popular, and it’s his later works that get all the praise. Anyway, I hope you and Charles work it out!

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  2. I will admit—the bit with the mad gentleman was entertaining, and I felt that Mrs. Nickleby deserved how that ended.

    I am currently reading The Old Curiosity Shop! I should have a blog post up soon about it, but I’m liking it so far. Thanks—I’ll let you know about Charlie and me. 🙂

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Have a suggestion for where I should take Dickens on a date? Learn something new about Dickens? Have a different opinion about this book? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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