You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in a while. Well, I have a confession to make about that.
I cheated on Charlie.
It wasn’t intentional, I promise. I just got bored. You see, we had that fight. And then I went home for the holidays, and he didn’t come with me. Then, one of my good friends started a book club, and I’ve been reading those books. Charlie just got pushed to the back.
However, I am happy to say that we are in the process of reconciling. I won’t say that we’re there yet, but we’re definitely working on it.
The nice thing about Charlie is that as long as you’re still willing to stick with him, he’ll never give up on you.
On to the latest book that I read—The Old Curiosity Shop.
“Such is the difference between yesterday and today. We are all going to the play or coming home from it.” (Chapter 40)
This book was different from the others in a number of ways, the first being that it starts out written in first person. We never learn much about this narrator, though, as he quickly pulls himself out of the story and resorts to relaying the story in third person. His character never re-enters—not even as the first-person narrator—so that by the time you reach the end of the novel, you could have forgotten that he even existed. He seems to merely be Dickens’s chosen way to introduce the main characters of the story—Little Nell and her grandfather.
The Old Curiosity Shop has the slowest pace out of Dickens’s novels so far, mainly because it seems that there’s no over-arching plot driving the novel. Sure, there are the little mysteries—what is the grandfather doing at night, what happened to Nell’s parents, does the grandfather really have money or not, who is the single gentleman—but I feel like a lot of the novel could have been avoided if Nell and her grandfather had just stayed in town. I still don’t understand exactly why they left. Their problems were mostly due to the fact that the grandfather just wasn’t honest with anyone. He didn’t tell anyone where he went at night, and he made everyone believe that he was a rich old man, when in reality he was gambling away what little money he had. If he had told the truth, perhaps he could have received help from others.
The pace picked up for me when Kit started having legal troubles—also based on lies. His story was the most interesting to me. First, I never guessed that Kit was a nickname for Christopher—I was a bit slow picking up on that. Second, he’s just a likable character, taking care of his family and remaining loyal to Nell and her grandfather. I expected that he and Nell would end up married at the end, but Dickens had different plans.
Even the single gentleman could have been honest all those years before and perhaps he never would have become so distanced from the grandfather, which led to his financial problems. (Dickens didn’t like naming any of these older characters, by the way.)
“It was but imagination, yet imagination had all the terrors of reality; nay, it was worse, for the reality would have come and gone, and there an end, but in imagination it was always coming, and never went away.” (Chapter 31)
The character that surprised me the most was Dick Swiveller. I didn’t like him at first, and I assumed he was only a minor character. Nope! By the end, he is one of the best characters and helps resolve Kit’s legal troubles, at the same time saving the life of a young servant girl who didn’t know her own name or age. (Cutest love story ever.) Dickens himself even said this of Dick before he had finished the book, “I mean to make much of him.” Dickens saw Dick’s potential from the very beginning.
The Life of Charles Dickens
When one of my coworkers found out about my Dickens project, she told me, “I have a book for you!” The next time I saw her, she gave me the above-pictured book, The Life of Charles Dickens by John Forster. This was the first biography written about Dickens, and Mr. Forster was one of Dickens’s closest friends. As such, it includes many direct quotations from Dickens as well as personal information and details about each novel. What a find! Any quotations or information I give about Dickens’s personal life will now come directly from this book.
Now, one last quotation from The Old Curiosity Shop that I think is the best explanation I’ve heard for why young people die:
“Oh! It is hard to take to heart the lesson that such deaths will teach, but let no man reject it, for it is one that all must learn, and is a mighty, universal Truth. When Death strikes down the innocent and young, for every fragile form from which he lets the panting spirit free, a hundred virtues rise, in shapes of mercy, charity, and love, to walk the world, and bless it. Of every tear that sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves, some good is born, some gentler nature comes. In the Destroyer’s steps there spring up bright creations that defy his power, and his dark path becomes a way of light to Heaven.” (Chapter 72)