Showing 1 - 7 of 7 annotations associated with Dickens, Charles
- Kennedy, Meegan
St. Luke’s Hospital was founded in 1750 to provide free care to the impoverished mentally ill. It mixed benevolence with "unconscious cruelty" in the treatments used by the "practitioners of old," from restraints and drugs to swings and a key to force-feed recalcitrant patients. Dickens describes this gloomy edifice as he saw it on December 26, 1851, although he notes a "seasonable garniture" of holly.
The inhabitants of St. Luke’s largely sit in solitude. Dickens decries the absence of "domestic articles to occupy . . . the mind" in one gallery holding several silent, melancholy women, and praises the comfortable furnishings--and the relative "earnestness and diligence" of the inmates--in another. He uses statistics to show the prevalence of female patients, "the general efficacy of the treatment" at St. Luke’s, and the unhealthy weight gain of the inhabitants due to inactivity. Dickens describes the behavior of various distinctive inhabitants during the usual fortnightly dance, the viewing of a Christmas tree, and the distribution of presents.
- Willms, Janice
As Dickens does so well, the writer treats the reader to a wide spectrum of the society of London in the 19th Century. The central issue in this novel is the hopeless slowness with which the court of Chancery moves, and the persons who are involved, either as claimants, as attorneys, or as those at the edges of the Court who seek to profit by the proceedings. The author gives us examples of the consistent behaviors of the very good (Esther Summerson and her guardian John Jarndyce) and the profoundly evil (Mr. Smallweed and Mr. Tulkinghorn) and a vast spread between these extremes.
The story is constructed somewhat as a mystery, as multiple connections among the myriad of characters are slowly revealed as the plot advances. The reader is allowed a view of the most poverty-stricken, as well as the most wealthy of the levels of society presented. The complexity of the characterizations and their intertwined lives, along with Dickens’s amazing descriptions, keep the reader moving through the tangle to its final resolution.
The multiple plots of Our Mutual Friend, Dickens's last complete novel, twine around the miser John Harmon's legacy of profitable heaps of refuse ("dust"). Harmon dies and leaves the dustheap operation to his estranged son John, on the condition that he marry Bella Wilfer, a young woman unknown to him. When a body found in the Thames is believed to be the younger Harmon, travelling home to receive his inheritance, the dustheaps descend instead to Harmon's servant Noddy Boffin ("The Golden Dustman").
Boffin and his wife respond to their new status by hiring Silas Wegg, a "literary man with a wooden leg" to teach Boffin to read; arranging to adopt an orphaned toddler from his poor great-grandmother; and bringing the socially ambitious Bella Wilfer into their home, where she is watched and evaluated by John Rokesmith, a mysterious young man employed as Boffin's secretary.
Rokesmith is actually John Harmon, who has survived betrayal and attempted murder and is living incognito so that he can observe Bella. Boffin's negative transformation by his wealth, Bella's moral awakening as she witnesses the changes wealth produces in Boffin and in herself, and the developing love relationship between Rokesmith and Bella form one key sub-plot.
Another is the romance between gentlemanly idler Eugene Wrayburn and Lizzie Hexam, the daughter of the waterman who finds the drowned body. Class differences and the obsessive love and jealousy of schoolmaster Bradley Headstone threaten their relationship, but they are finally married with the help of the crippled dolls' dressmaker Jenny Wren. The smaller plots that interweave these sensation/romance narratives comment on the hypocrisy of fashionable life ("Podsnappery") and the destruction of the family lives of both rich and poor by an industrialized, materialistic society.
Four ghosts visit the miserly businessman Ebeneezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. After the apparition of Scrooge's dead business partner Marley, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas As Yet To Come guide Scrooge through his own emotionally charged past, his harsh and loveless present, and his bleak future. The vision of his own headstone and the realization that no one will mourn his death force Scrooge to see the error of his "Bah! Humbug!" attitude toward humanity in general and Christmas in specific.
The primary recipients of Scrooge's moral rebirth are his poor clerk Bob Cratchit and his family, especially the crippled boy Tiny Tim. When Scrooge wakes from his ghostly visitations, he delivers a huge turkey to the Cratchit household and gives Bob a raise. He becomes a "second father" to Tim and reconciles with his own nephew.
Adolescent orphan Nell Trent escapes with her gambling-addicted, mentally infirm grandfather from the villainous "dwarf" Daniel Quilp, to whom the old man, obsessed with making Nell wealthy, has lost his money and his shop. Quilp and a host of other malevolent and benevolent characters track the pair's journey through urban, rural, and industrial England. When the good characters reach the peaceful hamlet where Nell and her grandfather have settled, Nell has just died, soon to be joined by her grief-stricken grandfather.
Doctor Marigold, named for the man who delivered him, is a "cheap-jack" who hawks sundries from a traveling cart he inhabits with his wife and his daughter Sophy. The mother beats Sophy, but Marigold, feeling powerless, does nothing to stop her. When the child dies of a fever, her guilt-wracked mother commits suicide.
Doctor Marigold's lonely fortunes reverse when he adopts a deaf and mute girl whose mother is dead and whose stepfather, owner of a traveling circus, beats her. Marigold acquires the child for three pair of braces (suspenders), names her Sophy, invents his own system of sign language to teach her to read and converse with him, and finally sends her to a "deaf-and-dumb establishment" in London to complete her education.
When Sophy falls in love with another student, her father encourages her marriage, while feeling it as a terrible loss. Sophy writes him of her baby's birth and of her fear that the child will be deaf. The story culminates in Sophy's return and Doctor Marigold's realization that his granddaughter can hear.
Blind dolls' dressmaker Bertha Plummer is the center of a significant subplot to this story of marriage and deception. Bertha and her toymaker father, Caleb, live in squalor in a "little cracked nutshell" house and work for hardhearted Tackleton. Caleb has convinced Bertha that their cottage and their employer are both charming. She falls in love with Tackleton and is traumatized by his engagement to another.
Caleb's confession of his well-meaning deceit compounds her suffering. Bertha's literal blindness parallels the figurative blindness in the main plot, in which Dot Peerybingle's innocent secrets make her husband John suspect she loves another. The story ends in reconciliation and happiness all around; Bertha plays the harp while the others dance.