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Jan / Feb 2012

The Works of Charles Dickens


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Dwelling on Boredom Eugene Wrayburn

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Consequences of Sin The Mystery of Edwin Drood

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A Matter of Character Miss Esther Summerson

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A New Miss Havisham The Jasper Fforde novels So, you have discovered the awesomeness of Femnista. That’s great! Now, here is the truly exciting part: you can contribute to future issues! Check out our theme for May & June 2012, make your selection, and call dibs now, before someone else steals your first choice!

Literary Women

A Family Man The Hidden Side of Sydney Carton 12

A Writer’s Friends Lives Touched by Dickens The Characters of Bleak House

Hard Times

In this issue we honor some of literature’s memorable women. Make sure your favorite heroine isn’t left out by contributing!

Becoming Scrooge

femnista@charitysplace.com

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Good Samaritans

There are 5 writing spots left!

Due Deadline: May 17th

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A Book Review

A Christmas Carol

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A Life of Contentment Amy Dorrit

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An Honorable Man Nicholas Nickleby

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Unconditional Love Great Expectations Carissa Charity Danielle Eliza Ella Gina Hannah

Lianne Lydia M. Lydia W. Patti Rissi

Ruth

Shannon

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Golden Dreams, Silver Linings Our Mutual Friend

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A Child Hero’s Journey Oliver Twist

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Many Faces Dickens & the Art of Caricature

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New year, new look! I like it. Hopefully, you do too! I wanted it to be hip and modern but classily feminine to go with our content. I’m hoping to add some cool new features as the year goes on, as well as mix up our themes a bit. We have everything ahead of us, from true stories to literary women and even a trip to Middle-earth, so I hope you will continue to read along on our great adventure! When I chose Charles Dickens for this theme in honor of his bicentennial (200th birthday) my mother (and under-paid, under-appreciated proof reader) groaned. Dickens is not her favorite thing in the world (that would be chocolate) but I think the contents of this issue just may win her over. Yes, Dickens can be long. He can be morbid. He can be bleak. But he is also one of the finest authors ever to capture the true essence of the human spirit on the page. Dickens is known for his unforgettable figures but they are only unforgettable because he understood human nature, both for good and ill. Miss Havisham would not be so fascinating to us if we did not know people who hung onto the past at the cost of their future. And Amy Dorrit inspires us because of her goodness and sweetness, in contrast with her contemptible, over-reaching, self-centered family members. What we learn from Dickens is more than just moral lessons about good and evil, about riches and poverty, about sweetness and cruelty, or even that in the end, good always wins. His work teaches us about ourselves and that, at the end of the day, is what sinks into us once we close the book or shut off the television. Maybe he isn’t your favorite. Maybe he is. But whatever he means to you, it is my hope that you will go forth and discover him anew. Best Wishes,

www.charitysplace.com

Charles Dickens was one of Victorian England’s greatest philanthropists, working tirelessly on behalf of those in need. So in honor of his bicentennial, Dickensblog is holding a charity fundraiser. All year, they’ll be raising money for causes that were important to Dickens, including human trafficking, homelessness, and education. You can participate by doing a Dickens readathon and getting people to sponsor you or by writing a guest post for Dickensblog. To learn more, go here or contact Gina at gdalfonzo@verizon.net


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“Show me a good opportunity, show me something really worth being energetic about, and I’ll show you energy.”

lthough these words were not said by Eugene Wrayburn, it very much encapsulates the whole of his character. When we are first introduced to him in Our Mutual Friend, he is bored and uninterested in socialising; the narrative described him as “moody” on a couple of occasions. Indeed, his behaviour all through the novel reveals a complicated man whose different moods and conditions prey on him and influence his outlook on life. The events that unfold over the course of the story will challenge this outlook and bring about a change he does not expect. The more we become truly acquainted with Eugene, the more we discover how different he is from other people of his social status. He has a tendency of making some of the most amusing and strangest comments in the middle of grim situations as well as astute observations about the sameness of life and Society. His opinion of

such people as Lady Tippins reveals he does not really care what Society thinks of his actions or about a lot of people in general. Because of his wariness about the overall expectations of life, Eugene does not try to apply himself and do something to change his outlook, deciding there is no point in making the effort. While his friend Mortimer Lightwood shares Eugene‟s sentiments, he continues working and striving forward despite his feelings, whereas Eugene does not. At one point the

doll dressmaker Jenny Wren asks him why he does not reform his ways and he merely responds “there‟s nobody who makes it worth [my] while.” Eugene is well aware of his shortcomings, referring to himself as a bad man and comparing the course of his life to sheep. This attitude is reinforced by the fact that Eugene finds everything boring; nothing seems to hold his attention, hence his tendency to tag along when Mortimer is summoned to interview someone or investigate a

development concerning a client. His boredom also leads him to believe that commitments are not worthwhile because he is so easily distracted and led astray. In a severe turn, it influences him to act more rashly and rudely later in the novel, such as when he treats the schoolmaster Bradley Headstone in a dismissive manner during their first encounter. His upbringing provides some insight to why he reacts so insolently about everything around him: he is only a barrister because his


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dwelling on boredom The Journey of Eugene Wrayburn By Lianne Milan Bernardo

father deemed that someone in his family must become one and at the beginning of the story he was pressuring Eugene to find a suitable bride and settle down. His wariness and boredom, coupled with his life having been dictated to him, leaves Eugene the man we come to know him as: careless and rude with no view of the directionless state of his life. This alters when he meets Lizzie Hexam, daughter of the boatman who uncovered the body of John Harmon in the Thames. Eugene admits there is something about her that draws him to her from the moment they first met, compelling him out of his idleness enough to help her after her father dies and even aid her in continuing her education. While he had no problem helping Lizzie, his willingness to do it (especially for someone who is of a lower class than him) left Eugene rather confused. He does not initially tell Mortimer what he had done not because he is ashamed of associating with Lizzie but because he has no idea what he is getting into or what he expected from his pursuit of

her. But despite not telling anyone about this, Mortimer notices that Eugene is changing, an indication that Lizzie‟s presence is having positive influence on him. Regardless of Eugene‟s interest in Lizzie, not all his bad habits vanish right away. When Lizzie discreetly leaves London, Eugene spends his time taunting Headstone, his rival for Lizzie‟s affections, out of boredom. In his amusement of “the chase” as a way to ward off listlessness, he fails to consider the possibility that his rival might act violently against him. Additionally, he remains indecisive as how to proceed with Lizzie, falling back to his former negative opinions about himself and his life. His dilemma is fully summarized when he says, “Out of the question to marry her and out of the question to leave her. The crisis!” His confusion comes to a head when after vowing to respect her wishes and stay away, he considers breaking that promise anyway because he cannot settle for either solution. Thus the brutal attack he

experiences by Headstone serves as a startling “wake up” call. Not only does it prompt him to examine his behaviour but it forces him to make a decision about his feelings for Lizzie. His choice to put aside doubts about settling down not only shows him committing to a new life but also conveys that Lizzie is that “something” he can finally be energetic over. Lizzie‟s love and affection gives him a reason to continue on with life with a new sense of purpose. Indeed, after his recovery, he begins planning for the future in a way that the Eugene Wrayburn from the first chapter of the novel would never do. His decision not to charge Headstone for the assault out of a desire to protect Lizzie‟s reputation signifies that he is thinking of others first, something he did not do before. Headstone‟s actions become a lesson that he should not dismiss people so carelessly regardless of whatever he thinks of them. Does his newfound love and happiness mean Eugene has experienced a complete change of heart and

character? Not entirely. Even after they are man and wife, Eugene still finds himself unworthy of her love and goodness. But instead of dwelling on the matter, he strives to do his best—to be his best—for her sake. He does not necessarily mind decisions like moving to the colonies for the sake of his profession, but is willing to do it so that he can provide a comfortable life for her. But he still does not care about what polite Society, (including his family, thinks of him and the decisions he makes, which shows his continued cynicism against Society and his desire to do whatever he believes is right for himself. Eugene‟s journey in Our Mutual Friend is a curious and violent one as he moves from a life of idleness to action. The love of Lizzie draws him out of his worst habits, distracting him from his boredom and utter indecisiveness. While his story is by no means complete, with Lizzie by his side, he is sure to continue on towards a fully-realized and optimistic life. ♥


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“Evil is always possible, and goodness is eternally difficult.” —Anne Rice

hen Dickens breathed his last he left his final novel unfinished. The Mystery of Edwin Drood has haunted readers ever since, a story of desperation, madness and murderous obsession. If nothing else, Dickens is known for his magnificent villains. There are thieves, scoundrels, thugs, abusers, seducers, manipulators, and madmen; from bureaucrats to convicted felons, he gives us a wide variety of evil-doers and no two are the same. There may be similarities in their actions but never in the motivation or the result. And there are as many villains as there are kinds of evil. Trying to decide who is the worst is difficult because not all sins are equal, and despite all the jealous, petty, brutal, and evil people in his books, none are inhuman and some, such as Miss Havisham, even invoke our sympathy. We cannot know what Dickens planned for the villainous John Jasper in Drood, but the recent small screen adaptation by the BBC takes a reasonable

stab at it that does not seem terribly inconsistent with his usual style. He was a man of great imagination and neverending twists, so simple yet complicated in unexpected ways that often the audience is left kicking themselves for not having foreseen the end. Since I have no alternative but to explore the cinematic ending to Edwin Drood, as there is no literary one, all conclusions reached in this article will be based on that ending. Though it takes awhile to discover the truth about Jasper, his situation is

much the same as Miss Havisham‟s: a victim not of circumstance but his decision to embrace the anger in his heart. I have heard it said that anger grows up to be murder and while that is certainly true in the case of Jasper, the story also explores the full consequences of sin. The novel revolves around an older man envious of his nephew‟s beautiful fiancé. His obsession with her, and his laudanum-driven fantasy about killing Edwin and taking Rosa for himself, takes him down a dark path

that results in his nephew vanishing without a word. Throughout, we see the result of one sin after another, some belonging to Jasper while others are the fault of those who have come before him. Dickens‟ villains all face the result of their actions, as do his heroes when foolish decisions are made. Some like David Copperfield marry the wrong person and are unhappy for a time while others like Steerforth pay a higher price for their passion. Some of his villains are full of remorse while others are


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consequences of sin The Mystery of Edwin Drood By Charity Bishop

defiant to the last. Whatever their crime or intention, the result of their actions always comes back to haunt them. Jasper‟s obsession with Rosa begins with envy over Edwin‟s place in his father‟s heart. For years he has fully resented Edwin for being loved, the result of a union of legitimacy rather than shame. His circumstances are the same as the Landless siblings but while he struggles with the anger that frequently is a problem for Neville Landless he permits it to consume him rather than rejecting it. It is this anger that makes him so unattractive and frightening to Rosa, much like the obsessive rage of Bradley Headstone terrifies Lizzie in Our Mutual Friend. It is their anger unchecked that grows up nearly (or in some cases, absolutely) into murder. Contemporary readers had little trouble grasping the moral abyss in the hearts of these dark figures, for in their time a belief in the existence of evil was widely accepted. But many modern audiences struggle with this concept, because they are not content with the idea that evil just is; they must try to explain the

cause of it. This is difficult, because in many instances there is no reason why these people are evil, they simply are. Even those in Dickens who are a result of a bad situation still make a choice to be evil; Jasper was not destined from an illegitimate birth to become a man of such anger; it was a decision he made to hold on to his resentment and let it grow. Furthermore, one cannot deny that his behavior (and that of many others in Dickens‟ works) is evil, not misguided or the result of illiteracy. While we have as much compassion for him as Miss Havisham, we also find their fate satisfactory, for even though it is in us to show them mercy, their actions earn punishment. Our society cannot accept that evil exists, because if there is evil there must be a higher power. In an attempt to deny the existence of God it scrambles to explain why some people are bad. Their conclusion is that evil is a result of a lack of love, of extreme poverty, illiteracy, or mistreatment, and if we could just eliminate all those things, there would be no

more evil. Because of this, a few adaptations have either altered Dickens‟ memorable villains or tried to explain away their behavior by convincing the audience their choices are not their fault. Though a better example of an attempt to inflict such a modern day view on classic literature can be found in the recent Oliver Twist, in which the crimes of the villains are blamed on poverty and social prejudice against them, so too is John Jasper vindicated in pointing out his sad and loveless upbringing… but when contrasted not only with the other characters in the story but also Dickens‟ other books, the argument is made invalid. If poverty drove Fagan and Bill Sykes to a life of crime how could it not corrupt Oliver Twist? If he was so poorly treated in the same circumstances as them, why did he not become bad? How is it that in spite of abuse, David Copperfield grows up to be wonderful? Why are the Landlesses so kind in the same situation that causes John Jasper to be evil? Dickens clearly saw no motivation for evil actions other than sin; otherwise, his

books would not be full of villains both rich and poor, from bad upbringings and decent ones alike. It is apparent in his novels that everyone, rich or poor, good or evil, hero or villain, victim or perpetrator, is responsible for their own actions and each faces the consequences of their decisions, for good or ill. Those who live a decent and moral life find happiness and those who give in to their darker intentions suffer. Uriah Heap is found out, Steerforth drowns, Eugene Wrayburn nearly dies, Ralph Nickleby gives in to despair, Miss Havisham goes up in flames, and Tulkinghorn is killed. (Just to name a few!) And none of them can claim their actions are not the result of their own sinful choices rather than their unfortunate circumstances. Dickens‟ villains remind us that evil does exist and is a choice we make, either to resist or embrace it each day. Our lives are not influenced by our circumstances but how we choose to deal with them. It is up to us whether or not we abuse the life we are given and where we will spend eternity. ♥


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“You do not know what all around you see in Esther Summerson, how many hearts she touches and awakens, what sacred admiration and what love she wins.”

hen the name Charles Dickens comes to mind, we probably most often think of his male characters. From David Copperfield and Arthur Clemmons to Martin Chuzzlewit and Nicholas Nickleby, more literary heroes than we can recall have emerged from his pen, and all but one of these individual men‟s stories were told in a titular one. What many of us may not realize is that Dickens also conjured up some of the strongest, most admirable females in literature. I do not remember every first viewing of a Dickens adaptation but I do recall my initial introduction to the latest adaptation of Bleak House. My uncle loaned it to us one winter and we thought the promo spot for it looked odd, to say nothing of the fact that we were not intrigued by how it appeared in the opening scene. But all it took was ten minutes and before we knew it, we were all hooked—we could not stop watching the twisting

mystery of deceit, murder and inheritance. In my humble opinion, one of the most memorable women Dickens created is named Esther Summerson. She is actually the first character we come to know in Bleak House, as we watch her dart into a coach in the middle of a fierce rainstorm and see pensive emotions play across her face on her journey to a new life. During the long drive, we are given a glimpse into her past as she remembers some of the turmoil of her life.

As a young adult, Esther is hired as a companion to the orphaned but optimistic and sweet-natured Ada Clare and her brash, idealistic cousin Richard, both of whom have become the wards of the kindhearted Mr. Jarndyce. Somehow, Ada and Richard are tied up in his family‟s fortune and ensuing legal battle over the elder Jarndyce estate. Before long the three young people become the best of friends. Anyone who comes into contact with Esther forms a favorable first impression of

her. They are won over by her selfless spirit, sharp wit, and determination to do whatever is right, including good-natured Mr. Jarndyce. Though it may not seem it, in many ways Esther is at the heart of the story. She isn‟t just another character in Bleak House, but is connected whether by fate or personally to many of the dozens of other characters whose lives unfold during the 8-hour miniseries. Esther is a woman who comes easily to the defense of others in need but is


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a matter of character Miss Esther Summerson By Rissi C.

conscientious of her own unknown origins—she has never known the love of a mother or father, but was raised by a strict woman who cared little for her emotional well-being. Just as it in the era when this story was written, today there are still many girls who can relate to her situation and identify with certain of her insecurities. I recently saw a television series called Life, Unexpected. In it, the teenage Lux tracks down her biological parents so she can liberate herself from being a ward of the state. As a child, she wasn‟t adopted because of a heart defect that prevented potential parents from looking beyond her physical limitations to see that underneath the medical charts she was just a scared three-year-old who craved the love and attention of a mommy and a daddy. The theme of wanting to know more about your past and needing parental ties to feel accepted is still relevant, and possibly is what makes us care so deeply for Esther, beyond her kindness to her deeper faults and equally her many virtues.

Esther grows up to be outwardly confident in spite of her sad and unfortunate circumstances. Her change over the course of the story is remarkable and inspiring. Raised to believe she is “nothing,” Esther‟s idea of her life is that she is nobody yet what she allows others to see is a woman undaunted in difficult and complicated surroundings. Emotionally, she is a mess, as her many self-doubts revolve around and feed off of other‟s impressions of her. Due to her loveless upbringing, she has difficulty believing that anyone will place even a minimal trust in her. Jarndyce‟s willingness to let her run his household gives her greater self-worth but she lacks the confidence to make her own way in life; she accepts his marriage proposal for a multitude of reasons, none of which involve love. She sees in it a security net and a way to repay his kindness, when she should come to believe that she is worth loving and deserves a marriage for love. Even though she does have a certain amount of affection for Jarndyce, her acceptance

doesn‟t come from the right motivation or place in her heart. Fortunately, he comes to see this and encourages her to find true happiness. Unlike Lux, who most of the time believed the world revolved around her, Esther never takes out the misery of her lack of self-awareness on the world and offers love and forgiveness to one and all. She eventually finds answers and learns she is the result of a night of passion between lovers, confirming her illegitimacy but not daunting her spirits or her desire to know her mother in spite of her mistakes. In the Victorian Era, an unmarried woman with a child raised more than one brow and ostracized the child from all polite society, a concept we may have difficulty accepting today, since in our time it barely inspires a raised brow when a woman says she is a “single” mom. Where many of Dickens‟ stories revolve around women in some part, Esther is remarkable for her ability to overcome the reality of her hard upbringing. She touches the lives of the many people she comes into

contact with in the most insignificant ways, and that says something of her character—she may just be a literary heroine but she is one to greatly admire. All through her unusual and at times difficult circumstances, she remains quiet and content, ever aware of the needs of others and seeking to improve their lives in whatever way she can. None of them are the same for having known her. Her sweetness inspires Mr. Jarndyce (even if she cannot change his tendency to be a little too accommodating), her loyal friendship assists Ada through her difficulties, her tendency to love enables her to offer forgiveness to the woman who has wronged her, and her kindness and earnest nature allows her to meet a man who loves her and will offer her the life that she fully deserves. Were it possible, I think Esther would be someone lovely to sit down and chat with over a strong cup of English tea. If only I had a literary time machine at my disposal... ♥


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“What is beauty?” “A destroyer.” “What is happiness?” “Deception.” “What is love?” “Death.”

ickens was a master at creating characters. We can easily identify with many of them and know some of his more eccentric figures by name, such as Mr. Pecksniff, Miss Trotwood or Edmund Sparkler. One of the most remarkable of his many creations is Miss Havisham, a central character in the novel Great Expectations. A wealthy spinster, Miss Havisham leads a sheltered life. Abandoned at the altar on her wedding day she has never since left her mansion and is still wearing her bridal gown. We come to know her as a woman with one goal in life: taking revenge for her heartbreak on men. Her adopted daughter Estella is the instrument for her plan and the local blacksmith‟s son Pip is the chosen target. The eerie Miss Havisham has inspired multiple modern writers and filmmakers, among others British writer Jasper Fforde. He has written a book series about a literary detective named Thursday Next, two of which (Lost in

a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots) feature Miss Havisham. Thursday Next has an ability to make any bookworm jealous: she is able to enter BookWorld, the place where characters live and narratives are played out. Due to her experience as a detective she is recruited to join the BookWorld police force, Jurisfiction. There she is apprenticed to none other than Miss Havisham. The housebound eccentric as an experienced police officer seems a far cry from the Dickens character we know.

One of the clever tricks Fforde uses in his novels is to give famous characters a twist of their own. As Miss Havisham says to Thursday, “We usually try to keep our book personalities separate from our Jurisfiction ones. Think yourself lucky I don‟t carry over any of my personality from Great Expectations—if I did I‟d be pretty intolerable!” In that light, let‟s explore Jasper Fforde‟s version of Miss Havisham. The first time Thursday meets her is inside Great Expectations.

Young Pip has been playing cards with Estella and Miss Havisham sends them both downstairs to eat something. As the narrative moves away from her, Miss Havisham changes her bridal shoes for trainers and settles down to relax with a Sony Walkman and a stack of National Geographic. During their first assignment, Thursday remarks that her eyes “sparkled brightly and she was not nearly as old as I first supposed.” In order to work together, Miss Havisham has given


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a new miss havisham The Novels of Jasper Fforde By Tryntsje Cuperus

Thursday two important rules; to do exactly as she says and not to patronize or pity her. Her strong dislike of men compels her to often warn Thursday and others of their “deceitful” nature; when Thursday tells her she is married and loves her husband, the older woman dismisses this as “stuff and nonsense,” but is secretly impressed by her definition of love and asks to use it for her literary role. And she does, for we can easily find their shared conversation in the novel: “Love is blind devotion, unquestioning selfhumiliation, utter submission, trust and believe, giving up your whole heart and sole to the smiter.” In contrast to her view of men, Miss Havisham keeps friendly relations with many of her male Jurisfiction coworkers. She also has a great liking for fast vehicles and often scares Thursday out of her wits with her driving and sailing. She tells her young apprentice that she is angry with Estella because she hoped to obtain Estella‟s role in the novel herself when she was a book character in training. But above all we

get to know Miss Havisham in these novels as a real detective, solving cases with insight and courage. As you can see, Jasper Fforde has created a Miss Havisham out of his own

Thursday Next novels as a fan of Dickens, the question of what he would think of this use of his character did not fail to enter my mind. I believe there are two possible answers to this

imagination while still keeping her recognizable as the character we know from Dickens‟ book. Reading the

question. First, you can say that Miss Havisham is a creation of Dickens‟ clever mind alone and he would not

like to see his character altered or used simply for the fame of her name. But personally, I rather believe Dickens would smile at Jasper Fforde‟s novels. Dickens was a great author and I think he would like the way Fforde invented a world behind the pages of books, a world where stories are created and beloved characters encounter new adventures. Besides, it might make readers curious for the original works of fiction they get to know characters from and read or rediscover these as well. Therefore, I can heartily recommend the Thursday Next series for every fan of Miss Havisham, Dickens or just books in general. They are filled with literary allusion and in-jokes for literary fanatics and you might just get the answers to other pressing Dickensian questions, for example why there is no character called Mr. Quaverly in Martin Chuzzlewit, how Uriah Heep got his name and what archaeologists are doing in the first chapter of Great Expectations. ♥


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“Are you dying for him?” she whispered. “And for his wife and child. Hush! Yes.”

enerations of readers have been fascinated by the mysterious figure at the heart of A Tale of Two Cities. Sydney Carton has less of a history than almost any of Dickens‟s other heroes or anti-heroes, and the little we do learn about him only adds to the enigma. He is lazy when it comes to his own interests, yet can work hard for others. He‟s an alcoholic, yet remarkably clearheaded. He considers himself “incapable of all the higher and better flights of men,” but Lucie believes “he is capable of good things, gentle things, even magnanimous things.” She is right: Carton will prove himself capable of the greatest act of heroism a person can perform. In short, we see this man make a remarkable spiritual and emotional journey over the course of the story. Yet from the moment we first see him staring at the ceiling of the court to his final act, we learn very little about Carton. His true nobility has been revealed but we‟re left with unanswered questions: why did such a brilliant man never achieve anything of note during his life? What drove him to drink? Why is he mired in self-loathing? What drew him to Lucie? Just who

is Sydney Carton? Despite the scarcity of information, I believe it‟s possible by studying certain key clues in the text to piece together his story in a way that helps us understand this unlikeliest of heroes. To begin, we know of certain qualities he possessed in his youth and never outgrew. They are highlighted in his conversation with Stryver, his old schoolmate and current employer: “The old Sydney Carton of old Shrewsbury School,” said Stryver, nodding his head over him as he reviewed him in the present and the past,

“the old seesaw Sydney. Up one minute and down the next; now in spirits and now in despondency!” “Ah!” returned the other, sighing: “yes! The same Sydney, with the same luck. Even then, I did exercises for other boys, and seldom did my own.” “And why not?” “God knows. It was my way, I suppose.” It‟s difficult and dangerous to psychoanalyze a person one doesn‟t know, and it is equally so to try it on a fictional character. Yet the qualities described here certainly suggest a tendency

to mood swings, perhaps even to what we know today as manic depression. This theory is strengthened by how manic depressives tend to act when, in modern parlance, they “self -medicate” with alcohol. Some speculate about a great sin in Carton‟s past and that may indeed be what Dickens had in mind. But not necessarily. The combination of depression and alcoholism could be more than sufficient to produce a sense of despair and helplessness. Indeed, when one notes that Carton‟s mood swings and certain of his habits such as walking all night mirror those of his


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family man The Hidden Side of Sydney Carton By Gina Dalfonzo

creator, one is tempted to wonder whether Dickens gave Carton a disorder he knew firsthand even if he had no name for it. But this idea tempts us into the tricky realm of armchair diagnosis and we had better go no farther. What we do know is that Carton is a man without the support of family or friends. Whatever his struggle, he is facing it alone. We see few references to his family in the book. His parents died when he was young, first his mother and then his father. As to how he felt about them, we have a few passages that throw a little light on it. In his conversation with Mr. Lorry, Carton says in an altered voice, “Forgive me if I notice that you are affected. I could not see my father weep, and sit by, careless. And I could not respect your sorrow more, if you were my father. You are free from that misfortune, however.” In the same conversation, Carton asks Mr. Lorry if now that the latter is nearing the end of his life he has stronger memories of sitting at his mother‟s knee and whether he is “the better for it.” Carton is

clearly thinking of his own mother. Later when he is alone, we read, “Long ago, when he had been famous among his earliest competitors as a youth of great promise, he had followed his father to the grave. His mother had died, years before. These solemn words, which had been read at his father‟s grave, arose in his mind… „I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.‟” An image begins to emerge from these references: of a young man who loved his parents and was deeply wounded by their loss. For most of the book he avoids dwelling on his past. But on the evening he makes the decision to sacrifice himself, we see him reaching for those memories and finding strength and consolation in them. Yet there is some pain there, too, or so his reference to his father‟s “misfortune” seems to indicate. Perhaps he feels he let his father down or maybe they had a falling out

over the brilliant but idle young student‟s failure to live up to his potential. The evidence is hardly conclusive but if Carton were dealing with lifelong regrets over such an estrangement, it would certainly stoke the fires of self-hatred we see in him. Note too the particular wording of the sentence “He had followed his father to the grave.” Coupling these words with his words to Lucie long ago (“I am like one who died young”) suggests his father‟s death may have been a point of no return for him, the point at which he felt there was nothing worth living for. Unresolved feelings about his family might also explain why it is Lucie who becomes the unrequited love of his life. It isn‟t always easy for modern readers to understand what he sees in her. Lucie‟s most notable characteristic is domesticity and that is not a quality modern readers value in a heroine. If anything, it‟s usually considered next door to a dirty word. If the picture we‟re painting of Sydney is accurate, however, one can begin to understand why he would value it. To be with Lucie in her home with her

strong family ties is to experience again just a little of what he has lost. Indeed, instead of dropping out of the picture when Lucie marries Charles as many men might do, Carton instead befriends him with the express purpose of ensuring that he will be able to keep visiting them. Sydney, Lucie, and Charles have all suffered some sort of familial loss or breakup early in life, but Lucie has found her long-lost father again and she and Charles have started a new family. It seems clear that Sydney wants to be a part of what they have. And in the end, he cements his place there in a way that none of them foresaw. Given all we‟ve just looked at, Sydney Carton‟s words to the seamstress, quoted at the beginning of this article, take on added significance. He is dying not just for the woman he loves but for a family. He will make sure through his sacrifice that they will not suffer the kind of painful and untimely loss that he suffered. And as he sees in his final prophetic vision, that will make him once again and for always a cherished part of a family. ♥


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a writer’s friends Lives Touched by Charles Dickens By Eliza Gabe

ittle tidbits about authors that Dickens knew or met are the least I can do for this column. Hey, this format was good enough for Dickens‟s novels! “He would take as much pains about the hanging of a picture, the choosing of furniture, the superintending any little improvement in the house, as he would about the more serious business of his life; thus carrying out to the very letter his favourite motto of “What is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” —Mamie Dickens, My Father as I Recall Him Yes, the very daughter of the great Charles Dickens. She wrote a book about her father and edited two volumes of letters written by Charles Dickens with her aunt, Georgiana. Mamie chose to live with her father after he and his wife separated. She never married and lived as quite an independent woman. “I know not how to describe him better than in the words

of one of my first letters home: „Take the best out of all Dickens‟s writings, combine them into the picture of a man, and there thou hast Charles Dickens.” —Hans Christian Anderson, A Visit to Charles Dickens

Elizabeth Gaskell. It was through him which she published Cranford and North and South! He offered her a chance to write for his magazine titled Household Words, and that is how they were published. They both shared concern for the poor, Hans Christian Anderson, and young lost women. Like author of some fairy tales Dickens, she critiqued the that seem as old as time to society around her. There is us, such as The Little no doubt here that they Mermaid and Thumbelina, inspired each other‟s writingfirst met Dickens at a party in in fact, she co-wrote some 1847 in Britain. He visited short stories with him. Dickens again ten years later and stayed with him for Another good friend to about a month. He was very Charles Dickens, who also co excited to meet this man, -wrote a short story with him whom he very much and Elizabeth Gaskell, was admired. Perhaps Dickens Wilkie Collins, the author of influenced Anderson. the well known The Woman Considering the differences in White. It was printed in in their writing, perhaps not. Dickens‟s magazine All Year Anderson wrote fairy tales, Round, and the novel came which my writer‟s right after Dickens‟s A Tale conscience prompts me to of Two Cities. Without add is no weak or Dickens, I don‟t know if unimportant thing in of itself, Collins would have had while Dickens attempted to much success. They were capture the real world around very close, in fact his him with his stories. younger brother married one of Dickens‟s daughters. He I cannot forget to mention also advised Georgiana, the Dickens‟s relationship with sister-in-law of Charles

Dickens and probably Mamie when they were editing The Letters of Charles Dickens from 1833 to 1870. Dickens‟s death in 1870 was one of the factors that led towards a decline in health for Collins. Of course Dickens had to have his share of critics— George Eliot, also known as Mary Ann Evans, the author of Silas Marner and Daniel Deronda among others was one of his rival novelists. She critiqued the way he wrote about the poor, as did Henry James, the author of the well known The Portrait of a Lady. However, there almost seemed to be something personal to this. Mary Ann criticized Dickens when he separated from his wife even though she was with a married man. And while Henry James gave Bleak House a very bad review, he also had to find fault in the way Dickens read his stories aloud when he traveled to America on a reading tour. I say maybe jealousy was involved? ♥


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“True godliness does not turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it.” —William Penn

ost people desire to be a Good Samaritan. There is something compelling about helping a fellow human being in distress and doing our best to make a life better. After all, the majority of people do not want to be mean to others; most hearts go out when they see advertisements for World Vision on television. Whether by giving money or time or resources, Good Samaritans seek to leave the world in a better place than where they had left it. Within Charles Dickens‟s novel Bleak House, there are a couple of characters who embody this principle and two who stand out to me. Dr. Alan Woodcourt is instantaneously likeable; he is one we desire to have a happy ending. Though in the medical profession, he is not a character instantly lumped in that category. The men, women, and children he is called in to see are some among the poorest in London yet he does not care. He treats them anyway. Because of his compassionate attitude,

he is forced to take a Commission in the military; it appears to be his only way of making a profitable living. Most doctors would be happy with paupers for patients but if that is the attitude of Mr. Woodcourt, he never shows it. Rather, he allows his servant‟s heart to shine through…though it does come with a cost to himself. Another who embodies a “Good Samaritan” attitude is Sgt. George Rouncewell. After his stint in the military is completed, he has every right to start a new life. Yet

that is not what he did, well, not entirely. Rouncewell looks out for anyone in his care and will not make a move that could put them in jeopardy. Sgt. George is the kind of person you root for in life. When you read Bleak House and discover he has a much bigger story (one that entails reconciliation and a fresh start) it makes for a fascinating read. While being a Good Samaritan is a goal everyone should shoot for, there are some circumstances in which it is not encouraged. We

cannot always choose the paths we walk down in life; what makes the difference is how we handle them when they come. More than that, there are occasions in life where our problems are of our own creation—therefore, we should suffer the consequences or else we might never learn our lesson. The character of John Jarndyce, alas, fits into this category. It‟s painful to put him there, as he is one of my favorites upon every reading and viewing of the story. After all, he has great


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good samaritans The Characters of Bleak House By Ella G.

intentions behind every thing he does. Most bachelors would not dream of taking three young people into their care and providing for their welfare; Mr. Jarndyce is the exact opposite. Richard Carstone, Ada Claire, and Esther Summerson are distant relatives so it made sense to help them. Whether it was taking them on trips, establishing trustworthy Esther as his housekeeper (a capacity she was highly suited for) or setting up Richard in a career, nothing was too little a service for John Jarndyce. Sadly, this is where the problem lies with Jarndyce, namely when it involves Richard. He and Ada are at the middle of a lawsuit; they didn‟t know of its existence until a few short days before the novel opens. A long ago relative of Jarndyce created a will, or rather multiple ones. The problem is that no one knows which is the correct one. Richard and Ada could be beneficiaries of the estate for all they knew. Over time, the thought of inheriting a vast sum has Richard seeing dollar signs. He changes his chosen profession from being a surgeon to the military to a

law office to attending court day in and day out, waiting for a judgment. It causes his health to decline and misses out on a life with Ada, whom he has grown to love and marry; he will never see the birth of their child. Jarndyce had the ability to prevent Richard from such an

end. Every time Richard comes to him about changing his goals in life he might not be happy but never says no. Richard keeps company with a man named Mr. Skimpole, who does not understand the meaning of the word “work.” Jarndyce does not discourage such a friendship and it is because of his charity toward

Skimpole that the two meet. Numerous times in Bleak House Jarndyce can be found paying the way for Skimpole in the form of lodgings and clearing up debts; Skimpole does nothing in return to pay his friend. He likes being a leech. Thus, instead of being the type of person who calls

and learn from mistakes. While we must be supportive of those closest to us, we do them a disservice if we do not allow God to work in their lives. And sometimes this means letting them go down a hard path. Some of the greatest stories in the Bible involve a person radically changing their lives with God‟s intervention out of a bad situation. “Treating others the way they want to be treated” could have been Jarndyce‟s reasoning for his behavior. No one can dispute that his heart was in the right place. Only sometimes it isn‟t the place where the Lord wants it to be. We encounter various types of people in our lives. And we do want to make a lasting impact; we want to leave a legacy of showing compassion and mercy, as Christ did for us. However, his friends to the carpet when may we be more like Alan needed, Jarndyce supports Woodcourt and George bad behavior through Rouncewell than John tolerance and generosity; it Jarndyce when it comes to rubs off on Richard Carstone. philanthropy. We might not Skimpole fills him with pipe believe it, but being a Good dreams, Richard believes Samaritan can only go so far. them, and Jarndyce raises We want to push others nary a contrary word. towards God‟s potential for People must suffer the them; we don‟t want to hold consequences of their actions them back. ♥


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“Some persons hold,” he pursued, still hesitating, “that there is a wisdom of the Head, and that there is a wisdom of the Heart…”

uring tough economic times, people find it difficult to stay afloat financially, especially during the current economic crisis where good jobs and financial stability are hard to come by and foreclosures are commonplace. Fortunately, we as a modern society have access to unemployment insurance and financial help whereas the poor folk in Charles Dickens‟ Hard Times have no such thing. Cecilia “Sissy” Jupe is like any other child; smart, creative, and imaginative. Unfortunately, Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, the teacher of the school she attends, ceases to appreciate her talents as he is a stickler for facts and facts only. He expects his students to memorize useless tidbits of information and regurgitate them on tests and schoolwork and dismisses imagination and creativity as fluff. As much as Sissy likes going to school, she is failing to absorb facts in her mind. Mr. Gradgrind‟s employer and “eminently practical”

friend Josiah Bounderby shares the same viewpoint and like his friend believes poetry and other such forms of artistic expression are a waste of time. He is a mill owner and businessman, overbearing to the extreme, and prides himself on being a self-made man having been abandoned by his mother and grandmother at a young age and having to fend for himself much of his life. After her father, a circus performer, abandons her due to financial difficulties, Sissy is sent to live with Mr.

Gradgrind and his family. She immediately bonds with Mr. Gradgrind‟s two older children, Louisa and Tom. While Sissy is fortunate to be adopted into the family others are not so financially stable years down the road. Stephen Blackpool, one of Mr. Bounderby‟s mill employees, has had a hard life working in the mills and staying unhappily married to a drunken sot of a wife while pinning for his co-worker, Rachael. Mr. Gradgrind‟s son Tom starts to develop a compulsive gambling habit

that is putting a pain in his pocketbook while his older sister Louisa is fortunate enough to marry the much older and wealthier Mr. Bounderby. The economic situations of these characters collide when the local bank is robbed and an honest man pegged as the prime suspect when he disappears. After reading Hard Times I saw a few parallels to Elizabeth Gaskell‟s novel North and South featuring a self-made businessman, John Thornton. But Mr. Thornton is nowhere near as devoid of


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hard times A Book Review By Shannon Hammell

emotion and sympathy as Mr. Josiah Bounderby; he finds it hard to feel sorry for not just his employees but anyone who even slightly associate with workers‟ unions and the working poor. He espouses the “factual” education that his friend Mr. Gradgrind practices so much. Mr. Bounderby is quick to leap angrily to conclusions, as he accuses his wife Louisa of adultery based on nothing more than hearsay from his housekeeper, Mrs. Sparsit, after she saw her walk out with James Harthouse, Mr. Bounderby‟s friend. While Mr. Bounderby may be a self-made man from humble beginnings, he is bombastic and proud, and feels the need to constantly remind people around him that while other businessmen went to college or inherited the business from their fathers it was he that made himself successful without family or a formal education. Some are annoyed by his bragging but alas, telling a man like Josiah Bounderby to shut up would prove truly disastrous. Hard Times was an enjoyable read. This was the

second book by Charles Dickens that I‟ve read after his classic A Christmas Carol. I admire some of his witticisms and found myself at times wanting to yell at certain fictional characters; for example, reading about Mr. Gradgrind‟s teaching made me want to slap my forehead and shake my head in disgust. I felt the same way after Louisa accepted Mr. Bounderby‟s marriage proposal, only I felt more like screaming the words “you idiot” (in reference to Louisa) instead of shaking my head. Still, if Louisa had rejected the proposal, Mr. Gradgrind would certainly be angry as he feels the match is very advantageous for her, but more so for himself financially. Throughout the novel, one cannot help but pity those in precarious situations, regardless of whether or not it was their own fault. What I find interesting

about Hard Times is that it does have a great deal of Christian references in it, especially the set-up for the novel, which is based on Galatians 6:7 (according to

education at school, Louisa finally admits to her father that she detested her schooling, which forces him to come to the realization that there are more important things in life than just the facts. The Scripture describes Mr. Bounderby as well as all the things that he has worked so hard for eventually come tumbling down before him. Hard Times is a great novel full of parallels to real life, literature, and Scripture. Like A Christmas Carol, the characters stand out and it is impossible not to pity even the most despicable villain or to root for the underdog. And like many of Wikipedia), “Do not be Dickens‟ other novels, this deceived, God is not story serves as a “snapshot” mocked; for whatever a man of Victorian society from all sows, that he shall also different levels with a touch reap.”After years of of humor and wit. ♥ enduring a “factual”


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becoming scrooge A Christmas Carol By Caitlin Horton

“It was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”

less fortunate it involves buying a week‟s worth of milk or a batch of chicks for a family in Kenya or Mongolia. It might even include pulling a tag off a tree in a store and getting the requested warm throw and magazine for a senior citizen. buckets. But really this Of course, there is nothing he curious thing article isn‟t about that poor wrong in that, either. Many a about writing person; it isn‟t even really forgotten, lonely person has articles is that on occasion the author can about people being miserly. been made better by these Instead, this article addresses gifts and felt warm love pinpoint what the reader is thinking. Right now there is a the state of Ebenezer Scrooge spread through their life. But, what if Ebenezer decisive idea at the forefront at the end of the story and of the mind that says “She‟s how people living today can Scrooge had decided to only emulate him. He was no help organizations and ignore writing about people being longer the same selfish, those in his immediate sphere Scrooges.” Well, yes and no. of influence? Tiny Tim, Bob All my life I have grown heartless man he had once been. He looked and truly Cratchit‟s ill son, would have up hearing the term died, as shown by the Ghost “Scrooge” which in modern saw with open eyes the of Christmas Present. In times refers to someone who suffering and need that was today‟s somewhat “isolated is miserly, or as Dickens puts ingrained in the city where he dwelt. More importantly, individual” climate, it can be it “a tightfisted hand at the he responded. so much easier to buy a gift grindstone, Scrooge! A It can be so easy come for someone living halfway squeezing, wrenching, around the world than help a grasping, scraping, clutching, Christmastime, particularly when everything is going person you know is in need. covetous old sinner!” And alright and the bank account It might be a coworker, a always, there‟s some poor friend, a neighbor, someone soul we know of who gets an has money in it, to stop seeing beyond the shopping you know by name who is honorary title of “Scrooge” list and that last minute, going through a rough time come Christmastime, often annoying gift that is so hard and needs aid. Sometimes tracing back to the lack of to track down. Or if there is helping that person might change in their pocket as contribution for bell-ringers‟ something to be done for the seem insurmountable. “They

have their pride, too.” Or “They would never accept help from me.” Those two phrases can kill a good deed before it even begins to formulate. Indeed, Ebenezer Scrooge might have thought them as Bob Cratchit came in to work the next day but instead of listening to that small, doubting voice he jumped right up and raised the man‟s salary! Not everyone is in a position to raise salaries, but we can certainly raise morale, either by helping directly or anonymously. Therefore, I would encourage everyone, myself included, to look out for the opportunities to be an Ebenezer Scrooge to someone else‟s Bob Cratchit. There is so much to learn from Dicken‟s A Christmas Carol that it very nearly boggles the mind, yet I think this is one message that rings loud and clear: keep Christmas, not just on one day, but all through the year. Bless those around you, both near and far, and you in turn will be blessed. ♥


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“Mrs. Clennam,” said Little Dorrit, “angry feelings and unforgiving deeds are no comfort and no guide to you and me.”

my Dorrit was blessed with a gift. There is no accounting for it. Having been raised in the Marshalsea Debtor‟s Prison you would think she would have had no chance to cultivate such a gift. But cultivate she did, surrounded by simple folk, poor families and nearly bereft of money. What is that gift? It is the gift of being content regardless of her surroundings or station in life. Amy is one of those remarkable individuals, a type that rarely is seen in print or film. She finds joy in the little things, those special day-to-day moments that seem almost insignificant. She is still the same person, whether rich or poor, respected or belittled. Even when money is thrown into the mix she does not change. Her father is released from prison and inherits a vast fortune, far beyond his wildest dreams. He takes his family on a tour of Europe, cultivating his children to the ways of the

aristocracy and becomes arrogant in the meantime, far too proud to have time for his former friends and those who offered him charity in his darker moments. But for little Amy, all she desires is to not taint her memory of the Marshalsea where she had been raised for twentyone years. The rest of her family, brother and sister, and especially her father, try to figuratively beat those warm memories out of her. Ridiculing her fondness for the people she had known her entire life. They

encourage her to merely look forward instead of back. But no, not Amy Dorrit. She cannot and will not forget the kindnesses and the compassion she received when her family was poor and meek and could not make their way in the world on their own. Amy does not forget. Anyone else would gladly place thoughts of the past behind them, especially if they had been raised in a debtor‟s prison. What makes Amy Dorrit so different, so unique? It is that gift again, of finding

contentment wherever she might be regardless of status. Amy Dorrit found as much contentment in the simple, dirty streets surrounding the Marshalsea as she does on the canals of Venice, more in fact for at the Marshalsea she could be genuine. How could Amy be happier restrained by bars than in the open air? How could she find contentment in such a place? Perhaps it is because she saw not the place but rather the people. When your life is more about the individuals placed in it


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a life of contentment The Lovely Amy Dorrit By Carissa Horton

than the grandeur or degradation of the structure, then you are bound to find contentment. Amy loves her family despite their denial. She loves her dear friends of the Marshalsea, despite her father‟s insistence to the contrary. The setting of her life is unimportant. The fortune of her family, a great and magnificent gift, is unimportant to Amy except in that it brings her father much happiness. Amy was content at the Marshalsea. She is content wherever she is truly loved. Wouldn‟t it be lovely to say the same of us? To say that we are content, no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves. That we are content so long as we have loved ones and that money is

What mattered to Amy, what really mattered, was being surrounded by the people she loved. When the money was gone, a burden was lifted from her slim shoulders. No longer did she need to pretend she was someone else, a grand lady of importance. She could return to being little Amy Dorrit. Her contentment had seen her through, for she had been content if not necessarily happy in all her circumstances of life. Amy Dorrit, in her simplicity of nature and been confining, and much long unreciprocated, is gentility of spirit, certainly like her sister Fanny, I would finally returned tenfold. It reflects God‟s ultimate have fled them as soon as I doesn‟t matter to her when was able. I am not Amy their fortune is stripped away promise that in His kingdom Dorrit. But I see in her that and lost in a bad investment. the last shall be first. What a beautiful spark of a life that Money was inconsequential bountiful reward! ♥ will be rewarded by God for to her happiness and welfare. unimportant. But that is often not the case. Had I been raised in a debtor‟s prison, I would not have been nearly so content as Amy. The walls would have

its kindness and generosity even in adversity. Amy is rewarded in the end for her goodness and ability to be content. Her love for Arthur Clennam, so


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“Gold, for the instant, lost its lustre in his eyes, for there were countless treasures of the heart which it could never purchase.”

t could be said that Charles Dickens is an acquired taste, and one I do not have. Yet upon searching library shelves in the historical fiction section, I have inevitably come across his novels, and eventually brought home a copy of Nicholas Nickleby. I wish I could say that after reading it I became impressed with Dickens‟s literary style, but this was not the case. I did find the film by the same name an appealing (and faster-paced) alternative to the original story. Nicholas Nickleby remains one of my favorite history-inspired tales despite my prejudices against its author. The difficulty of reading Dickens is, perhaps, that the lives he portrays are grittier and less forgiving than is found in other popular classics. His characters are primarily poor or workingclass ordinary people. They are the sort that you could imagine frequently find dirt under their fingernails: they

do not seem far-removed from reality, but drenched in it and all its obstacles and sorrows. Dicken‟s heroes are also not born or rescued quickly from their plights. They are made, graduallyslowly, page by page or scene by scene. It is this slow, sometimes arduous plugging away at life that is highlighted in Nickleby. For those unfamiliar with it, the story is set in the nineteenth century and chronicles the Nickleby family after the death of the

father plunges them into financial despair. Nicholas, his mother and sister Kate seek the help of a well-todo uncle with the hope that he will be able to give them assistance. But rather than provide them with a reasonable living as it is within his power to do, Ralph takes advantage of them under the guise of kindness. This sets the stage for a multitude of trials, especially in the case of Nicholas. As the new “man of the house,” he feels the

responsibility to care for the remainder of his family, despite the harsh fate they have been dealt. Even with these grave circumstances, he seeks to provide and protect for those he loves. “Weakness is tiring, but strength is exhausting,” he comments at one point; and it is this enduring (albeit exhausting) strength that makes him a remarkable character. At many points in his life, it would seem that he has every right to give up. The odds are stacked


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an honorable man Young Nicholas Nickleby By Hannah Kingsley

against him, and little can improve his situation. Yet something to be learned from him is that none of his circumstances are severe enough to merit desperation when there is love to help overcome them. A love for his family and for the people around him drives Nicholas. In addition to his love for his mother and sister, another aspect of Nicholas‟s story that sticks out strongly (despite the dark storytelling) is the idea of happiness. Happiness is not something with which Nicholas is greatly familiar, and neither are his friends. As the character Madeline Bray shares: “Nicholas, I feel you know what it‟s like to be without happiness... but do you know what it‟s like to be afraid of it? To see the world as so conniving, you cannot take pleasure in the appearance of something good, because you suspect

… it is only a painted drop behind which other troubles lie. That has been my life. Every good thing has been a trick…” Yet neither is happiness something that he or his friends seem to view as necessary to do the right

what he has. Something we may forget about life is that in hard times we have the power to make changes that can influence the future and the right to hope. We do not have to be victims to the

reader, Nicholas functions as a figure of hope and a reminder of these truths. It is love and his tireless efforts to improve the future even if he is painfully unhappy that give his hope the opportunity to find fertile ground. His positive outlook does not always come without work. Instead, desperation and cynicism are far more easy to cultivate when faced with disappointments or unmet expectations. Yet despite his difficulties, he ultimately chooses to become a hero by allowing his pain to grow thing. They do not revolve hardships we are faced with him, rather than inhibit him. their lives around seeking but instead find ourselves Where he could have had happiness, but instead it with an opportunity to make our pity or compassion, finds them when they are in something of them and of instead he inspires us by the right place. Nicholas ourselves, regardless of our leaving literary footprints to gets to that place by doing situation or misfortune. To follow. ♥ as much as he is able with a modern or contemporary


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“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.”

hen Dickens was 10 years old, his family moved from Kent (the setting of Great Expectations) to Camden Town, London after having experienced financial difficulties. Continuously living beyond his means, his father was imprisoned in Marshalsea Debtor‟s Prison (immortalized in Little Dorrit). While at the Marshalsea, Dickens was introduced to a myriad of personages who later provided inspiration for characters in his colorful books. Eventually required to supplement their income, his childhood stint at a blacking factory and the injustice he underwent there provided the canvas needed for his later fictional endeavors and his stories of orphans dealt a cruel blow at the social injustice of London society. The plights of many of his characters led them to form makeshift families away from the traditional confines of home. In Our Mutual Friend Bella Wilfer becomes an heiress when provided for

by the generous Boffins; Oliver Twist settles in with Charley Bates, the Artful Dodger and the other ragtag pickpockets under the watch of the conniving Fagin before finding true happiness with his distant relative, Mr. Brownlow. And in Great Expectations, the orphaned Pip longs for his family now deceased. The opening scene sees Pip spending Christmas Eve at the gravesite of his departed folks. Saved from destitution by the kindly blacksmith Joe Gargery who admits to partially marrying Pip‟s older sibling to provide

for them both and offer Pip a future at the forge, Pip is given the unconditional love of a gentle father figure. Abused as a child, Joe wills to treat women and children as he wished his father had treated him and his mother. He makes up for his own misfortunes tenfold in his love for and rearing of Pip. When Mr. Jaggers makes an announcement that Pip has a mysterious benefactor and great expectations that will take him to London, the ungrateful and naïve Pip leaves the forge in hopes of gleaning the fortune that will

allow him to marry the ice cold Estella. In town, Pip‟s makeshift family broadens to include Herbert Pocket, a kind-hearted young man who becomes a friend and brother and the stalwart Magwitch, who underwent backbreaking work as a sheepfarmer in the colonies to secure a fortune. In true Dickensian form, certain matters of parentage and mysteries of birth are unraveled as the compelling plot unwinds and the origin of Estella, as well as Magwitch‟s bond to Pip are revealed. While Pip‟s life is


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unconditional love The Message of Great Expectations By Rachel McMillan

undoubtedly molded by these interactions and subsequent revelations, his path takes him back to the beginning: as an educated young man derived of fortune, chained to the forge. Pip‟s Cinderella story and the characters and circumstances therein only result in his recognizing that his true family is Joe and Joe‟s new wife Biddy. While watching the most recent adaptation of this, I was struck yet again by Joe‟s unconditional love for Pip and the realization that there is no crime Pip could commit nor sin so great that he could not return to Joe at the forge. Even as a wayward prodigal, Pip is always welcomed in Joe‟s family with open arms. At the end of his rope having squandered his fortune and burned the bridges back to the marshes, the misplaced Pip (too haughty for the life he knew as a blacksmith‟s apprentice and too lowly for the whir of the gentleman‟s clubs) can always go home. From a Christian standpoint, this is the very embodiment of Grace: a gift extended and received when completely unwarranted: steadfast love which withstands the slight

and snobbery of Pip‟s wayward London attitude and leads to Joe‟s paying Pip‟s careless debts in full. For me, the most heartwrenching scenes in Great Expectations counter Joe Gargery‟s steadfast devotion to Pip when Pip treats him horribly, seeming to forget the sacrifices Joe has made

and the love he has for him. One unsettling circumstance finds Joe in London visiting the new gentleman Pip at his lodgings. Whereas Herbert Pocket strives to make Joe feel comfortable; Pip is an unpardonable snob, forcing Joe to recognize in humble wisdom that the forge sees

them equals whereas Pip‟s new station separates them. Later, Pip returns to his hometown for business and rather than staying with Joe, opts for a room at the Blue Boar. Pip spurns his family while struggling to become the gentleman he wants to become, but is forced to soon realize through his trials that

Dickens‟ work. Pip sets much store in the things he wants, abandoning his home and his salt-of-the-earth upbringing with Joe to explore the gilded world of London: its Gentleman‟s clubs, fancy furniture and revelry. Yet, at the end, as broke as when he started, his expectations crumbled at the feet of death and loss, Pip is able to go home, no questions asked, debts completely paid. I sat watching the BBC adaptation in my parent‟s living room by the lights of the Christmas tree thankful that there is no place like home, that wherever I went and whatever I did I could return to their small-town house with no questions asked, arms wide open. The same is true of Christ: there is no sinner who can wander too far or prodigal who can the true act of a gentleman is so prodigiously stray that the remembering one‟s love and grace of their background, kith and kin. Creator will not find them no The Bible‟s caveat that matter how ungrateful they storing treasures on earth will were or how the flashes and wield moths and corruption, lights of a seemingly better where storing treasures in circumstance momentarily Higher places reaps goodness turned their heads. ♥ and riches binds well with the thematic morality of


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“Love is in all things a most wonderful teacher.”

here is a magical quality to the works of Charles Dickens. Despite the melancholy and harsh realities of life found in his stories there is an element that transcends reality and moves into the realm of fantasy. Our Mutual Friend stands above the rest for me because it was the story that convinced me of his genius. The many plotlines that weave into one another, the dozens of multifaceted characters, and the sweeping setting aren‟t exactly unique to the story; Dickens was famous for his complicated tales and layered characters, but there is something special about this last finished work. It could be the romance that adds heart to the dark tale, the themes of rebirth and redemption, or the mystery of the “mutual friend.” In such a complex story there is so much to discuss at length. Each character could have an entire book devoted to investigating the recesses of their minds, and every location, such as the Thames

or the dark streets of London, could have a research paper devoted to sorting out its complexities. I would like to focus on the female leads of Our Mutual Friend, Bella Wilfer and Lizzie Hexam. They are born into two separate social spheres but both share the ill fortune of being poor. Bella‟s hope of rising above her situation is to marry well, something that is assured in the beginning of the story. As a child, she so impressed a wealthy stranger that he wrote her into his will. He fixed it so that his

son, John Harmon, will only inherit his fortune through marrying Bella. Her financial future appears bright, despite her being promised to a man she‟s never met. Because her desires are only for rising above poverty into riches this prospect isn‟t daunting, but when John Harmon drowns after the death of his father, Bella is left to mourn the loss of her prospects. In contrast, Lizzie‟s hope of rising above her poverty is through her own initiative and hard work. Her spirit and kindness earn her a place in

the hearts of those she meets, and that helps her go a long way. She selflessly provides for her brother‟s education and supports her father despite the fact that neither appreciate her efforts. When tragedy strikes and her father dies, she moves on to a better life by assisting a dressmaker named Jenny Wren. The attentions of two men, the high-class barrister Eugene Wrayburn and schoolteacher Bradley Headstone, alter her life when both are infatuated with her. The ensuing rivalry between them becomes


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Golden dreams & silver linings The Women of Our Mutual Friend By Hannah Price darker and more twisted until attempted murder results. Bella and Lizzie are both close to their fathers and go through a tragedy that alters their lives in different ways. Bella at the beginning is selfcentered and cold. Her life in poverty has made her desire money more than love. This increases when she is taken under the care of the Boffins. She is exposed to the riches she dreams of and enters a society that encourages her making a “smart match.” Her love of wealth is for practical reasons rather than greed but keeps her from entertaining the attentions of the clerk John Rokesmith. Despite his kind attentiveness, she sees his attentions as repulsive; his lowly status blinds her to his fine qualities. The turning point in her life comes when the Boffins begin to treat the young man with distain and injustice. She begins to see him anew as he bears these afflictions with temperance, while never failing to show her kindness and consideration. When his love for her is made known to the Boffins he is forced to leave. By this point Bella‟s entire outlook has changed;

she no longer values money more than love and decides to marry him, choosing to be an ordinary housewife rather than a social climber. Later, she discovers that he is in fact John Harmon. He made the most of his supposed drowning (a long tale that includes betrayal, robbery and murder), wanting to get to know Bella better and enlisting the help of the Boffins to test her loyalties. Lizzie‟s journey is unique, for she doesn‟t undergo any significant personality shift throughout the course of the story. She begins as a dutiful daughter and sister and ends as a loving wife. Some might find her a hard character to identify with because of her perpetual goodness and call her “unrealistic,” but I find in her great moral depth and her goodness isn‟t “unrealistic” insomuch as it is a difficult standard to live up to. She is a strong woman, physically and emotionally, able to find courage in the face of danger and her positive outlook keeps up her spirits in times of great trial. She comes to love Eugene because of his kindness towards her, calling him “so good, so very good.”

When this relationship makes Mr. Headstone view Eugene as a rival and threatens his life, Lizzie hides from both as a means of protecting him. Lizzie soon discovers that she cannot hide from them and is found by both. They come driven by passions that overwhelm their better sense. Lizzie and Eugene admit the depth of their feelings to one another but she is determined to follow social standards and refuses to let him court her. Eugene considers taking her by force but the jealous passion of Mr. Headstone prevents this. He beats Eugene and throws him into the river. Lizzie overhears the attack and rescues her love from drowning, her past experience giving her the knowledge and strength to singlehandedly bring him to safety. Lizzie cares for him, never giving up hope despite the grim outlook. The couple gets married on what appears to be Eugene‟s deathbed, an event that brings friends to watch and wish them well. A miracle along with Lizzie‟s loving care keeps Eugene from succumbing to his injuries, and he admits that the attack was actually a

good thing in his eyes, for it prevented him from ruining his chances with Lizzie. His near-death experience brings them together and anger towards Mr. Headstone turns to gratitude and forgiveness. When comparing the lives and personalities of Bella and Lizzie, one could be asked to choose which one is more realistic or relatable. But there are no easy answers in Dickens. Both of these ladies are wonderful; they act upon their own initiative, have heart, spirit, and courage, and don‟t shy away from hard choices. Bella stands up to a supposed tyrant for the sake of another, and chooses love and the prospective of living as a poor man‟s wife over a wealthy life of ease. Lizzie sacrifices her own happiness for others and refuses to let unfortunate circumstances direct her life. Bella and Lizzie help drive the story to a satisfactory conclusion, and are rewarded for their hard but admirable choices. They are principal characters that hold their own against the male leads, and well worth studying (and perhaps even emulating) because of their praiseworthy qualities. ♥


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“Surprises, like misfortunes, seldom come alone.”

ood authors manage to set themselves apart from other writers with a unique voice in their work that becomes a trademark of their style. It may be a certain tone to the narration, a distinct setting, or a preference for a specific type of plot or a combination of elements that distinguishes an author‟s work. However, few writers can boast that their name has become an adjective for a certain type of story. Charles Dickens can. When something is called “Dickensian,” you can bet an upstanding lead faces dire oppression and persecution in the seedy underbelly of a teeming city (preferably London) but always ends up receiving just happiness. Most works of fiction can be pared down into a few general story archetypes and great authors can place their stamp on any one of these with a satisfying result. Such is the case with Dickens and Oliver Twist. The classic tale of the hero‟s journey is fitted to the novel in exemplary fashion while Dickens makes

the work solidly his own. The hero‟s journey begins with one important feature that sets it apart—the existence of little or no parental presence in the hero‟s life. Oliver Twist is a little boy growing up in Victorian England in just such a situation. He is an orphan, a state common in the hero‟s journey. Oliver‟s mother arrives at a workhouse about to give birth and bringing Oliver into the world takes her life. The baby‟s father is in no way in the picture (or even able to

be ascertained); the identity of Oliver‟s mother is left behind in very few clues, hidden by grasping no-good people. Oliver grows up one of many in the workhouse, that depressing and dank institution so suited to Dickens‟ setting and style. To show just how prevalent this story archetype is in fiction and film, there are two more examples to briefly mention: Harry Potter is the most famous recent example of an orphan character on a hero‟s journey, while Luke Skywalker in Star Wars is

another whose mother died giving birth to him and whose father is separated from him by dramatic circumstances. Even more than little or no parental presence, the hero in this archetype often has adult figures in his life usually responsible for his welfare who treat him in a way most would find contemptible. The proprietors of the workhouse, to be completely fair, treat all the children in their care the same way as Oliver. When Oliver famously asks for more food at a meal, he is


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a child hero’s journey Oliver Twist By Rachel Sexton

shipped off to apprentice at an undertaker‟s. There, Mr. Sowerberry, and his wife do little to effect any change in Oliver‟s luck with adults but the real problem at this new place is a fellow apprentice; Noah Claypoole provokes Oliver into a fight and gets him a whipping. To carry this over to the other examples mentioned earlier, Harry‟s aunt and uncle Dursley on Privet Drive make his entrance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry feel like an escape. Luke, in contrast, is well treated by his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru but they are killed early on by Stormtroopers, foot soldiers for the tyrannical Galactic Empire. After his punishment at the undertaker‟s, Oliver takes a step that is another feature of the hero‟s journey—the actual journey itself. He runs away to London. The distance can vary but the hero usually travels from the place he knows to another, totally unfamiliar one. In our other examples, Harry goes a long way to reach Hogwarts but feels like he‟s going home and Luke ends up crisscrossing the galaxy

during all his adventures. Different events confront each hero along his path but in each case he survives and reaches the resolution of his emotional and physical trials. Oliver‟s conflict arrives in the form of more adults who behave despicably. First,

cohort Bill Sykes, a depraved man who would murder a child without thinking twice. For Harry and Luke, the oppositions on the way to their hero‟s ending takes up seven books and three films! This story archetype is about a hero, which means

usually does his bidding but comes through in doing the right thing when it counts. Fagin and Bill continue to put obstacles in the way of Oliver staying with his grandfather but the positive resolution for the put-upon orphan is already on its way. The criminals meet their deserved fates at the hands of the law and Oliver gets to go to a warm, affectionate, and affluent home. Harry and Luke also achieve their goals of defeating the evil villains in their own stories for good. The framework of Oliver Twist may be a classic hero‟s journey but Dickens is able to put his own imprint on the familiar form so the result is both timeless and relevant to his era. The novel has had many adaptations over the years with directors David Lean in 1948 and Roman Polanski in 2005 being the most notable. Interestingly, after being recruited by the the lead character is one of Fagin in Lean‟s version is Artful Dodger, Oliver meets the good guys. And their played under heavy makeup Fagin, the aging leader of a moral strength is rewarded in by Alec Guinness, who was band of pick-pocketing street the end. Good luck blesses Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star urchins. Dickens makes the Oliver with a series of events Wars. That being another reader cringe a bit with his that puts him in the way of hero‟s journey, the actor stereotype but Jewish Fagin‟s his maternal grandfather, Mr. must have felt at home. ♥ greed is all-consuming. Even Brownlow. Also, Bill Sykes‟ worse is Fagin‟s criminal significant other, Nancy,


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“He had hardly any eyebrows, and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red brown so unsheltered and unshaded that I remember wondering how he went to sleep.”

ost people find the art of caricature irresistible. The ability to capture a likeness in something so simple with only a few sketchy lines seems magical. Techniques for drawing them can be taught. A basic knowledge of the anatomy of the human face is helpful—the rules of thumb that are often taught in art classes. The eyes sit just above halfway from the chin to the top of the head, for instance. But once you have the introductory knowledge, you approach a caricature much differently than an accurate portrait. First, you must observe. Drawing a caricature requires being able to see what makes each face distinctive; what slight variations from those universal rules of thumb give a person individuality and character. You must also have some insight into what people are like internally, into their minds and souls, to be able to capture that essence we call personality. Second, caricature also

requires boldness. Having noticed the subject has large eyes, you learn to exaggerate the obvious characteristic. It doesn‟t work if you make the eyes just slightly larger than normal. To be a caricature, you make them large like a lemur‟s! If the ears stick out, they must stick out like an elephant‟s; if the neck is long and slender, you make it giraffe-like. Caricatures are meant to be funny as well as insightful, and a timid one that barely exaggerates at all, is just not funny. Third, you simplify. You

can‟t exaggerate every single feature. Instead, you decide which ones predominate or give the face character and focus on those. You may emphasize it by minimizing detail in the rest of the face. Caricature does require a certain inborn knack, though. Even if you understand how to draw one, you may or may not have a quick and natural eye to be very good at it. Even some artists who draw beautiful portraits are not able to do caricatures. Caricatures exist in books as well as in art and Dickens

was a great master of them. There are other authors, such as Jane Austen or even JK Rowling, who sketch out interesting characters with boldness and humor, but Dickens had a surpassing knack for capturing personality with few words. In fact, he is so famous for his ability that bizarre or vivid characters in other works are often referred to as “Dickensian.” Even those who have never read David Copperfield have heard of Uriah Heep! The same principles that


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many faces Dickens & the Art of Caricature By Katharine Taylor

govern a good caricature apply to Dickens‟ characters. Just as a good caricature begins with an observation, Dickens‟ people display a piercing insight into human nature and internal motives. Take the mysterious Mr. Tulkinghorn, who propels the plot of Bleak House. Dickens sketches him with one brief typical paragraph on our first meeting yet we are given the key to his personality: his dominant characteristic is secrecy. “There are noble mausoleums rooted for centuries in retired glades of parks among the growing timber and the fern, which perhaps hold fewer noble secrets than walk abroad among men, shut up in the breast of Mr. Tulkinghorn.” Bold exaggeration is the technique that makes this author‟s figures memorable and where he outshines others; he accomplishes an exaggerated caricature by means of a clever, effortless metaphor. The effect is funny but also sticks in the reader‟s memory—a useful quality in novels with huge casts. To return to Mr. Tulkinghorn, in that first paragraph Dickens uses a visual metaphor in his

description: “One peculiarity of his black clothes and of his black stockings, be they silk or worsted, is that they never shine. Mute, close, irresponsive to any glancing light, his dress is like himself. He never converses when not professionally consulted.” Of course it can‟t be literally true that no light reflects off a person‟s clothes ever, but the image of the man absorbing everything like a human black hole is vivid and effective. Take the description of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol: “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn‟t thaw it one degree at Christmas.” Scrooge doesn‟t literally have frost on his brows but what an excellent way to describe him and at the same time set a wintery

atmosphere appropriate for the Christmas background! Dickens‟s prose has a poetic rhythmic quality to it; he never just tells us flatly that Scrooge is mean and tightfisted. That would be boring. Dickens is using the principle of simplification. He carries the metaphor right through a description by focusing on the dominating characteristic of his subject. Another technique that aids in simplification is his use of repetition. This is what gives so many of his descriptions their outrageous humor, even when he is being cynical or sharp in his observations of human nature. Wegg in Our Mutual Friend is certainly not sympathetic but the way Dickens reduces him to a wooden carving is brilliant. Every word is chosen to magnify the impression and the description of his laugh is funny because it‟s so overthe-top yet realistic: “Wegg was a knotty man, and a close-grained, with a face carved out of very hard material, that had just as much play of expression as a watchman‟s rattle. When he laughed, certain jerks occurred in it, and the rattle

sprung. Sooth to say, he was so wooden a man that he seemed to have taken his wooden leg naturally…” One of my favorite examples is this one-sentence zinger that describes Pip‟s sister in Great Expectations: “My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap.” It‟s only one small detail that Dickens chose to exaggerate, yet it tells us everything we need to know about Mrs. Joe. As an artist, I know how deceptively difficult it is to draw really good caricatures, and that is why I admire Dickens‟s characterizations so much. It‟s only one part of his skill with words and ability to craft a good story, but it‟s a distinctive element of reading his work. What would Dickens be without those surprisingly insightful and hilarious metaphors? Or without the brilliantly depicted characters, even the most minor ones in his stories painted with memorable detail? ♥


Celebrate and honor the Edwardian Era with us, in an issue full of your favorite films, television series, and writers from the time. Explore the house at Downton Abbey and its memorable characters. Commemorate with us the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Meet Beatrix Potter on screen and off. Get lost in the romance of Somewhere in Time. Compare the original work of Pygmalion to its movie counterpart, My Fair Lady. Enjoy the writing of L.M. Montgomery, J.M. Barrie, Edith Warton, and more.

Femnista Jan Feb 2012  

Eugene Wrayburn, Mystery of Edwin Drood, Esther Summerson, Jasper Fforde, Sydney Carton, Charles Dickens, Bleak House, Hard Times, A Christm...

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