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The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

 
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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2980


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 3:11 am    Post subject: The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens  Reply with quote

I was going to put this under the Dickens thread but it is all about Great Expectations and Bleak House and literacy and education and I donít think there was much mention of this book at all.  So Iíve decided to give it a thread of its own.  

The Old Curiosity Shop is the one with Little Nell; I hadnít realised that Nell permeates the whole book Ė it is only her death scene that I know about.  I have only read 100 pages out of 522, and so far I am less than impressed with it.  I think it is mostly because the characters donít appeal.  They should be funny and they probably are on screen, but on the written page I just find most of them the personification of greed, which is no doubt intentional, but they are still very unattractive, and without the warmth permeating other Dickensí books.  So far.  I gather Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness add to the goodwill and humour.  I am not sure I have met the Marchioness yet Ė is she Sophy?

The best part of it so far is the introduction by GK Chesterton, which is on a par with Himadriís!  He says it is in Dickensí humorous characters that the themes of the books can be found, and Dickens is sincere when he is humorous, but striving to get his audience to cry and find sentiment artificially with his serious ones.  I think.  He said it wasnít Little Nellís death he objected to but how her life was portrayed.  

He also writes of the criticís role: it is to point out things the author doesnít say outright, not things he does point out.  If you want to read the intro in full (itís not too long) it is here:  http://www.online-literature.com/dickens/curiosity/0/

So, in summary:  you couldnít mistake this for anyone but Dickens, itís full of stock characters, but to my mind they are not very funny, rather pointedly unattractive.  The theme seems to be greed and the extent people will go to chase money and riches (I donít know if anyone finds them, probably not).  There doesnít seem to be a child hero who develops like Pip, David, or Nicholas.  Just the rather simple-minded Kit.  And Little Nell, who is passive and undeveloped (though it is early days yet).


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3367


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although it was a great favourite with its first Victorian readers, I doubt whether a modern reader would call it their favourite.  It's perhaps the most sentimental of CD's novels, but full of good things which could be by nobody else.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2980


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2017 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TOCS has had to give way to other reading, but I pick it up every now and again, if only because it is a small (though thickish) book and fits into my bag. †

I am enjoying it more now that I have realised it is a picaresque sort of book, more like The Pickwick Papers than the later books. †GKChesterton in his introduction says: " in one of Dickens's novels there is generally no particular unity of construction; but there is often a considerable unity of sentiment and atmosphere...The whole book is written carelessly; but the whole book is generally written in one mood...we may say there is not much unity of form, but there is much unity of colour. Nicholas Nickleby is full of a certain freshness, a certain light and open-air curiosity...In the same way Oliver Twist is sombre...In both these cases even the riotous and absurd characters are a little touched with the tint of the whole story. †This neglected merit of Dickens can certainly be seen best in the book with which we are now concerned, in The Old Curiosity Shop.

The curiosity shop itself was a lumber of grotesque and sinister things, outlandish weapons, twisted and daibolic decorations. The comis characters in the book are all like images bought in an old curiosity shop. †Quilp might be a gargoyle...The same applies to the sinister and really terrifying stiffness of Sally Brass. †She is like some old staring figure cut out of wood. †Sampson Brass again is a grotesque in the same rasther inhuman manner...There is a sort of diablerie. †Quilp is always fighting himself for want of someone else. †He is energy and energy by itself is always suicidal; he is that primordial energy which tears and which destroys itself."

I don't know if everyone would agree with all this [I think Himadri would have problems with the first few sentences] but it makes sense to me (even if he writes it in language I can't even think, let alone write).



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