“How could you be so cruel?” he asks. “Did you have to say it so bluntly?”
“How else would I have said it?” his friend asks.
“Well, you could have told me that the cat is on the roof. Next time I called, you could have said that the fire department came out but even they weren’t able to get the cat down from the roof. After another call you could have said that my cat died. It would have been less of a shock that way.”
The last day of his vacation, the man calls his friend to ask how everything is going. His friend says, “Your mother is on the roof.”
The indirect way was the acceptable manner in Victorian times - though Dickens obviously disapproves of unwavering stoicism. But does the rejection of stoicism lead to wimpiness? Just how much emotion is acceptable? The person described in the next quote is a monster –
I do not doubt that she had a choice pleasure in exhibiting what she called her self-command, and her firmness, and her strength of mind, and her common sense, and the whole diabolical catalogue of her unamiable qualities, on such an occasion.Dickens illustrates that etiquette for its own sake is folly. This woman’s strict adherence to etiquette leads to rigidity, which leads to suppression of emotion, which leads to unkindness. How can unkindness be considered proper? Isn’t the purpose of manners to enable others to feel comfortable?