Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Thirty - David Copperfield - Part Four

Nanny nanny boo boo, Dickens doesn’t like you -

A display of indifference to all the actions and passions of mankind was not supposed to be such a distinguished quality at that time, I think, as I have observed it to be considered since. I have known it very fashionable indeed. I have seen it displayed with such success, that I have encountered some fine ladies and gentlemen who might as well have been born caterpillars.
 Ooh, snap.

'… that what such people miscall their religion, is a vent for their bad humours and arrogance. In the meantime, sir,' said Mr. Chillip, 'they are much disliked; and as they are very free in consigning everybody who dislikes them to perdition, we really have a good deal of perdition going on in our neighbourhood! However, as Mrs. Chillip says, sir, they undergo a continual punishment; for they are turned inward, to feed upon their own hearts, and their own hearts are very bad feeding.'
Dickens is all about kindness.

Word pictures - 
I do not recall it, but see it done; for it happens again before me.
 Do you have some of those memories? Little snapshots or videos in your mind?

… I had considered how the things that never happen, are often as much realities to us, in their effects, as those that are accomplished.

In another, the ground was cumbered with rusty iron monsters of steam-boilers, wheels, cranks, pipes, furnaces, paddles, anchors, diving-bells, windmill-sails, and I know not what strange objects, accumulated by some speculator, and grovelling in the dust, underneath which—having sunk into the soil of their own weight in wet weather—they had the appearance of vainly trying to hide themselves.
 Can’t you picture these half-buried abandoned metal objects?
...a man must take the fat with the lean; that's what he must make up his mind to, in this life.
This has as much to do with Dickens’ message as anything. Sometimes life must be endured. Sometimes it will be joyous. Mostly it will just move along. What are you going to make of it? What are you going to do with the good times and the bad times and the in-between times? 
'And since I've took to general reading, you've took to general writing, eh, sir?' ...  'What a lovely work that was of yours! What expressions in it! I read it every word—every word. And as to feeling sleepy! Not at all!'

I laughingly expressed my satisfaction, but I must confess that I thought this association of ideas significant.
Charles, I totally love your sense of humor.
 ...when a man is drawing on to a time of life, where the two ends of life meet…
Lovely metaphor.

Mr. Dickens has a way with words -  
We talk about the tyranny of words, but we like to tyrannize over them too; we are fond of having a large superfluous establishment of words to wait upon us on great occasions; we think it looks important, and sounds well.
… if I may so Shakespearianly express myself...
…I had (and have all my life) observed that conventional phrases are a sort of fireworks, easily let off, and liable to take a great variety of shapes and colours not at all suggested by their original form.
Things that felt trite

First person narrative is tricky, I know. Dickens had to figure out a way for us to “see” all of the pertinent scenes. And at least once, this felt artificial. He needed a way for a character to tell her story but the scene doesn't ring true to me.

The poorest family is tremendously kind-hearted and the wealthiest is terribly selfish. Is Dickens trying to say that kind-hearted people surround themselves with other kind-hearted people; that kind-hearted parents rear kind-hearted children? Or is his meaning the “You reap what you sow” principle (these days perhaps more commonly known as “What goes around comes around”)? Because it isn’t true. Bad things happen to good people – have you ever known a child with cancer? Evil people frequently reap rewards.  Of course, money can’t buy peace of mind or kindness or happiness, and those are the real treasures. Dickens doesn’t come out and say this, but David comes to a sort of realization of this.

There was also a part at the end that felt gratuitous – as if it was thrown in only to make a social statement. But then, that’s what Dickens did. He had a voice in his time, and people listened.

Random thing that caught my attention -
It was such a strange scene to me, and so confined and dark, that, at first, I could make out hardly anything; but, by degrees, it cleared, as my eyes became more accustomed to the gloom, and I seemed to stand in a picture by Ostade.
 What are Ostade's paintings like? Here's an example -

Popular fiction

Currently, some people read Dickens because he’s a classic. When he was alive, some people did not read him because he was contemporary. What makes a classic? I don’t mean works that become part of the academic canon since politics plays such a large part in those decisions, but what is a classic? Is it merely a book we read years after the author died, or is there more to it? Is it a book that we read because it is popular? There are contemporary books that many people have read – I’m thinking Eat, Pray, Love, The Book Thief, or anything by Dan Brown. Will these books be classics in one hundred years? Is a classic a book that is popular? Is a classic a book that speaks to us on a level below the surface? A book with characters we care about? Is that why a classic survives the years?

I understand the appeal of Dickens during his lifetime – he wrote about the world as it was - and in this book, he describes the Swiss Alps to his readers!

Question: why did/do people from England move to Australia so frequently? Why not emigrate to Spain or Italy or France, which would be so much closer? Is it the language barrier? During Victorian times, Australia was still colonial, so I guess they got land allotments and things like that, maybe. And what’s the deal with the Commonwealth? I do not understand it. They’re independent but the Queen is their head of state even though they all have their own leaders… very confusing.

Charles I - 1649, right?!

Me: Mr. Dickens, if I may be so bold, I should like to say that this book rocked my world.

Dickens: If that is a compliment, Madam, I thank you.

Me: You got it, bro.  


  1. I consider a classic a book that is written before the end of WWII and that as literary value, a timeless message and or themes.
    I think people emigrated to Australia because the Government usually gave some kind of reward (money, land,..) to the people that went to the colonies and help to populate them. Populate the colonies with people from the metropolis it was important to secure the power of the metropolis in the colonies.

  2. I am so terribly jealous of your visit to the Jamaica Inn.  I did some research after the book and the pub portion looks amazing.  Not so sure about the ghosts....  

    So glad you enjoyed David Copperfield!  Such an epic novel.  Loved reading your updates throughout.