Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sketches by Boz

People watching in the local park sparks interest in human variety.
It is amazing what the image of one man walking through the park can elicit.  Dickens takes on simple act of moseying along a path holding an umbrella to a whole new level.  The imagination begins to run wild with the man's daily events.  What does he do for a living?  Why is he holding an umbrella on such a beautiful day?  It is almost as if Dickens turns this man into one of his characters.  Not only does he give a vivid description of the man's daily life, but he also makes a smooth segway into other groups of people.  He may have begun with one man but he now makes the shift into focusing on the characterization of various groups of men in London.  Reading Thoughts about people is very much like reading a blog post.  I have found myself in airports writing on my departure and observing people.  I can picture Dickens with his "laptop" in hand letting his fingers write the lives of these people.  He begins int he park, "follows" these individuals to work, and then back to the back.  It is a wonderfully "blogged" event and an intriguing observation of human beings.
St. James Park

Prisoner's van = Her Majesty's Coach: Irony or social statement?
There is something to be said for Dickens' subtle way of expresses his social concerns.  It is a normal situation that we can all relate to.  We are walking along the street or driving down the road when we notice a crowd has gathered and we, like everyone else, want to know what the "fuss is all about".  It is a common human reaction to the observance of the gathering.  This particular group is waiting for what at first seems to be Her Majesty when it is realized that it is The Prisoners' Van.  Is it a coincidence that Her Majesty's coach is also a name for the prisoners' van?  Does this have some implication on the royal treatment of the common folk?  What then becomes even more interesting are the prisoners themselves.  They are children.  16 year old Bella reacts to the crowd as if she is a seasoned pro and has no shame in her actions while her younger sister is a "newbie" in the justice system.  She attempts to hide her face.  The contrast of these two individuals presents the reader with the ugly truth.  There appears to be no true reform for young criminals.  Of course, we don't exactly know why these young people are going to prison but one can only speculate they were acts of survival.  His keen observation of the social situation of London at the time is written in one easy to read article.  
A prisoner's van
 The door acts as a first impression. 
What does yours say about you?

There is something to be said for the appearance of one's home.  Dickens begins this story with that observation.  The varying doors and knockers that line the streets.  He talks of the owners of the knockers with the various meanings.  The concept of doors and knockers has never occurred to me as a way of knowing who was behind it but after reading this, I think he may have a point.  I see it very much as the Veneerings.  Appearance is everything to these people.  As we move along the street with Dickens, we are introduced to the various tenants with their everyday lives and rituals.  One neighbour in particular is in search of a tenant.  He has little luck with the first two but then takes in a young boy and his mother from the country.  The story then turns to death.  The city, as accused by the boy, has killed him.  It was quite interesting how the theme turned from first impressions to the final criticism of a murderous city.  Our Next-Door Neighbour

Irish Doors

Italian Doors

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dickens is one tough warden

Prison,  Dickens & Victorian England

It seems as though everything I've read & heard in this class this semester sounds like a type of prison. There is the obvious form as seen in A TALE OF TWO CITIES but there are also multiple other forms. Dickens has many characters in their own types of prison. 

Rokesmith/Harmon: He is imprisoned by his father's will. Upon his father's death, he has a wife & an inheritance. The inheritance may be a great thing but having no say in your partner doesn't suit him. To escape, he chooses to live a life of secrecy & continue his life as if he were the dead man found in the river by Hexam. In the end, he is able to overcome his imprisonment but going to such extremes in the beginning says a lot about his desires for a different life.

Lizzie: Early in the work, she is one of the most lovable, sympathetic characters. She is introduced in her father's boat & that is the first form of prison I see of her. She is at the mercy of her father who doesn't want her to be educated. She secretly learns via her brother Charlie. With her father's death, I have optimistic thoughts of her moving on with the life she chooses. Dickens has other ideas. She is harassed by her brother, Headstone & Wrayburn. She seeks the help of Riah & exiles herself to another town. She lives imprisoned in the distant life away from her home.

Veneerings/Lammles/Podsnaps: They all have one prison in common....societal standing. These families are so focused on their wealth & "keeping up with the Joneses" that lose sight of what's important in life. They have such potential but can't escape the chains of greed.

Jasper: Edwin Drood's uncle is simply imprisoned by his addiction. He is addicted to his opium, his love of Rose, & his envy of Edwin. While I'll never know if he's the reason Edwin disappears, part of me feels sorry for him. He can't escape his thoughts, desires & need for drugs.

Ned: Bless his heart! (As us Southerners would say) He is confined to his past. He wants to be a better person but his past continues to oppress him. He is convicted not on proof but on his past.

Joe Willet: If could just get away from his father, he might make in life. As of right now, he wants to join the service to escape. What he doesn't understand that military is another form of prison. He will be confined to the orders of his superiors. His father controls him now but he will soon be under the control of commanders. I don't know what's going to happen to him but running from one form of prison to another seems like the best choice for him at this point.

Riah: The Jew is a Jew. He is viewed, judged, & mistrusted for his religious belief. His religious choice imprisons him. While I don't think he should convert to Christianity to escape this, it does have a affect on how others view him. He chooses to prove everyone wrong by showing them that all Jews are not the same.

Dickens' works are full of characters in prison. Some are prisons they have chosen while others are placed upon them from outsiders. It seems as though every work the characters are looking to escape. If someone could only rescue them all...

Of course, I don't think it would be wise to rescue them.  We love them because we can relate to their troubles.  This may be Victorian England that Dickens is writing about but there are those struggling with these same issues in 2012.  While I long for some of my favorite characters to be "saved" I think the literature is all the better for these wayward souls.  Dickens shows us that one doesn't have to be behind steel bars to be imprisoned.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Victorian Author Olympics: Olive Schreiner

Olive Schreiner

Birth: in South Africa on March 24th, 1855 as the 9th child of a German Methodist missionary

Death: December 11th, 1920 in South Africa of a heart attack

  • *The Story of an African Farm (1883); published under the pseudonym Ralph Iron; South Africa's first important novel
  • *Undine (1929); published posthumously
  • *From Man to Man; or, Perhaps only (1929); published posthumously
  • -Dream Life and Real Life (1893)
  • -Stories Dreams and Allegories (1923)
  • Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland (1897)
  • Women and Labour (1911)
  • 5500 Letters
*Novels dealing with the woman question and gender relations
-Short feminist fiction

Themes of her works:
  • Sexual, racial and class oppression
  • Male chivalry as oppressing women
  • Against girl's finishing schools
  • Gender roles are socially determined
  • Gender and androgyny
Dickens connection:
  • No formal education but read many of his early works
  • Influenced by him
  • Raised strict Calvinist in the remote mission stations of the Cape Colony
  • Family was financially unstable and left home at 15 to work as a governess and nurse for Afrikaner families
  • Had a crisis of faith and was estranged from her parents
  • Experienced sexual harassment and denigration at an early age which would haunt her the rest of her life
  • Politically active
  • 1884 she met the pre-Freudian sexologist Havelock Ellis; close friendship
  • 1885 joined exclusive "Men and Women's Club" founded by Karl Pearson; discussed the future of gender, equality of the sexes and marriage reform
  • 1894 married Samuel Cronwright (ostrich farmer, cattle breeder & freethinker); she wouldn't take his name so he became Cronwright-Scheiner
  • Had a daughter who died at birth
  • Her book Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland embarrased her brother who was the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony at the time
  • 1913 headed to Italy for medical treatment but only made it to England; spend 6 year there visiting Havelock Ellis and his wife Edith
  • While in England she wrote passionate antiwar pamphlets
  • 1920 returned to South Africa
  • Acquainted with leader of socialist movement but not certain she shared their views
  • Friends included: Karl Marx's youngest daughter Eleanor; Edith Lees Ellis; Amy Levi; Edward Carpenter; Margaret Harkness; Bertrand Russell; Alys Pearsall Smith; Leslie Stephen; Arthur Symons; Thomas Fisher Unwin (her publisher)

Olive Schreiner's Letters
Olive Schreiner Bio

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Liberty Mutual Commercial

Ok...I've been thinking about Dickens characters in modern commercials.  I would like to put several of them in those touching Liberty Mutual Commercials where people see other people helping people and then pass it on.  I just LOVE those commercials and could see several of Dickens' characters in one of these.  Because the following characters have been so nice and helpful in the works, they should be helping others in a commercial and make some money on it.  There may be more to come but this is what I have thus far.

Lizzie: She's always willing to help (Betty, Charlie, Wrayburn).  
  • She will be helping a person in a wheelchair into a building that has no handicap accessible doors.
Riah: He helps Lizzie escape Headstone and sacrifices his job to maintain his friendship with Jenny.  
  • He will be stopping a young boy's dog from running out into a busy intersection.  
Rokesmith: He clears Hexam's name and allows the Boffins to keep his fortune.  
  • He will be giving his umbrella to a pregnant woman standing in the rain.
Mrs. Boffin: She wants to help people with her money (Bella and Sloppy).  
  • She will be paying for a stranger's coffee in a coffee shop.
Mortimer Lightwood because of his dedication and helpfulness to Wrayburn.  
  • He will be picking up a heavy bag for someone at an airport baggage claim.
Sydney Carton: He sacrifices his life for Darnay's and in his last few moments of life he helps another woman.  
  • He will be helping an older woman across the street.
Mr. Lorry does what he can to help Lucie and her father.  
  • He will be helping an elderly person fill out a form in a city hall.
Rev. Crisparkle helps Neville and believes in him when no one else does.
  • He will be helping a young girl get a doll from a tall shelf in a toy store.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

After thoughts

I believe I may have judged A TALE OF TWO CITIES too harshly.  I didn't like the character development and I felt it was a little scattered; however, it has had some impact on me because I keep thinking about it.  Maybe it's because Easter is upon us which has its own sacrifice or maybe I'm trying to find something more.  I'm still not a fan of the dummies who went back to Paris but maybe I'm too focused on the surface meaning.  They went for their own reasons and that is something to be admired.  Maybe Dickens was trying to make that point.  We may have to make fatal choices in life but we have to believe in our decisions.  We don't need a French Revolution to remind us of the sacrifices we have to make.  They are sometimes small, a salad instead of a burger.  They are sometimes big, not eating yourself to give your child food.  Would I read it again soon...nope but I guess ATOTC was better than I thought.

In sickness & in health

2 very different ceremonies:

Rokesmith & Bella
I must admit that I was extremely shocked & excited when there was mention of their marriage.  What pleased me even more was the way Bella's mother took the news.  She is the most outspoken and ornery individual but I find myself wanting to spend time with her.  The person I would hate to be is Rokesmith...to have such a mother-in-law would not be my requests.  I guess that's why they include "for better or worse" in the nuptuals  I am so impressed with Bella's change in character.  She tells her mother like it is in a polite manner and has given up her love of money for her love Rokesmith.  When I read her pouring over housework and newspaper articles I had a smile on my face.  She has grown up and taken responsibility of her life.  As much as I've read about them all, I feel like a proud mother in her progress.  

Wrayburn & Lizzie
How sweet and sad their ceremony was.  I have been pulling for Lizzie from the beginning and it seems as though, up until now, she has come out on top.  She escaped crazy with the help of Riah, came to Betty in her hour of need, saved Wrayburn from immediate death, and getting married.  She has had a hard life but continues to remain so positive.  Wrayburn's desire to protect Lizzie is proof that the good in life is seen.  She has never asked for anything but yet gains so much more.  Dickens has issues with women but thus far, she is the one woman who is so pure.  While I don't see their marriage being a long one, I do feel it's a true love. 

Nuptials with new meaning:
In sickness: Wrayburn
In health: Bella & Rokesmith...so far

Till death do us part: Wrayburn & Lizzie will see this sooner than Rokesmith & Bella

For better: Wrayburn marries to protect Lizzie & also because he loves her
Or worse: Rokesmith got one heck of a mother-in-law & Bella has some hard work to do

For richer: Lizzie has wealth in love (cheesy I know but true)
Or poorer: Bella gave up her riches for Rokesmith

The men are continuing to take the lead

I am simply going to start with my thoughts...

Headstone: I didn't like him to begin with but my dislike has only grown.  He is such a despicable person and doesn't deserve to work with children.  Charlie is correct in changing his opinion of the man and should be glad his sister didn't not get involved.  I had originally thought Alfred would be the devil but Dickens proved me wrong.

Wrayburn: He is truly an admirable man.  He doesn't make a good first impression, in my opinion, but he doesn't deserve to be beaten in the night.  Although I think about him torturing poor crazy Headstone by wandering the streets at all hours of the night which drove him mad, there is no excuse for the violence.  What I find most redeeming is his request not to punish Headstone.  He does it for Lizzie's reputation which made me tear up a little.  I also think about the guilt that Headstone has to live with which is also a punishment in itself.  There is something so sweet in his love and in his last few hours this loyalty and dedication to Lizzie grew.

Rokesmith: After being attacked by Boffin, he continues to better himself in life without telling his secret.  He kept his calm and didn't fight back...what a man!  While I feel it will come out at some point, I admire him for keeping it up to this point.  I believe I would be jealous of Bella if I were in their circle of friends.

Riah: Such an admirable Jew.  He threatens his friendship with Jenny when he does what Fledgeby tells him to only to search his soul for his true self.  He quits his job to become the "exception" to the Jewish stereotype and to regain Jenny's trust.  In this encounter with Jenny, he transforms from the "wolf" back into the "godmother".  He knows what society thinks of Jews and he doesn't want to be part of that stereotype.  Love him for that!!

Mr. Doll: Ok...is it just me or is it creepy that Jenny continually refers to her father as her child?  It took me quite some time to figure out who she was talking about until he died.  I always thought she was too young to have had a child of that age.  I would love to know what Freud has to say about this.

Lightwood: I just want so say how wonderful it is to see his dedication to his friend on his deathbed.  I am touched by his granting Wrayburn's every final request.