Week 7 of reading The Old Curiosity Shop.
I cannot stress enough how terrible I feel that I’ve been so behind on my project but, so is life, it happens and we must keep going.
On a personal note, I’ve been working with two lovely ladies on Instagram to host a read-along for Dickens’s major Christmas Stories: A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth. We will be reading them in December (starting on the 3rd and ending on the 20th) and if you would like to join us, there is more information on my Instagram page (@miss.havishams.clock). We are also hosting a photo challenge and hopefully some video discussions, so I have a lot to look forward too and I’m excited!
If you have been following me from the beginning (and, if so, thank you very much, dear reader) then you know that I begun this project with A Christmas Carol, which I read last December, and I had been planning on rereading this December to end the year well. The plan is to continue with Barnaby Rudge in January, fingers crossed!
I have begun prepping for this read-along by also reading The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford and I may share a bit of his wisdom through this medium. We shall see how it goes. I feel like there’s a lot going on now but I am ready to take on the challenge.
Some family issues have kept me away from my reading of The Old Curiosity Shop so I am not even sure I may finish by the end of the month *insert bookish tears* but I will definitely get it done before the end of the year.
We had an impromptu trip during the weekend to visit family and, as my husband is now starting a new job, have been running errands non-stop for the past two weeks, which is productive but they take time away from reading. I, however, was able to sneak in some pages during the weekend!
Sidetracking us back to The Old Curiosity Shop now…
I am so in love with Dick Swiveller’s adventures in the Brass’s household and Kit’s sections of the novel They are my favorite part.
The mysterious lodger of Brass’s household has yet to become identified. Like the Grandfather, he remains unnamed and very very fairy-tale-esque. He is a magician — well, Dick Swiveller sees him that way — and a detective; an avuncular figure who comes to find Nell and her Grandfather apparently bearing good news. I cannot actually remember who he is and what the news are so this will prove a surprise for me and I’m looking forward to the Big Reveal I know it’s coming.
So far, the mysterious lodger has found Kit living comfortably and well.
His sections of the novel are also funny although different from Swiveller’s humor, in the sense that I see a lot more of the Dickensian comedy I’m familiar with in his sections. I would describe it as sarcastic, but definitely satirical and in it is in Kit’s section where I feel Dickens has placed a lot of his political and religious criticism.
From reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, I am learning that there was still a lingering Puritanism at the time of Dickens’s writings and that this was something he fought against, which made the sections at Little Bethel make so much sense.
Kit reprimands his mother for going to the Little Bethel church where they tell her she shouldn’t have any fun (for it is a sin) and is sermoned about basically everything. After a little holiday where Kit’s family goes to the theatre and to eat oysters with Kit’s coworker Barbara, Mrs. Nubbles goes to Little Bethel feeling guilty for these pleasures to which Kit responds with a beautiful sermon about how fun is important too, and well earned.
He is representing the Poor that Dickens really advocated for, those who worked for a living (he was not a fan of idleness) and that deserved better treatment and conditions. That’s why he idolizes characters like Mr. Garland, who offers Kit a very respectable place to work, with a fair salary, and even a holiday. He really wants his readers to strive to be like them.
In Chapter 38, which returns the narrative to Kit, Dickens writes a long plea for “those who rule the destinies of nations” to look away from “the wide thoroughfares and great houses” and look instead to “improve the wretched dwellings in bye-ways where only Poverty may walk” (Dickens 289). He continues advocating for helping the poor and states that helping them would be a benefit for the country as a whole, thus appealing to the sense of Imperialism and Nationalism of the time. I only know this in a general sense, as it is not my academic interest.
What sparked my attention was the beginning of Dickens’s plea, in which he refers the home and hearth.
The ties that bind the wealthy and the proud to home may be forged on earth, but those which link the poor man to his humble hearth are of the true metal and bear the stamp of Heaven (Dickens 289)
Once again we are reminded of the importance of home and how Kit’s home is humble but full of warmth and homeliness. What’s material doesn’t matter much, and it offers a contrast to the Old Curiosity Shop, which was full of riches, but was dead and empty.
With this thought, I leave off and I am glad to see Kit so well settled. I know he will be alright. It is Nell who must concern us now as the narrative returns to her.
Let’s see what her next adventure will be.
May we meet again!