On the anniversary of Dickens's death on Thursday, The Atlantic examined two very differing accounts of his character, and suggested that we reconcile his dark and light sides by studying him through the prism of A Tale of Two Cities:
"Yet in fictionalizing his story, Dickens placed himself into his characters—his initials, his demons, his childhood sweetheart in Lucie—just as Carton steps into Darnay’s body. Carton’s famous last words could have been spoken by Dickens himself: 'It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.'"
Novelist Virginia Woolf was notoriously not a big fan of Dickens. Yet poet and critic Andre Gerard argues that Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway was heavily influenced by Great Expectations -- that in fact, the former can be seen as "a strong rewriting" of the latter.
What do the two have in common? A video by "Nerdwriter" explains the connection. It's an interesting argument and a fairly strong one, as far as it goes; it may give a little too much credit to the power of the audience and not quite enough to authorial skill. But see what you think.
Here's an encouraging piece for those of us who are always looking for ways to help the younger generation learn to love Dickens. Abhilash Gaur writes The Times of India that he's been reading David Copperfield and other Dickens works to his seven-year-old son, and that though he needs to use simplified editions, he's been impressed by his son's understanding of and attraction to the plots and characters:
"I can see that my little Pip has been in love with Estella (now with Em’ly, since he is David); he has sensed trouble as the Artful Dodger leads Oliver to Fagin’s shack. He has threatened to squash Monks’ head, and he has cheered when David bites Mr Murdstone’s hand. He absolutely detests Miss Murdstone. But most of all, my David is heartbroken by mother’s death. . . . It’s good to nudge kids towards airy and cheerful books, but perhaps it’s just as well to expose them to meatier plots from literature as soon as they can stomach them."
On this note, I'd like to give a shoutout to my nine-year-old goddaughter, who recently picked out and bought David Copperfield all on her own! I suspect she may need just to dabble in it for a while before she's fully ready to take the plunge -- that's not at all a bad way to start -- but I hope that this will one day lead to a lifelong enjoyment of Dickens for her.
"Because of the unforgettable Christmas Carol book, most associate Dickens more with Christmas than Easter. Yet Dickens had great expectations not just of Christmas but also of Easter. In most of Dickens’ novels, there are Easter moments of unexpected hope, transformation and breakthrough. Dickens rarely leaves us stuck in despair."
By the way, I want to apologize for not having posted much lately. I have some major projects taking up a lot of time (about which I hope to tell you more, one of these days). But rest assured, this blog will keep going! Even when I can't post every day, I will post as often as I can.