Monday, September 3, 2012

Little Dorrit ~ Charles Dickens

Little Dorrit is rather overshadowed by the more popular of Dickens' novels, but it really is worth reading.  Broken up into two parts, the first being Poverty and the second being Riches, the whole premise centres on the theme of imprisonment (both physical and mental).

When Dickens was a young boy his father was sent to the Marshalsea debtor’s prison whilst the young Dickens went out to work in a blacking warehouse.  This very negative experience served as inspiration for this novel.  The character ‘Little Dorrit’ is Amy Dorrit, a slight young woman, who is born into the Marshalsea and has lived there all her life up to the point where the story first commences.  She looks after her father, an impoverished gentleman, and finds work sewing for people outside of the Marshalsea, whilst her siblings enjoy a better life living with their uncle.

When the Dorrit's receive a change of fortune Amy finds it very hard to live on the other side of the prison walls having known nothing else.  Mr Dorrit, known as the ‘Father of the Marshalsea’, in respect of the many years he has endured there, is a very arrogant and selfish man. He soon rejects all those who have helped him and befriended him in the past and takes his family abroad.  However, even distance does not give him piece of mind, for he lives in fear that his children might let something slip in society or that he will meet someone who is familiar with his previous circumstance.

There is another storyline which centres on the House of Clennam and a suspicious foreign criminal, but I found it rather messy and hard to follow.  The main character from this storyline is Arthur Clennam and he links the two stories having befriended the Dorrits during their imprisonment (Amy had done some sewing for his ailing but iron-willed mother).  Arthur also has dealings with the wonderfully named ‘Circumlocution Office’, which is a government department and a prime example of how things should not be done.  Dickens shows his satirical prowess to great advantage when writing about this office.

Flora Finching - BBC Adaptation
There are many other characters, some relevant and some just filler, but by far my favourite was the kind hearted Flora Finching.  Flora and Arthur had been sweethearts and when they meet again on Arthur's return from overseas she is much changed ie rather rotund and older for her age.  What I loved about her were the references she made about herself, and her weight, and the long dialogues which she delivers at a rate of knots whilst drifting off subject in a big way before finding her way back again. She had me laughing every time, I thought she was brilliant.

John Chivery - BBC Adaptation
Another good character was John Chivery who works at the Marshalsea.  He loves Amy Dorrit, his childhood friend, but is usurped by Arthur Clennam.  He comes up with various epitaphs for his own headstone relevant to whatever event has taken place in each of his scenes. Ie Here lie the mortal remains of John Chivery, never anything worth mentionin', who died of a broken heart, requested with his last breath that the word "Amy" be inscribed over his ashes which was accordingly directed to be done by his afflicted father.   I thought him very adorable and heartbreaking! 

The BBC have a wonderful adaptation available, you can see the trailer here:  Little Dorrit

I just can't get enough of Dickens at the moment, I was only going to read three this year but I've just lined up another two (Hard Times and Our Mutual Friend), but before I delve into them I'm going to read Jane Austen's Persuasion.

So, until we meet again, Happy Reading!