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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Friday, February 12, 2016

One of Dickens's funniest characters - and one of his weakest

One of Dickens's devices in Bleak House - sort of a cheap trick, but still - is to measure the worthiness of various men based on their reaction when they encounter the once very pretty Esther after her smallpox infection and see her face now marked with scars. One extreme is the lawyer's clerk Guppy who is fawning and solicitous until Esther raises her veil (a cheap trick on her part, here, and something the kindly Esther would be unlikely to do) and he sees her scarred face and wriggles to undo any profession he may have made of enduring love. He's really one of the most amusing of Dickens's characters, as he takes on every conversation like a legal deposition, in his unique, jumbled way. In any event, Dickens isn't entirely cruel to Guppy - he's very kind and friendly toward Esther once she agrees that he is no longer bound to love her (obviously, she had no interest in him from the outset and was, in my opinion, a little mean to him, as mean as she can get anyway). He's quite funny, as they depart, running back and forth not sure whether to still be solicitous or whether to turn his back on her. The opposite character is Dr. Woodcourt (?), the one who, it's obvious even to the dullest readers, will eventually marry Esther. He is sorry for her suffering but still feels as warm toward her as when he saw her last. Dr W is one of the weakest of Dickens's characters, in my view, as he's just a cipher, almost inserted as a necessary plot element, to balance the kindly but unsuitable Mr. Jarndyce, who has overstepped the boundaries a little by proposing to Esther - how could she refuse, but what a wrong a limiting choice it would be for her.

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