I’m a big fan of early punk and new wave. I’m also a huge fan of classic literature. Here are ten punkish (my husband is forcing this disclaimer: I KNOW these don’t all fall in the “punk” category, but they are in the same vein) theme songs that remind me of some of my favorite literary works.
1. The Catcher in the Rye–“Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed
This was an easy one. Holden’s adventures in New York City connect evenly with Lou Reed’s.
2. Hamlet–“Digital” by Joy Division
Oh Hamlet…so paranoid.
“I feel it closing in, I feel it closing in, day in, day out, day in, day out…”
3. Wuthering Heights–“Mother” by Danzig
Heathcliff. Mothers. Fathers. Lock your daughters up and away from the diabolical Heathcliff.
“Father. Gonna take your daughter out tonight. Gonna show her my world. Oh father.”
Heh, heh…Glen Danzig even kinda looks like Heathcliff.
4. Romeo and Juliet–“What Do I Get” by the Buzzcocks
If they hadn’t died tragically, I think Romeo would have tired of Juliet eventually. He just wanted a girlfriend–he was in love with love. I think Friar Lawrence told him that. But, before Juliet, he was unlucky in love. This is Romeo’s pre-Juliet theme song.
“I just want a lover like any other, what do I get? […] I only get sleepless nights, alone here in my half-empty bed,”
5. The Age of Innocence–“Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground
The sad affair of Newland Archer and Countess Olenska:
It was good what we did yesterday.
And I’d do it once again.
The fact that you are married,
Only proves, you’re my best friend.
But it’s truly, truly a sin.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
6. The Portrait of a Lady–“Reptile” by The Church and “Gut Feeling” by Devo
Gilbert Osmond is truly an evil snake, and Isabel Archer doesn’t realize it until she is trapped into marriage with him! These two songs encapsulate what I think that must feel like.
Too dangerous to keep.
Too feeble to let go.
And you want to bite the hand.
Should have stopped this long ago.
I looked for sniffy linings
but you’re rotten to the core
I’ve had just about all I can take
you know I can’t take it no more
Got a gut feeling
7. Bleak House–“I Love Livin’ in the City” by Fear and “That’s Entertainment” by The Jam and “Boredom” by The Buzzcocks
The nastiness that is London is perfectly set to music in the gritty “I Love Livin’ in the City” and the bitter “That’s Entertainment”. Dickens would’ve approved.
Bodies wasted in the street,
People dyin’ on the street,
But the suburban scumbags, they don’t care,
Just get fat and dye their hair!
A smash of glass and the rumble of boots –
An electric train and a ripped up ‘phone booth –
Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat –
Lights going out and a kick in the balls –
And for Lady Dedlock, “Boredom” by The Buzzcocks. Certainly her theme song!
8. Sense and Sensibility–“Ever Fallen in Love” by The Buzzcocks
Another Buzzcocks tune, this time for Marianne Dashwood and Willoughby. Theirs was an unfortunate love affair. The fast pace of this tune reminds me of their mad dash love affair.
I can’t see much of a future
Unless we find out what’s to blame
What a shame
And we won’t be together much longer
Unless we realize that we are the same
Ever fallen in love with someone?
Ever fallen in love? […]
You shouldn’t’ve fallen in love with
9. Washington Square–“Shakespeare’s Sister” by The Smiths
I admit that I haven’t read this book yet, but I saw the movie, and this song, particularly a certain part, reminds me of the young heiress trying to get past her father so that she might run away with her fortune-hunter(?) suitor.
But I’m going to meet the one I love
So please don’t stand in my way
Because I’m going to meet the one I love
No, Mamma, let me go !
10. The Portable Dorothy Parker–“Love Like Anthrax” by Gang of Four
I’m pretty sure that Dorothy Parker would have been into punk rock had she been alive. Surely, she would have approved of the lyrics in this song, which takes the same sardonic view of love:
“Love’ll get you like a case of anthrax
And that’s something I don’t want to catch.”
• Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw
• Paperback: 246 pages
• Publisher: Broadview, 2005 (originally published in 1898)
• ISBN: 1551116278
• Genre: Drama/ 19th Century Literature
• Recommended For: Fans of classic literature, specifically turn-of-the-century literature and fans of drama in general.
Quick Review: Earns a 86 %, or 4.3 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. Mrs. Warren’s Profession Rubric
Overall, I recommend this to those interested in adding another strong female heroine to their top ten lists. Vivie has certainly made it into my top five!
How I Got Here: I’ve had this book since college, as it was on the required reading list for an English Lit. survey class. I have to admit that I didn’t read this one–I wasn’t always the best student! I finally decided to pick this one up as it satisfies tasks for the Award-Winning Challenge (Shaw was a Nobel Prize-Winner), Back to the Classics Challenge, and A Classics Challenge.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
One of Bernard Shaw’s early plays of social protest, Mrs Warren’s Profession places the protagonist’s decision to become a prostitute in the context of the appalling conditions for working class women in Victorian England. Faced with ill health, poverty, and marital servitude on the one hand, and opportunities for financial independence, dignity, and self-worth on the other, Kitty Warren follows her sister into a successful career in prostitution. Shaw’s fierce social criticism in this play is driven not by conventional morality, but by anger at the hypocrisy that allows society to condemn prostitution while condoning the discrimination against women that makes prostitution inevitable.
This Broadview edition includes a comprehensive historical and critical introduction; extracts from Shaw’s prefaces to the play; Shaw’s expurgations of the text; early reviews of the play in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain; and contemporary contextual documents on prostitution, incest, censorship, women’s education, and the “New Woman.”
My Analysis and Critique:
For me, the strength of this play was rooted in the character of Vivie. I had an acute connection with her. Some reviews of Mrs. Warren’s Profession have included remarks that Vivie is harsh and unlikeable. Well, I’ve been called harsh and cold for my own approach to certain topics and issues in my life, and when reading this play, I felt as if I had met my former life self.
Vivie is a fascinating character (see my detailed character profile here), as is her mother, Mrs. Warren. Mrs. Warren’s profession is prostitution. She has accumulated a lot of wealth via her rise from prostitute to madam of numerous European brothels. Her success has afforded Vivie an excellent education, yet has cost her a mother, as she only just meeting her mother for the first time at the start of the play. This might account for some of her coldness.
When Vivie first learns of her mother’s line of work, she is forgiving. Yet, once she learns that the work is ongoing, even though her mother has gained all of the wealth she could ever want, Vivie is repulsed and disowns her mother. While some may argue that Vivie’s reaction to her mother’s current profession is rather more conventional than she claims to be, I think it shows more of her logic and feminist ideals. She can stand by this choice of work when it is made by a woman with no opportunities, wealth, or even hope. However, when it is made by a woman with lots of money and no need of further work, it is unacceptable. She takes particular offense to her mother, as a madam, subjecting more young girls to this line of work: “when I think of how helpless nine out of ten young girls would be in the hands of you […]!”
The rest of the characters are good, but flat: the vicar with skeletons in his closet, the fortune-hunting young man after Vivie’s money, the artist selling the merits of art and beauty, the scoundrel/gentleman. All helped move the plot along, but this is really a mother-daughter show.
Overall, I recommend this to those interested in adding another strong female heroine to their top ten lists. Vivie has certainly been added to my top five!
– It’s funny that this, the second classic that I’ve read this year, takes place, in part, on Chancery Lane. Bleak House was all about it, and Vivie loves working there. This has caused me to have daydreams of Vivie battling Tulkinghorn, the misogynist lawyer in Bleak House. Tulkinghorn was pretty formidable and unflappable, but I bet Vivie could make him flinch!
– Another Dickens connection: Mrs. Warren could have opened a house for fallen women as Dickens did in real life. Dickens’ “Home” was for women in the same situation as young Mrs. Warren–young, impoverished women with no solutions to their low situations other than prostitution. Dickens provided them with room and board, as well as home-making lessons and a garden, in hopes of setting them up with future husbands abroad. Mrs. Warren knows the life of these young girls intimately and could use her wealth to help these girls rise above their situations. I’m sure Vivie would approve of that!
I haven’t checked in with the Sunday Salon in a while, so today is a good time to do so!
Well, as mentioned on Friday, I was in an apathetic funk all week. I didn’t do much of anything, including blogging. I did write a Happy Birthday post for Charles Dickens, as it would’ve been wrong not to as I spent so much time getting to know him in January. Which, by the way, I did complete all of my posts for Charles Dickens month and finished Bleak House in January. Win for me!
I have been reading in my funk, and am still reading Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw and I Want My MTV by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum. I should have both books finished this week. Yesterday, I picked up volumes 2 and 3 of Locke and Key by Joe Hill at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, so I’ll be reading those this week as well.
Speaking of Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, after much debate about affiliation, I have decided to hitch my wagon to Mysterious Galaxy and IndieBound books as an affiliate. For the last month or so, I have been considering what it means to be an affiliate, and would it be like selling out or going commercial if I did so? Am I plugging in like Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival? I don’t want my blog to be a crummy commercial. After being approached by Audible and I considered Amazon, I decided that I would affiliate my blog with something that can use some attention. I realized that I could use affiliation to show my love for my favorite bookstore and help support other struggling independent bookstores. So, I applied for and was accepted as an affiliate for Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore and IndieBound. Now, if, by some off-chance, a reader clicks on one of the links that is connected to MG books or IndieBound AND decides to BUY the book via the link, I will get a small commission. However, that is unlikely, although it would be very cool. But, at least I am spreading the word about independent bookstores and Mysterious Galaxy, the coolest bookstores in Southern California (there are two- one in San Diego and one in Redondo Beach).
Another blogging thing I was considering was copyright. I see all of my friends’ blogs have little copyright symbols or some sort of copyright statement at the bottom of their page. What’s the deal with this? Do I need to do this? What do I need to do to get started on this? If anyone can give me some advice on this topic, I’d appreciate it!
Meanwhile, in my outside-of-blogging life, my husband and I have a dilemma on our hands. It looks like this:
This is a young gentleman who we like to call Mr. Fluffers or Morgan Freeman (he’s so cool and calm around our own hissing cats that he seems to be ready to handle any job in a crisis, much like Freeman in his presidential roles). He’s been hanging out on our porch the last few days, and the collar that he wore on Wednesday is no longer there. So, there is no contact info. One of his eyes is sorta cataract-y, and he’s awfully thin and needy, so we decided to let him into the house last night. Our little lady cats are not too happy with this decision, but what are we to do? He might get eaten by a coyote or beaten up by one of those ginormous raccoons I see fishing in the sewers. Today, I will make some posters to post around the neighborhood and put a “found cat” listing on Craig’s List. Then, today or tomorrow, I will take him into a vet or the humane society to see if he has a microchip that we can scan. Poor Morgan Freeman. Is he somebody’s lost baby? Is he abandoned? Who are you Morgan Freeman?
Other mentionables before I sign off on Sunday–
• I am offering four giveaways this week! I am giving away Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and And Then There Were None. These are all in very good condition (Kavalier and Clay and And Then There Were None are brand new!) and are all very popular and/or acclaimed books. I will mail them out next week, to anywhere! So, sign up people! I don’t have that many followers on my site, and not many people have signed up, so you have a very good chance of winning! Just do it! Click on the links attached to each of the titles above to be directed to the announcement post and sign-up form. All I need is your name and contact info. That’s it! You don’t have to follow my blog and you don’t need to leave a comment. I’m just trying to share the love with other book lovers!
– Charles Dickens Month in January–COMPLETE, with Bleak House read and 5 Dickens- related posts written.
– End of the World Challenge: have read 2952 pages toward my goal of 3500 pages (really? only 3500 pages? that’s the end of the world? someone has to have won by now. I’ll be done with this challenge by the end of the week! oh, I just read the rules. it’s the person who reads the most pages by the end of the year that gets paid out a penny per page via giftcard, up to a limit of 3500 pages. I see…).
– The Stephen King Project: have read two books towards my goal of 12 books. This will be a piece of cake!
– The Dark Tower Challenge: have read the first two books of the series. I am actually holding myself back from reading The Wastelands right now. I want to have just finished Wizard and Glass when The Wind Through the Keyhole comes out in late April. I guess I’ll read a book per month!
– The Award-Winning Challenge: have read two books towards this challenge, and am currently working on the third.
– Back to the Classics Challenge and A Classics Challenge: have read one book towards both of these challenges, and am working on the second. I have written one post for A Classics Challenge, and will probably put my February post out later this week.
– What’s in a Name Challenge: Have read one book (Bleak House) towards the challenge. 5 more to go!
Well, I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday! If you have any advice regarding copyrighting blogs, please leave a comment! Well, of course, please leave a comment about whatever you want. Also, don’t forget to sign up for one of my giveaways! I want to give you a book!
It seems that San Diego is paying tribute to Dickens on his birthday–it is as gray and rainy today as the scenes he described in Bleak House. I can almost see Lady Dedlock, staring out my window at the passing traffic on this rainy evening, muttering “I’m so bored.”
To celebrate Dickens’ 200th, I completed this little meme on my experience with Dickens. Thanks to Yet Another Period Drama Blog for posting it and Jillian at A Room of One’s Own for directing me to it!
How were you first introduced to Charles Dickens?
I was first introduced to Dickens via Mickey’s Christmas Carol. It was my favorite holiday movie every year!
Which Charles Dickens novels and stories have you read? Which are your favorites?
Unfortunately, I’ve only read
and last month
Which Charles Dickens novel(s) do you most want to read?
I really want to read David Copperfield, as it is considered to be his greatest masterpiece. I also want to read Nicholas Nickleby as I think it is rather comedic.
What are your favorite Charles Dickens quotes (up to three)?
My favorite quote from Bleak House was from John Jarndyce to Richard:
If you had the abilities of all the great men, past and present, you could do nothing well, without sincerely meaning it, and setting about it. If you entertain the supposition that any real success, in great things or small, ever was or could be, ever will or can be, wrested from Fortune by fits and starts, leave that wrong idea here… (218)
That is some of the best advice I’ve read since Polonius’s farewell tips to Laertes in Hamlet! If some people I knew in real life would take this advice, they would save themselves a whole lot of heartache!
Who are your Top 3 favorite Dickens heroines? and why?
Dickens isn’t known for writing great heroines, so I don’t have any yet, and I doubt that I will.
Who are your Top 3 favorite Dickens heroes? and why?
From Bleak House: John Jarndyce is an amazing man. I also really liked Mr. Boythorn and Mr. Bucket, though neither could be considered heroes really.
Which three Dickens villains do you most love to hate?
Ebenezer Scrooge, Estella, and Mr. Tulkinghorn
Which Dickens characters (up to three) do you find the most funny?
Absolute favorite is Mr. Guppy. I “hoorayed” whenever he appeared on the page.
If you could authorize a new film adaptation of one of Dickens’s novels, which would it be and why?
Great Expectations, although I haven’t seen all of the current adaptations.
If you could have lunch with Charles Dickens today, what question would you most like to ask him?
Would you read aloud for me? Some good, comical scene please. Maybe one with Mr. Guppy or Mr. Boythorn.
Have you ever read a Dickens biography or watched a biographical film about him?
I read Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin in January.
How many Dickens adaptations have you seen?
– Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1982)
– Oliver! (1968, starring Ann Margret and my boyfriend Jack Wild, of Pufnstuf)
– Scrooged (1988, starring Bill Murray in the Scroogish role)
– A Christmas Carol (1984, starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge)
– The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992, starring Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge)
– Great Expectations (1998, starring Ethan Hawke as Pip, Robert DeNiro as Magwitch, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Estella)
– Nicholas Nickleby (2002, with Jamie Bell, Christopher Plummer, Nathan Lane, and Anne Hathaway)
– Bleak House (am currently watching)
Which Dickens adaptation is your favorite?
So far, it’s Bleak House. It’s perfect!
Have you seen multiple versions of A Christmas Carol? Which version is your favorite?
Yes. Probably the George C. Scott version.
Who is your favorite Dickens villain and (if applicable) who does your favorite portrayal of them?
Mr. Tulkinghorn, played by Charles Dance and Bill Sykes, who was frighteningly played by Oliver Reed
Have you seen any musical adaptations of any of Dickens’ stories? If so, which is your favorite song from it?
Umm yeah! Consider Yourself, sung by the Artful Dodger, as played by my childhood musical boyfriend Jack Wild (he had the best name!)
Happy birthday, Mr. Dickens!
Thank you for all of your wonderful stories, characters, and the important changes you instigated in our world!
• Bleak House by Charles Dickens
• Hardcover: 1069 pages
• Publisher: Heron Books, No Publishing Date available (originally published in 1853)
• ISBN: 1300203016R3
• Genre: Classic; Victorian Novel
• Recommended For: Anyone who enjoys classic novels rich with characters, plot twists, masterful language and tone, and satire.
Quick Review: Earns a 94 %, or 4.7 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. Bleak House Review Rubric
Truly canonical and a classic. What all great literature should strive for: a balance of well-constructed plot, lively and real characters, perfection in tone, language, and style, and a multitude of themes that forces the reader to ruminate.
How I Got Here: I found some beautiful hardcover copies of Bleak House (split into Part 1 and 2) at a used-bookstore, and decided that I would kick off my Classics challenges with this novel. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since November!
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
Bleak House opens in the twilight of foggy London, where fog grips the city most densely in the Court of Chancery. The obscure case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, in which an inheritance is gradually devoured by legal costs, the romance of Esther Summerson and the secrets of her origin, the sleuthing of Detective Inspector Bucket and the fate of Jo the crossing-sweeper, these are some of the lives Dickens invokes to portray London society, rich and poor, as no other novelist has done. Bleak House, in its atmosphere, symbolism and magnificent bleak comedy, is often regarded as the best of Dickens. A ‘great Victorian novel’, it is so inventive in its competing plots and styles that it eludes interpretation.
‘Perhaps his best novel … when Dickens wrote Bleak House he had grown up’
G. K. Chesterton
‘One of the finest of all English satires’
My Analysis and Critique:
I have written so much on Dickens this month, and as Bleak House is near-perfect as a novel, I will categorize my praise into literary elements:
Plot: Simply amazing. Dickens made use of cliffhangers, detective-style story-telling, and gave closure to all characters and storylines. Surprises abound. I thought the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case might still be going on at the end, but that too was resolved, to my (and the characters’) surprise. Part comedy, part caper, part melodrama, part romance–all good!
Characters: The most amazing characters! Not a single one (well over 50, in my self-made character list) was minor, and each had their own well-defined voice. For more on Dickens’ use of characterization, read my previous feature post.
Theme: So many ongoing and critical themes! The mess of the legal system. The social inequities of London. Misguided philanthropy. The varying types of love. So much to ruminate over in this book. I loved it!
Setting: So often praised for his plot, characters, and themes, I think Dickens’ use of setting might often be overlooked. As I mentioned in a previous post, London is, in itself, a character in this novel. Dickens explores and showcases all sorts of areas in London: Chancery Court, Tom-all-Alones, and the townhouses of the wealthy. Other scenes come to life as well- the rich countryside of Jarndyce’s Bleak House and the homeland of the Dedlocks and Boythorn, Chesney Wold. He even spends a short time in a factory town in the north. All were alive and well-illustrated in this novel.
Style: Dickens’ voice, his satire, his comedy, his disgust and joy, really make this story real, as if you are gathered around Dickens, listening to him tell it. It really makes you envious of those Victorians who lined up to listen to his public readings. He was a very gifted writer; his words are put together as well as Shakespeare’s, and they are a treasure. Like Shakespeare, I think Dickens is one I will want to read again, if simply for his phrasing and the delight I feel at his genius use of language.
One Minor Gripe: Esther. Esther takes turns with Dickens as narrator in this novel, and many readers are terribly annoyed with her. I am not as annoyed by Esther’s sweetness and naiveté as other reviewers, but I do have one issue with her. At the mid-point of the story, she has some belief that a certain man has been in love with her, but won’t love her anymore for certain circumstances (as Mr. Guppy would put it). So, tragically, she gives up this potential romance and goes on being a constant shoulder to everyone around her.
The problem is, I never saw where she got this idea of a budding romance. She certainly had a crush on him, but there was no evidence in the storyline to show that the feelings were reciprocated. We (she, and I, the reader) barely ever even saw him! Well, I saw him more than she did, when Dickens was narrating, but she wasn’t there! From what I saw, they had barely ever had any dialogue and saw each other only a few times at this point. I’m not sure if this was a flaw in Dickens’ plot or characterization. So, I blame Esther. She’s making things up in her head. That’s all there is to it!
My discussion on the Court of Chancery (a major part of the story): “Suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!”
My reflection on Dickens’ use of characterization in Bleak House: Dickens: The Master of Characterization
My reflection on Dickens’ views on philanthropy: “Spasmodic Benevolence”: Dickens and Philanthropy
Last week, I compared Charles Dickens to Angelina Jolie and George Clooney, as his life was filled with philanthropic pursuits. Then, I retracted my statement, and commented that he probably wouldn’t have approved of their efforts, and is better compared to Michael Moore. This opinion was formed through my reading of Bleak House and my consideration of Dickens’ own charities, which are recounted in Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: A Life. Judging by his satirical characterization of philanthropists in Bleak House, it seems to me that Dickens thought charity should be focused towards the many problems at home and not towards problems abroad.
In Bleak House:
Readers are introduced to a variety of do-gooders, some shown to be very effective, while others are simply over-the-top ridiculous. Two such ridiculous philanthropists in Bleak House are Mrs. Jellyby and Mrs. Pardiggle.
Mrs. Jellyby is introduced early on in the novel, as Esther and the two Jarndyce and Jarndyce wards, Richard and Ada, stay at the Jellyby house prior to their move into Jarndyce’s Bleak House. Mrs. Jellyby is terribly interested in African affairs.
The African project at present employs my whole time. It involves me in correspondence with public bodies, and with private individuals anxious for the welfare of their species all over the country. I am happy to say it is advancing. We hope by this time next year to have from a hundred and fifty to two hundred healthy families cultivating coffee and educating the natives of Borrioboola-Gha […].(45)
While Mrs. Jellyby’s intentions are very honorable, she lives in a microcosm of her charitable endeavors, ignoring the needs of her family as they live in squalor: the house is a mess, the children are running wild, and her husband is ignored and driven to bankruptcy, all while she holes up in a room writing letters to potential donors for her African cause. In short, she is blind to the fact that her life and her family’s life is a mess, all due to her obsession with saving Africa. Dickens calls this “telescopic philanthropy,” (41).
Another thoughtless philanthropist in Dickens’ work is Mrs. Pardiggle, who is a good friend of Jellyby, but misuses her family in a different way. While Jellyby ignores her family, Pardiggle forces her children, all young boys, to join in her philanthropic efforts:
Egbert, my eldest (twelve) is the boy who sent out his pocket-money, to the amount of five-and-threepence, to the Tockahoopo Indians. Oswald, my second (ten-and-a-half), is the child who contributed two-and-ninepence to the Great National Smithers Testimonial. Francis, my third (nine), one-and-sixpence-halfpenny; Felix, my fourth (seven), eightpence to the Superannuated Widows; Alfred, my youngest (five), has voluntarily enrolled himself in the Infant Bonds of Joy, and is pledged never, through life, to use tobacco in any form. (123)
Again, Pardiggle’s efforts in charity, and in teaching her sons the value of charitable acts, seem very honorable on the surface. However, she and Jellyby, and all of the other philanthropic figures in Bleak House, can be surmised by Mr. Jarndyce’s observation: “there were two classes of charitable people; one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all,” (122). Mrs. Jellyby and Pardiggle fall into the former category, while Jarndyce falls into the latter category.
Jarndyce is truly the best kind of do-gooder. Throughout Bleak House, readers bear witness to many poor souls damaged by the poisoned society of England: Jo, the street-sweeper; Charley and her siblings (orphans); Jenny, the impoverished woman whose infant dies in her arms and is married to an abusive drunk; and more. Then, there is, of course, Esther, Ada, and Richard, all orphans whom Jarndyce takes into his home as wards. Jarndyce is the type who hears about a person in need, and does all that he can to help them. For example, he explains how Esther came to live with him: “I hear of a good little orphan girl without a protector, and I take it into my head to be that protector. She grows up and more than justifies my good opinion, and I remain her guardian and friend,” (145).
Through the contrast of these two types of charitable people, Dickens shows his true feelings on effective philanthropy.
In his own life, Dickens mirrored Jarndyce in his philanthropic ventures. Like Jarndyce, Dickens often came to the aid of orphans. For example, in 1843, “he was engaged in one of his most admirable charitable endeavors, raising funds for the children of Edward Elton [(six daughters and an eight-year-old son)]. Dickens steamed into action, forming a committee, arranging a benefit, visiting the children, and arranging for the eldest girl, Esther, to be given a place in training college,” (Tomalin, 146). I’m sure it’s no coincidence that this girl’s name was the same as one of the primary characters and orphans in Bleak House.
Dickens also came to the aid of the homeless, starving, and disabled, types like Jo, via his involvement in “Ragged Schools”. These were schools set up in the poorest parts of London (like Tom-all-Alones) by volunteer teachers who were “prepared to teach anyone who came” (Tomalin, 147). He gave advice on the curriculum provided at the schools, particularly regarding the religious training: “‘To impress them, even with the idea of a God, when their own condition is so desolate, becomes a monstrous task,’ and teaching such things as Catechism was beside the point to children whose lives are ‘one continued punishment,'” (Tomalin, 147). This opinion reminded me of Pardiggle who delivers Bibles and Bible-readings to the very poor and scolds them on their house-keeping, blind to the causes of these supposed defects. One man defends his home by growling:
Is my daughter a-washin? Yes, she is a-washin. Look at the water. Smell it! That’s wot we drinks. How do you like it, and what do you think of gin instead! An’t my place dirty? Yes, it is dirty–it’s nat’rally dirty, and it’s nat’rally onwholesome; and we’ve had five dirty and onwholesome children, as is all dead infants, and so much the better for them, and for us besides. Have I read the little book wot you left? No, I an’t read the little book wot you left. There an’t nobody here as knows how to read it. (Dickens, 130)
Pardiggle pays no mind, and goes on with her reading, planning to return the following day, though she makes no difference in their lives.
The biggest charitable act that Dickens engaged in was his “Home” for lowly young women. In this building, he offered room and board, education, and housekeeping practice to specially selected women. He geared this program towards two types of women: “those who were already known to be prostitutes, and those likely to drift into it because they lacked family support, had fallen into bad company, could not get work, become thieves or pickpockets, or were simply starving and in some cases suicidal,” (Tomalin, 205).
Dickens’ goal with the Home was to prepare these women for new, better lives. He didn’t save all of them, and
Dickens knew very well that he was only touching a huge social problem which had its roots in society’s neglect of the housing and education of the poor, its tolerance of the grim conditions in which workhouse children were raised, its acceptance of the double standard and the miserable pay and treatment of the lowest grades of female domestic servants- and also perhaps in something eradicable in the natures of men and women. (Tomalin, 208).
Bringing It All Together:
So, it seems to me that Dickens was very much concerned that more needed to be done by his society for his society, rather than for distant societies abroad. This is driven home in Bleak House with Dickens’ narration concerning poor Jo. In one scene, Jo
sits down to breakfast on the door-step of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and gives it a brush when he has finished, as an acknowledgement of the accomodation. He admires the size of the edifice and wonders what it’s all about. He has no idea, poor wretch, of the spiritual destitution of a coral reef in the Pacific, or what it costs to look up the precious souls among the cocoa-nuts and bread-fruit,” (Dickens, 268).
Here these do-gooders have a charity case on their front step, and they are oblivious to it!
Hopefully, Dickens’ message got across to his readers and more was done to cure “the physical sickness of London” (Tomalin, 240).
Dickens, Charles. Bleak House: Part One. Geneva: Heron, no date given (1853).
Tomalin, Claire. Charles Dickens: A Life. New York: Penguin, 2011.
Yesterday, I started at 8:00 a.m. and ended around 11:30 p.m. I made progress in two books: The Gunslinger by Stephen King and Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Bleak House was read when I was devoted solely to reading on the couch, while The Gunslinger was listened to while I drove, washed dishes, and cooked. It was a pretty good system that I plan to use today! If you’d like to read my post from yesterday, click here.
The goal is that I finish Bleak House, and it seems likely that I will, as I only have about 150 pages left.
Also, I will post an update every two hours on what I’m reading and how many pages I’ve read. Included in these updates are a few of the notes that I have written on post-its while reading the pages. This is a fun way to share my reading thoughts.
So, enough jabber-jaw…let’s get reading!
My first post begins with what I read last night before bed.
Day/Time: Saturday, 11:30 p.m.
Reading: Bleak House
Pages Read: 57 p
Total Pages Read: 315
–Bucket IS good at what he does.
– She still won in the end.
– Connectivity everywhere!
Day/Time: Sunday, 9:00 a.m.
Reading: Bleak House
Pages Read: 92
Today’s Total Pages Read: 92
Weekend’s Total Pages Read: 402
– Now, I like Bucket! Or respect his abilities, I guess.
– As despicable as the nobility is, I want things to work out for the Dedlocks!
– Too true! Like Downton Abbey!
– Ha! Michael Jackson!
– God, he’s a bastard! Why would Jarndyce consider him a friend?
– It’s believable now, but not before!
Day/Time: Saturday, 11:15 a.m.
Reading: The Gunslinger (listened as I cooked breakfast AND dinner (in the crockpot!)
Pages Read: 37 p
Today’s Total Pages Read: 129
Weekend’s Total Pages Read: 439
– The narration is good, but I can’t help but feel that my mind does better justice to the characters’ voices than this guy does.
Day/Time: Saturday, 1:15 p.m.
Reading: Bleak House (I finished!) and The Gunslinger (listened as I walked to the local corner store and bought a root beer for this very warm day!)
Pages Read: Bleak House: 51 p
The Gunslinger: 19 p
Today’s Total Pages Read: 199
Weekend’s Total Pages Read: 509
Bleak House: -I’m so glad things are working out for him!
– Jarndyce is sooo good.
– Yay! More Guppy!
– Ha! Mrs. Guppy is as good as her son!
– Ha! A bit melodramatic, but that’s what he gets!
The Gunslinger: – I forgot how awesome the mutant scene was!
– Again, so much foreshadowing. Almost too much!
I will take a reading break for about an hour or two and work on my Bleak House review! Be back here in the evening probably!
Day/Time: Saturday, 6:15 p.m.
Reading: The Gunslinger (I finished!)
The Gunslinger: 40 p
Today’s Total Pages Read: 239
Weekend’s Total Pages Read: 549
– How much did King add into this?! He basically gives the ending of the whole series away here!
Thus ends my weekend readathon! I accomplished 2X my goal (2 books for 1!) and the experience has been wonderful! I’m done reading for the day as I prepare to eat dinner and watch Midnight in Paris, followed by Downton Abbey!
Long days and pleasant nights, gunslingers!