By DATo_Diomedies_DATon on
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
I have noticed that when Dickens wants to make a special point he comes back to it time and time again. He is nudging us in the ribs and is saying, "Here, look, I'm trying to tell you something."
Part 2 : Reoccurring Motifs
EXAMPLE : Tommy's Skeletons
Traddles constantly draws skeletons as a child at Salem House. Why? Why does Dickens bring us back time and time again to this practice employed by Traddles? Sometimes in a role playing game one must advance further into the game to find a clue or an object or weapon which is needed for use in a previous scenario of the game. Then we must then go back with our new-found tools and fit the pieces in their proper place. It is only at the conclusion of the book that we find out what kind of man Tommy has become in spite of his early handicaps and we can make the inference as to how it all happened.
Traddles draws skeletons constantly, but most profusely when he is under duress. Mr. Creekle beats Traddles every day. He punishes him constantly. At one point David tells us that Tommy Traddles is placed in isolation and when he comes out his notebook is fairly covered in skeletons. Tommy mentions that he has considered writing to his uncle (his guardian) to complain of his treatment at Salem House but never does - instead, he draws skeletons.
Many children persecuted as Tommy has been grow up to become Uriah Heeps - dispensing the evil that they received as children to others - but not Tommy. Tommy Traddles grows up to be a very well-adjusted man and arguably one of, (if not THE) greatest success stories of the entire novel.
After David and Tommy have grown to be adults they meet again and David mentions Mr. Creekle. Tommy bursts into a big smile and says words to the effect, "Good old Mr. Creekle! I wonder how he's doing." David is amazed that Tommy is not incensed with hate at the mention of Mr. Creekle's name but Tommy just says something about all those bad things having taken place long ago and he has forgotten them.
It is my opinion that Dickens intends for Tommy to be the DIRECT foil of Steerforth. Tommy is unattractive and chubby as a child. He makes mistakes in judgement and is not the brightest bulb on the tree. He is not rich or from the upper class. He is persecuted by Mr. Creekle. He would be the boy last picked to be on a team by the other members of Salem House. Steerforth, on the other hand, is handsome and aristocratic. He is rich. He is admired and respected not only by the boys but also by the teachers at Salem House. Steerforth is the person everyone, especially David, wants to have as their special friend.
When Steerforth challenges Mr. Mell and is ultimately the cause of Mr. Mell losing is position only Traddles stands up to him and takes him to account for what he has done. Steerforth essentially calls Traddles a sissy ("Miss Poly" I think) for being so sentimental towards Mr. Mell being without a job. The other boys are starting to waver in sympathy to Tommy's position till Steerfoth says, "Don't you know I will write to my mother and she will send him some money." Steerfoth comes from a class which believes that money can solve all problems. Steerforth goes on to say that what he did he did for the good of the boys and everyone cheers him, including David .... Tommy cries for Mr. Mell and is punished for it.
Tommy grows up to be a lawyer and it is suggested, though it does not transpire within the covers of the book, that he will someday become a judge. We know that he will, even though Dickens does not tell us so. What greater judge could there be than a man who, even as a child, could see through the BS of an issue; a child who could see the truth unaffected by the upper class position of he that would lie and would, unfortunately, be believed by others simply on the basis of the position he holds in society?
So why did Tommy Traddles draw skeletons? By drawing skeletons he purged himself of the hate, the despondency, the anguish, and the pain he received by those who held power over him. With each skeleton he drew he looked horror in the face and this allowed him to let go of the bitterness he experienced in his youth. Tommy Traddles grew up to become one of the happiest and most beloved characters in the novel by all who knew him, Steerforth on the other hand was led ultimately to his destruction by his own sense of arrogance.