By DATo_Diomedies_DATon on
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Many times in the novels we read we find that there is some object, place, or behavior by a character that is intentionally inserted by the author to act as a metaphor i.e. something which represents something else. Charles Dickens was a master of this device. I've included a couple of examples from the novel to state my case.
Part 4 : Symbols
As stated in one of my other posts, when Dickens wants to make a point he takes you by the hand back to something he has previously stated time and time again. In so doing he is saying loud and clear "Wake up !!! I'm trying to tell you something."
Peggotty's Sewing Box
Do you remember how often Peggotty appears in the story? And can you remember how often her box of sewing supplies is beside her? In it, besides what we can imagine as spools of thread and buttons ect, she has a bit of wax candle. The wax of the candle is stroked over the thread to stiffen the end of the thread so it will more easily go into the eye of a needle. The measuring tape. The box itself with a picture of a pink-shaded dome of St. Paul's cathedral on the sliding lid.
Early in the novel when David is very young he mentions his father's grave and how sorry it made him feel that his father was lying outdoors in the wind, and the rain, and the darkness of the graveyard while he, his mother, and Peggotty were snug inside the house with the candles lit. When l'il Emily leaves, Mr. Peggotty puts a lighted candle in the window of the boat-house every night so that Emily might see it and be reminded of her home, and those who love her within, and to bid her to return. Peggotty's bit of wax candle, Dickens is saying loud and clear, is a symbol of the home. The tape measure is the measure of time and the constancy of true love over time. The lid of the box itself ... what does the picture of a pink dome seem to suggest to you? It is a woman's breast. Peggotty's sewing box and the contents mentioned are symbols of her love and constancy to David. He will always have a home with her if he needs one (candle), her love will be constant in time (the cloth tape), and she will do her best to take the place of the mother who has died in his life if he ever needs her (the dome of St. Paul's - the breast - a universal symbol of motherhood).
Mr. Dick's Kite
Mr. Dick is crazy, but we adore him to distraction. We feel that Aunt Betsy is totally insane as well when she asks his opinion of anything, but we come to learn WHY she asks his opinion. Mr. Dick, in his simplicity, is capable of cutting to the root of a problem because his mind is uncluttered with the morass of superfluous nonsense that sane people carry around with them. When Mr. Dick gives an opinion is is usually the most logical thing to do. Mr. Dick becomes friends with Annie Strong and her husband, Dr. Strong. They both think the world of him and he likewise loves them. Mr. Dick is very unhappy with the fact that there seems to be some difficulty in their marriage and he asks David if David thinks he is crazy. David loves Mr. Dick too much to lie to him and tells him he does think so. To which Mr. Dick becomes hysterically happy because, as he so typically correctly "reasons", as a crazy person he can interfere in the marriage in an attempt to reconcile the couple, a thing a sane person could not do as it would be unacceptable as a matter of form and propriety. He is crazy and can be excused if he takes liberties. And Mr. Dick does interfere and does precisely the right thing to reconcile the pair.
Mr. Dick is forever making and flying kites. David tells us that when the kite is aloft and soaring Mr. Dick is in great joy but when it comes back down to earth he seems bewildered and confused and doesn't seem to know what to do with himself. The kite is representative of Mr. Dick himself. It is plastered with pages of his "memorial" (his autobiography). When his mind is up in the clouds he is in his element. In this state he can soar over the heads of all sane people unencumbered by the obstacles sane people must navigate around or through down on the ground. When he returns to earth, and the practicality of attempting to live in some structured manner not of his own choosing he has, in a manner of speaking, lost his wings.