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Dickens & Andersen


Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House  

Page 2

      In genuine fairy tales everything is, in a certain way, fascinating: everything exists, happens, co-operates, fights or remains aloof, within a metaphysical horizon. The bewitched princes of the fairy tales are victims of a sort of magic, they suffer an unjust defeat, a defeat, however, that proves the most appropriate way of testing them, manifesting that all of their hopes rest outward, to the ability of someone to understand under the horrible magic their noble life. This way heroism is attributed to love, while beauty becomes a spiritual quality and only as such it has a permanent value. Otherwise, namely as an agreeable exterior, it is used by evil powers to defraud.

DAVID COPPERFIELD's author had been appreciating Andersen so much as to call and host him in his home in England. His admiration, however, faded rather quickly, as we can infer by a note that Dickens attached to the mirror of his guest room: "Hans Christian Andersen had been sleeping in this room for five weeks, which to the family seemed like AGES." Yet, it would be interesting to look at what Dickens had seen in Andersen:

   "In a utilitarian epoch, more than ever, it is extremely significant to respect the fairy Tales. With their lucidity and purity and innocent exaggerations, they teach patience, kindness, care for the poor and the old, nice treatment of the animals." (The New York Review of Books, July 27, 1991).

     Dickens, in other words, did not understand but only what existed in his own works, and less and secondarily in Andersen: the humanitarian behavior. We follow Oliver with a constant wish: let him find at last a warm home; a person to care for him (of a relative if possible), and plenty of tasty food. What kind of fate, however, will the world have after it becomes just and hospitable? To this question Dickens does not answer.

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