Friday, June 22, 2012

Dombey and Son

Dombey and Son. Charles Dickens. 1846-1848. 880 pages.

DOMBEY sat in the corner of the darkened room in the great arm-chair by the bedside, and Son lay tucked up warm in a little basket bedstead, carefully disposed on a low settee immediately in front of the fire and close to it, as if his constitution were analogous to that of a muffin, and it was essential to toast him brown while he was very new. Dombey was about eight-and-forty years of age. Son about eight-and-forty minutes. Dombey was rather bald, rather red, and though a handsome well-made man, too stern and pompous in appearance, to be prepossessing. Son was very bald, and very red, and though (of course) an undeniably fine infant, somewhat crushed and spotty in his general effect, as yet. On the brow of Dombey, Time and his brother Care had set some marks, as on a tree that was to come down in good time--remorseless twins they are for striding through their human forests, notching as they go--while the countenance of Son was crossed and recrossed with a thousand little creases, which the same deceitful Time would take delight in smoothing out and wearing away with the flat part of his scythe, as a preparation of the surface for his deeper operations.

I definitely enjoyed reading Charles Dickens' Dombey and Son. While I can't say that it's my new favorite Dickens novel, we had a lovely time together. Reading Dickens requires a time commitment, for the most part. While it's true that Oliver Twist is a quick and relatively easy read, the same can't exactly be said for Dickens' other novels. (Of course, excusing The Christmas Carol which is so easy to read it almost doesn't feel like a proper Dickens novel.) I don't mind committing my time, energy, effort to Dickens because I know that in the end it will prove worth it. He may take a couple of hundred pages to get going strong, but by the end, every little detail will come together and magic will happen. Such was the case with Dombey and Son.

How do I feel about Paul Dombey? If I had to choose just one word it would be infuriating. He's so proud, arrogant, narrow-minded, egotistical, pompous, cold-hearted, and cruel. He should not be allowed anywhere near women or children. It's no surprise that his first wife didn't "try" very hard to live. True, I'm speaking in jest for the most part, but Mrs. Chick, Dombey's sister, is not. The opening chapters provide ample opportunities for her to chastise her sister-in-law for dying. And Mrs. Chick does feel it was a weakness in her character that she allowed herself to die.

Dombey has a newborn son, named Paul, of course, what did you expect? He also has a daughter, Florence. It is in his relationship with Florence that the man's true weakness is revealed. For he is a horribly neglectful, sometimes cruel Father who takes great pride in the fact that his daughter is a nobody. That is in his eyes he has no daughter, a girl-child is of no conceivable use to him, so she just doesn't exist to him. He doesn't want anyone around him to act as if she exists either. She's not to be mentioned certainly, and not to be loved either, at least not in a way that's visible to him. For if he sees that someone else is loving and kind to her, it makes him who has no feelings (supposedly) feel guilty for not being a decent human being.

Florence is the heroine of this novel. She may be a little too good to be true--she's practically flawless. But she's good at providing contrast for every other character in the novel. Because without a doubt almost everyone else who plays a role in this thick novel is very flawed and very human. If Florence has a fault it is in being too kind, too forgiving, too selfless. She makes excuses for her father's defects for almost all of the novel. No matter how he treats her, no matter how heartless he is, no matter what he decrees or sets in place, she's in the background trying to make it work out. She's almost blinded by hope that one day surely she'll be loved and accepted by her father.

Florence is beloved by so many people! Her younger brother, Paul, loves and adores her until the very end. Her brother's friend, Mr. Toot, loves and adores her too. And then there's Walter Gay. He may be of a different class than Florence, but, he's THE HERO. And it's so very easy to fall in love with Walter. Walter first meets Florence when they're children. He saves her when she's lost--she'd been kidnapped--and restores her to her family. She remains ever-thankful and full of kindness for him, and not only for him but for his uncle and his friend too. (Uncle Sol, Captain Cuttle). Walter works as a lowly clerk for Mr. Dombey; he's completely beneath the notice of Mr. Dombey.

I won't go into the details of this one--it covers at least a decade if not two--but it was such a treat of a novel! It was a nice blend of light and dark; at times very serious and emotionally compelling but at other times quite comedic. The style is rambling. Readers get plenty of descriptions, details, asides, etc. I always enjoy Dickens' creative names and characterizations. He can be so very quirky!!! In other words, typical Dickens.

Read Dombey and Son
  • If you're a fan of Charles Dickens
  • If you love literature and classics
  • If you're a fan of the Victorian period
  • If you enjoy long novels
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous said...

This sounds like one that I will have to eventually look for. Thank you for your very thorough reviews!

Anonymous said...

I loved this novel myself but have not read it in years. I would love to take some time to read it again. I agree that Florence is almost to good to be true but I adore her.

Annette said...

Thank you so much for your great review.
Right now I'm reading Oliver Twist

Cat said...

Dickens does ask for time and attention but very worthwhile. I've just finished Our Mutual Friend and loved it!

Becky said...

I loved Florence too!

I hope you enjoy Oliver Twist! I was surprised by how much I did!

I'm so glad to hear you loved Our Mutual Friend!!!! That is my favorite and best Dickens--so far!

hopeinbrazil said...

I am a fairly new Dicken's fan and appreciated your review of this book. I'll be adding it to my Classics Club Challenge as an alternate title.