Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Please Sir, I want some more.

We would be hard-pressed to find an author more beloved, famous or renowned than Charles Dickens, the wonderful Boz who entertains and delights the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the Londoners and the foreigners alike. It is Dickens's London that captivates even the disinterested reader with characters so over the top and yet so like everyone around us that they can't help but jump off of the page as we read. But the intrigue of Dickens novels... the addiction, the seduction... is London. London in all her glory... corruption, poverty, vice, mystery, and danger. 

We read of the sufferings of heroes, the triumphs of villains, and the injustice of humanity with every page... but we put the book down with an even greater sense of humanity and compassion than we knew of before. For Dickens, this magic can only function within the city of London. He relishes in the personality of the London fog. London is a character like any other... both the protagonist and the villain. We walk down the streets of London and see what Boz sees. Dickens lifts the veils from over our eyes and smacks us in the face with everything we don't want to think about. But we are far from angry with him for it. Instead, we become bound by a commonality, we are united against human suffering and injustice. 


It is this intangible bond that permeates the magical city of London. We are all personally acquainted with Pip and Oliver and love to hate Scrooge, a now integral character in a religious celebration. In London, even the mundane and unspeakably low can sparkle. Charm is everywhere and around every corner. For Dickens, London is a character. It influences the story and has capabilities of its own. The dark streets with yellow lamps, the puddles, the fog that makes London somehow unreadable, the chill... it is as much a part of the story as Miss Havisham and Darnay. 

For Dickens, time is diachronic... it simultaneously progresses and stands still. As the days pass by, we see a frozen image of the action of London's streets. The normal, the absurd, and the monotonous is somehow so captivating that we must freeze it to observe it, understand it, and bask in it. London is a real-life photo.

Samuel Johnson writes, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. For there is in London, all that life can afford." A different version of London exists for everyone. But, as Dickens does not let us forget, London has  a presence we cannot escape. And we would not want to. Please, Sir. I want some more.

1 comment:

mjr said...

That settles it. I must now read Great Expectations. Your blog makes me want to come to London right now, but I can't. So I will read Dickens. Your readership also wants some more. Keep it coming.