Give An Account Of Dickens London As

Give An Account Of Dickens? London As Portrayed In Our Mutual Friend. Essay, Research Paper

??????????? During his

novel ?Our Mutual Friend?, Dickens? attempts to portray a picture of the London

of his day through imagery and symbolism.?

He achieves a stark contrast between the rich and poor, the way in which

they live, their lifestyles and that which surrounds them.? He looks closely at the shiny veneer of

London with all its glamour and finery and contrasts these lives of luxury with

those of squalor next to the river. A study of the central characters described

by Dickens in the novel helps us to understand this better as we study their

context and circumstances. ??????????? From the

outset, Dickens attempts to give the reader rather gloomy picture of

London.? The river, a central theme in

the book, is described by Dickens in a very negative manner is if it

demonstrates the epitome of all which is bad about London.? At the beginning of the novel, Dickens

describes both Lizzie and Gaffer Hexam.?

The description of Gaffer Hexam gives the reader an idea of a ?typical?

waterside character: (?A strong man with ragged grizzled hair and a

sun-browned face.?) Dickens also describes the river itself, as well as

those who feed off it: (?Allied to the bottom of the river rather than the

surface, by reason of the slime and ooze with which it was covered, and its

sodden state, this boat??) In this way, Dickens creates and impression in

the reader?s mind so that the river seems to be surrounded, throughout the

book, by poverty, squalor and evil.? The

image of filth surrounding the river is extended to the shack that the Hexam?s

live in, it is described in the following manner: ?The low building had the

look of a mill.? There was a rotten wart

of wood upon its forehead that seemed to indicate where the sails had been?The

fire was a rusty brazier, not fitted to the hearth; and a common lamp, shaped

like a hyacinth-root, smoked and flared in the neck of a stone bottle on the

table?and in another corner a wooden stair ? so clumsy and steep it was little

better than a ladder.?? These images

indicate inadequate, impoverished living quarters.? This picture seems to add to the image of the waterside and the

general negative imagery that the reader associates with the river and life

beside it for the remainder of the novel. ??????????? On the

other hand, the lavish dinner-party at the Veneering?s is used to emphasise the

contrast between the rich and poor. The newness and polish of the Veneering?s

abode, contrasts powerfully with the plain simplicity and lack of comfort in

the home of the Hexams.? (?For, in

the Veneering establishment, from the hall-chairs with the new coat of arms, to

the grand pianoforte with the new action, and upstairs again to the new

fire-escape, all things were in a state of high varnish and polish.?) This

contrast is used to great effect throughout the novel to show the two sides of

London, the pleasant life led by those fortunate enough to have money, and

those who clearly were without it.? This

creates a great divide between the haves and the have nots in Dickens? novel

?Our Mutual Friend? ??????????? Dickens

intersperses relevant description on the relative living conditions of an

individual with general description of London as a whole in order to create his

contrast between rich and poor.? His

visual description of the town lends weight to his very pessimistic view of the

town as a whole and its relative merits or lack of them.? Dickens description of Silas Wegg?s corner

is particularly powerful in its method of giving a very negative impression of

a relatively upmarket area of London.? (?A

howling corner in winter time, a dusty corner in the summertime, an undesirable

corner at the best of times.?

Shelterless fragments of straw and paper got up revolving storms there,

when the main street was at peace; and the water cart, as if it were drunk or

short-sighted, came blundering and jolting round it, making it muddy when all

else was clean.?)? This description

is partially used in order to create a negative image around Wegg and his

stall.? However, it also gives the

reader an image of the street where Boffin will eventually come to live.? The picture is certainly very different to

that of the dinner party at the Veneerings, and in many ways gives us as

readers a different view point on the richer streets of London, which are

obviously not always that pleasant.? The

description of Wegg?s corner could also be described as symbolic.? Throughout the novel, Dickens creates an

analogy between the Dust mountains and dirty money.? The idea of money being dirty is certainly emphasised by Dickens

throughout the course of ?Our Mutual Friend? and the corrupting influence that

money has also plays a role of paramount importance in the novel.? This is an early example of symbolism being

used to create a negative image.? The

dusty, dirty corner on the end of a rich street is a direct analogy with the

dirt and filth that is associated with money throughout the novel. ??????????? Although

Dickens describes effectively and powerfully the filth and squalor that existed

in the streets of London in the 1860?s, perhaps more effective is his

descriptions of those who inhabited London.?

Dickens clearly sympathises with the poor people of London and

understands that many cannot be held responsible for their extreme

poverty.? Dickens makes this point using

Betty Higden, an example of the ?deserving poor?.? She gives us, as readers an insight into the life of a poor

person in London, her problems and worries are understood. Her fear of the

workhouse is explained and understood by the reader, but the attitudes of

others towards this hard working poor person are clearly shown in a bad light

by Dickens.? Her eventual death is due

to her desire to maintain her independence, but in this way Dickens powerfully

emphasises his dislike for the workhouse system, but also his distain for the

way in which the poor are treated by society in general.? Despite the kindness of the Boffins and

Lizzie Hexam, it appears that nobody quite grasps the reason for Betty?s

struggle, but in her own words: ?I?ve never took charity yet?and it would be

forsaking of myself indeed?to set up a contradiction now at the last.? It

seems that the world is blind to the fact that all Betty Higden wishes for is a

means by which she can support herself and those belonging to her independent

from anybody else. The workhouse is her ultimate humiliation and she goes to

great lengths in order to avoid that eventuality.? This is a unique character study of an attitude that existed

during Dickens? time, those people who wished to work to support themselves but

had no means of doing so through no fault of their own, for them, charity and

provision was what they wished to avoid at all costs as it would have meant the

humiliation of having to rely on somebody?s support. ??????????? Dickens

uses character studies in order to give us an impression of the kind of

attitudes that existed in London at that time.?

Dickens uses exaggerated characters such as Podsnap and Veneering in

order to demonstrate to us as readers the epitome of the attitudes that were

being displayed by a certain class of people at that time.? In the case of this particular group of

people, in a society so determined by class, people become unknowable to each

other except as impressions of class, friendship ceases to exist and other

people simply become objects, and in doing so the characters themselves become

objects. Dickens makes particular use of Podsnap in this picture of

objectivity.? Dickens uses the phrase ?Podsnappery?

to describe a certain type of behaviour displayed particularly well by

Podsnap.? The sheer joylessness of the

Podsnap way of life, its brutal determination to authenticate itself through

material possession is apparent in the passage: ?Hideous solidity was the

characteristic of the Podsnap plate.?

Everything was made to look as heavy as possible. Everything said

boastfully? ?I am so many ounces of precious metal?wouldn?t you like to melt me

down.?? ?Podsnap is an extremely

shallow character, he concerns himself little with other people and cares only

for himself, and he finds it difficult to look beyond himself, shown by his

disregard for all those who are ?foreign?.?

He concerns himself not with who his friends are, but to which class

they belong and how they enhance his own position in society, thereby giving

his friends almost objectivity. A similar criticism can be levelled at

Veneering in his bid to become an MP, a position to enhance his own standing in

society. This again shows his desire to improve his own personal standing among

his ?friends?, and in order to make new ?friends? in high positions.? This concept again treats people as objects

to be used to advance one?s own position.?

He also shows the fickle nature of the society of his time by showing

how characters react to the Veneerings and the Lammles fall from grace. When

both go bankrupt, the objectivity of friendships among society is demonstrated

by the uncaring and almost unconcerned attitude taken by their group of

?friends?. It is clear that both the Lammles and the Veneerings were simply

respectable ?friends? being used to enhance the standing of those who dined

with them. ??????????? Dickens

deals with the contrast between London?s rich and poor in great depth in the

novel ?Our Mutual Friend.? This contrast gives us an impression of London, its

problems, and more importantly the views of the inhabitants who make London

what it is.?? However, Dickens also

deals with the struggling middle classes in the novel.? Using the example of Bradley Headstone,

Dickens contrasts the upper classes and their petty troubles with the struggle

for respectability of Mr Headstone.?

Bradley, a schoolteacher by profession, has struggled all his life to be

a respectable gentleman. However, it is clear that the respectability on the

surface simple covers a wild, untamed interior.? This is shown in the passage: ?Suppression of so much to make

room for so much, had given him a constrained manner, over and above. Yet there

was enough of what was animal, and of what was fiery, still visible in him.?? It is clear that his lack of respectability

due to his profession is a sore point for him, and when Eugene Wrayburn taunts

him about this, his anger and wrath is exposed.? This is one of the reasons for his mad attack on Eugene towards

the end of the novel.? In this way,

Dickens deals with the apparent struggle for respectability among the middle

classes, the battle for position in society.?

In this way Dickens demonstrates his own distain for the society of his

day and its shallow, fickle nature. Amid the striving for respectability, all

else pales into insignificance for Bradley Headstone, and his actions among

society are controlled by his desire to be respectable.? Eventually his control breaks and he becomes

like an animal after Lizzie Hexam refuses him. ??????????? Dickens

also uses visual description to great effect to give the reader an impression

of London in ?Our Mutual Friend?.? So

far, I have simply dealt with the way in which the characters portray London

through the way in which they dress, live and act.? This is the main way that Dickens gives us a sense of setting and

in this way the characters give us a more complete picture of London, as they

are its inhabitants and ultimately shape the city.? However, perhaps equally important are the visual descriptions of

places that Dickens gives us to give us a more complete understanding of the

state into which London has deteriorated.?

This is increasingly obvious in the descriptions of the poorer parts of

London.? I have already mentioned the

description of the river and the Hexam?s abode beside it, but perhaps a better

example of extreme poverty is the description of Pleasant Riderhood, living in

Limehouse hole, (?a kind of ship?s hold stored full of waterside

characters?) and owning a small shop, described as: ?a wretched little

shop, with a roof that any man standing could touch with his hand; little

better than a cellar or cave.?? However,

despite these descriptions of poverty, Dickens sinks lower and describes the

surroundings in the following passage: ??looking from the reeking street to

the sky, she may have had some vaporous visions?? These descriptions simply

give the reader a more complete image of the total poverty that surrounds a

place such as ?the hole? and allows the reader to understand how different life

was for those who lived their, struggling for survival in comparison to the

richly furnished abode of the Veneerings.?

However, despite the negative description, the image of poverty that

sticks most firmly in my mind is that of the hair of the women who lived in

?the hole.? Dickens describes this picture in the following manner: ?Pleasant

Riderhood shared with most of the lady inhabitants of the hole the peculiarity

that her hair was a ragged knot, constantly coming down behind, and that she

never could enter upon any undertaking without first twisting it into place.?? This for me gives the impression of ragged,

barefooted women running around in ?the hole? in a similar fashion to rats, in

degradingly inhumane conditions.? This

is my interpretation of the image that Dickens attempts to put across to his

readers, and it certainly sticks in my mind.?

I find that the way that Dickens puts his meaning across to the reader

is extremely effective, but also that he manages to give the reader an

impression using a very short sentence or sentences, on which the reader can

expand their own picture of the poverty of London. The description of one

aspect of Pleasant Riderhood, her hair, is an excellent example of this

technique.? ??????????? Dickens?

descriptions of the poorer parts of London are also complete as he examines

every aspect of poverty, from the waterside characters who feed from the river,

to the poor shop keepers such as Mr Venus, whose dingy little shops give them a

conservative income.? These shops are

again concisely, but powerfully described in the following manner: ??The poorer shops of small retail traders in commodities

to eat and drink and keep folks warm?from these in a narrow and dirty street

devoted to such callings, Mr Wegg selects one dark shop-window.? ??????????? Again,

Dickens uses few words to convey the setting, but the reader has imagined the

dark, narrow, dingy street to which Dickens refers, with its rows of dark

shop-windows selling produce not fit for human consumption.? In this way, and through the characters of

Pleasant Riderhood and Mr Venus, Dickens has conveyed to us as readers the

poverty stricken and the poorer elements of London. However, even in his visual

descriptions, Dickens uses his characters to convey the correct impression to

the reader. ??????????? Dickens

also makes some attempt to describe the working class elements of London.? The description of the ?tall, dark mounds

rising high against the sky? clearly indicates the working class element of

London, and Mr Boffin is the epitome of the simple working class man.? In this way, Dickens attempts convey to the

reader the impression of working class life in London, through the simplicity

that Mr and Mrs Boffin maintain despite coming into money.? However, perhaps the best description of

working class life is the following: ??????????? ?The

City looked unpromising enough, as Bella made her way along its gritty

streets.? Most of its money-mills were

slackening sail, or had left off grinding for the day. The master-millers had

already departed, and the journeymen were departing.? There was a jaded aspect on the business lanes and courts, and

the very pavements had a weary appearance, confused by the tread of a million

feet? ??????????? Dickens

cleverly compares the factory work associated with long hours and low pay, with

the businesses transacting their business in London.? This clever analogy creates an image in the reader?s mind of a

tiring, unrewarding profession in which life was hard and work was dull.? These few lines convey to me as a reader

much about how those who worked in the ?money-mills? lived and went about their

daily lives, and also the poor quality of the lives they lived. ??????????? In the

novel ?Our Mutual Friend?, Dickens uses symbolism to great effect.? He often uses an object in order to tell us

something about a character.? This

symbolic object can be as simple as the name of a character, such as Veneering,

indicating shallowness, or Bella Wilfer, beautiful wilful one.? Dickens also uses descriptions of the living

quarters or clothing in order to show us something new about a character.? In this way, Dickens can tell the reader

something about an individual character without actually saying it.? For example, the ?bran-newness? of

everything at the Veneerings indicates the fact that they have come into new

money and are new-comers to society, or in the case of Mr Boffin, described as ?a

very odd-looking old fellow altogether?, his dress shows us the comic

nature of the character and also his utter cluelessness when it comes to

fashion.? It also shows us something of

his simple nature, all through a simple description.? However, perhaps the visual symbolism is almost more

powerful.? The symbolic dust mountains I

have already mentioned, and the theme of money from rubbish, and therefore

money being dirty is prevalent throughout the story.? Another symbolic image is that of the river, which serves as the

embodiment of all that is dirty and poor in London, through the description of

the ?waterside characters? that make their livings from it.? However, it can also be a symbol of purification,

and in some cases seems to have baptismal qualities as in the case of Eugene

Wrayburn who arises from the river a new man, similarly, it is the river that

eventually proves to be the end of Gaffer Hexam, Rogue Riderhood, Bradley

Headstone and George Radfoot, the characters which could be described as ?evil?

in the story.? ??????????? Perhaps the

most discreet use of symbolism that Dickens uses is the symbolism he attributes

to his characters. In order to create a true impression of London, Dickens

encapsulates an element of the city in a character or characters.? For example, Veneering and Podsnap are used

to give the reader an impression of the lives of the richer, shallower upper

classes. Noddy Boffin and Reginald Wilfer are used to portray the typical working

class gentlemen, the former fortunately rich the latter extremely poor, but

between them they give us a fair impression of the type of honest, down to

earth people that made up the working classes and whom Dickens clearly admired.? Mr Venus, Mr Wegg, Pleasant Riderhood, and

Betty Higden are used to portray the poorer people who attempt to work for

their living.? However, Dickens displays

symbolically the range of characters who make up this element of society, Mr

Venus, an honest shopkeeper, Mr Wegg, a scoundrel, a cheat, a liar and an

opportunist, Pleasant Riderhood, a poor girl attempting to make some sort of

living for herself and Betty Higden, an example of the deserving poor, who

wants to support herself through working, but for whom supporting herself is a

never ending struggle.? I could

continue, as most characters in the book are representative of a certain type

of character who existed in London at that time, and between them gave a

cross-section of society as it existed then.?

In this way, Dickens most important use of symbolism is the way in which

his characters portray the society that existed in the city of London at that

time. ??????????? In his

novel ?Our Mutual Friend?, Dickens touches upon the recurring issues of whether

man in formed by his circumstances or the circumstances are formed by man. His

essential, ethical integrity leads to the conviction that things could and

should be better.? Dickens takes

characters such as of the Veneerings and the Podsnaps with their affluence and

wealth, and the apparent empty, shallow lives they lead and contrasts this with

the poverty of characters such as Betty Higden and confronts the reader with

the social injustices that are so apparent within the city that Dickens

describes. ??????????? Dickens

symbolism is an integral part of his writing, however, it is used sparingly and

only when it is vital to make a point.?

When symbolism is used, it is either making a statement about society or

else forming an integral part of the story.?

It is generally fairly obvious and easy to pick up on. ??????????? However, in

the same way that the characters are symbolic of London as a whole, the setting

is symbolic of society. The negative description of London used almost

throughout the novel, (it is rare that anything positive is said, except

perhaps in the case of the ?light, airy? description of the children?s

hospital), and this negative imagery and description of dark streets, a dirty

river and looming dust mounds certainly is symbolic of the state of society as

a whole.? The negative setting certainly

tells the reader what Dickens thinks of the shallow, upper classes only

concerned with each other in so far as they advance oneanothers positions in

society, the hard working middle classes, working endlessly for little or no

reward, and the swindling lower classes, blackmailing their way towards money

in some shape or form.? Dickens

decrepit, run-down picture of London is symbolic of his opinion of the society

that surrounds him, and it can be said that perhaps a hint of depression is

visible in the novel ?Our Mutual Friend.? ??????????? ???????????

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