CSI London

02 Jan

Dickens did not hold back from describing every gory detail of Nancy’s murder and of Sikes’ reaction to the deed the following morning.

 He had not moved; he had been afraid to stir.  There had been a moan and motion of the hand/ and. with terror added to hate, he had struck and struck again.  Once he threw a rug over it; but it was worse to fancy the eyes, and imagine them moving towards him, than to see them glaring upward, as if watching the reflection of the pool of gore that quivered and danced in the sunlight on the ceiling.  He had plucked it off again.  And there was the body–mere flesh and blood, no more–but such flesh, and so much blood!  Chapter XLVIII

Dickens goes on to describe how Sikes tries to clean himself up after the ordeal.  The bloody spots on his clothing will not wash out, so he cuts them out and burns them in the fireplace.  He also burns the murder weapon: the club.  Dickens goes so far as to horrify his readers with the description of how there was some of Nancy’s hair on the end of the club.  The chapter sounds a lot like an episode of CSI.

Of the novels we’ve read so far, this is the first instance of murder.  Fight scenes in previous books (battle with Apollyon in PP and several skirmishes with DQ) are not this realistic.  Doesn’t it seem like Dickens, as an author, has crossed some sort of line?  This is extreme realism.  There is no glossing over details.  The reader is not left to imagine anything.  Dickens spells out a horrible scene quite clearly.

Later on in the chapter when Sikes is fleeing across the countryside, he is haunted by Nancy’s eyes.  I imagine that most readers are glad Sikes’ guilt is tormenting him.  Readers want him to suffer for the crime he committed.  Is this the reaction Dickens wanted?


Posted by on January 2, 2012 in Oliver Twist


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6 responses to “CSI London

  1. Heather

    January 3, 2012 at 9:14 am

    It is because of these dark sections that I’ve never wanted to read this classic. All the more convinced after reading your comments.

  2. Jeannette

    January 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    It was disturbingly gory, I agree. Funny, because the earlier very sad sections about Oliver and his childhood were speckled liberally with sarcasm to relieve the sadness. Not here, obviously.


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