I’m Back, and I’m Argumentative.

04 Jan

Susan Wise Bauer suggests that we might get more out of our analysis of these novels if we engage ourselves in debate with those who hold different opinions than ours.

We’re not so good at this.  I mean, just look at our little one-sentence gravatar profiles.  We’re all kind of alike.

But don’t despair.  I know how to be disagreeable.  Are you ready for my latest shocking disagreement?  Here it is:

I thought the depiction of Nancy’s death was not gory, but beautifully written.

Too bad that sentence isn’t.  Let me explain further.

The entire novel is the most sophisticated writing we’ve encountered on the list to date.  Dickens, while sometimes a bit wordy, is rich in his descriptive powers.  When he sets a scene he doesn’t just give you the surface view of the surroundings, but lends perspective – that of his characters, and by way of them, his own.

When Dickens describes Nancy’s death he is doing so through the eyes, and demented mind of Bill Sikes.  Chapter XLVIII isn’t a crime scene (sorry, Christine, I told you I was disagreeable), it’s a scene that shows that even this evil man is tormented with the reality of what he has done.  Dickens values life, that’s probably a blog post in and of itself, but here we see the value of Nancy’s life cannot be discounted even by the one who stole it from her.

To be sure, the chapter is full of disturbing details.  But as much as they disturb us, they disturb Sikes a thousand times over.  They are details that scream to him, haunt him, prove to him, and by way of him – to us, that life, even the life of a prostitute, has value.

I’ve never watched a full episode of CSI, but because the show places shockingly graphic scenes of violence in the first 30 seconds the gore has not escaped me.  While acknowledging that Dickens does indeed begin his novel with death, it’s not a death like the one he paints for Nancy. He saves the blood spattered, hair bunched death until we can appreciate whose blood was spilled, and whose hair was pulled by the depravity of her lover.

And as Jeannette pointed out in the comments, the murder and its aftermath are uninterrupted by Dickens’ trademark sarcasm.  None is needed here.  We get the point, made all the more poignant by the change in style.  You must not smile about this.  Dickens will not allow you to take this lightly. There might be reform for the poor laws, or corrupt officials, but there is no reform for death.

So when it comes down to it, Christine, I’m not really disagreeing with you at all.  I just got all wordy on your question “Doesn’t it seems like Dickens, as and author, has crossed some sort of line?  The short answer it “Yup.”  Oh, and I went a little crazy with your title (which I kind of loved.)

That’s good.  I hate controversy.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Oliver Twist


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One response to “I’m Back, and I’m Argumentative.

  1. Christine

    January 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Nicely written. I so like it when we sort of disagree, but not really.

    If this article I found can be trusted, Dickens may have gotten his inspiration for Nancy’s murder from reality. Eliza Grimwood was a prostitute who was murdered the same year Oliver Twist was written. If you choose to read the article, prepare youself for gore.


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