Gerike 1 Scott Gerike Ms.

Schierts AP Lit & Comp January 9, 2009 Charles Dickens: Changing Society The novels of Charles Dickens still are popular despite the passage of decades, centuries, and even millenniums. A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist have stood the test of time very well since they were released in the middle of the 1800’s. The books were written as social commentaries meant to speak to the public about what had to be fixed in society. Oliver Twist is credited with clearing a slum in London, which was certainly a step in the right direction towards what Dickens was trying to accomplish when writing his novels. Dickens’ novels are also timeless in a different way other than just lasting for future generations to read. The morals that are revealed in these novels are still applicable to our lives today, which is maybe the most special thing about the writing of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens used examples of broken societies to try to provoke social reform in England through the novels Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities. The Novels: A Tale of Two Cities starts off with Jerry Cruncher, a man who works many oddjobs at Tellson’s Bank, delivering a message to Jarvis Lorry, who then gives a very strange reply. “Recalled to life” (Tale 13). This caused many questions to arise as Mr. Lorry dreams about a “buried” man that later is revealed to be Doctor Alexandre Manette, a man who had been imprisoned wrongly in the Bastille for almost eighteen years. In this

Gerike 2 dream, Mr. Lorry asks Manette if he wants to be recalled to life, and Manette keeps responding with the same three words, “I can’t say” (18). After Doctor Manette breaks out of the Bastille, Ernest Defarge, a former servant of Manette’s, takes care of him in the back of his wine shop in Dover. He is being hidden from the French authorities in Defarge’s attic when Lucie, Doctor Manette’s daughter, comes in with Mr. Lorry and Monsieur Defarge to try and coax Doctor Manette’s lost memory back. When the Doctor sees Lucie, he thinks that she is his wife from many years ago. After he falls asleep, the men from Tellson’s bank give Lucie the traveling forms to get her father out of the country, and they leave France for England shortly thereafter. The trial of Charles Darnay, being tried for treason against England, is in progress when the Second Book picks up five years later. After the testimonies of a former acquaintance and a servant, all looks lost for Darnay, until his lawyer, Mr. Stryver points out that his assistant, Sydney Carton, and Darnay look so alike that Darnay could have easily been mistaken for someone else. This fact casts doubt on whether Darnay is the person who was passing secrets, so the jury acquits Darnay from his sentence to death. While celebrating their victory at the Manette household, Stryver, Carton, and Darnay all realize how attracted they are to Lucie. Stryver makes up his mind that he will propose to marry Lucie, but then is persuaded not to by Mr. Lorry. Later, Carton says to Lucie that she is the “last dream” of his soul, and even though he does not want her to love him back as it would drag her down, he would gladly give his life for someone she loves (190). When Darnay professes his love to Lucie, she returns that love and they decide to get married, with an uneasy blessing from Doctor Manette.

Gerike 3 Book Three begins with the storming of the Bastille, the official start of the French Revolution in July 1789. The Defarges, the owners of the wine shop that held Doctor Manette after his escape from the Bastille, are at the helm of the revolution and have no mercy, even for Darnay, who is now imprisoned. Doctor Manette is a hero in France due to his previous imprisonment in the Bastille and uses this position to persuade the revolutionaries to release Darnay from jail. After his release, Darnay goes back with his family and is in the middle of dinner with them when revolutionaries storm into the room, taking Darnay prisoner again, based on accusations that are almost certainly the work of Madame Defarge. While Darnay is waiting on death row, Sydney Carton arrives in Paris learning of the fate of Charles Darnay. Making good on his promise to save the life of a person that Lucie loves, Carton decides to use the resemblance of Darnay and himself to his advantage. Carton proceeds to take Darnay’s place on death row, reuniting Darnay with his family. It is Carton’s final altruistic act. As he goes to the Guillotine, his final thoughts are, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” (482). Another Charles Dickens classic begins when a woman giving birth to her son is found outside of a workhouse. Oliver is placed in a juvenile home after it becomes apparent that his father is unknown. At the age of nine, Oliver is too old to continue staying in the juvenile home and is sent to work as an undertaker’s apprentice. When Noah Claypole, another boy who was working for Oliver’s master, Mr. Sowerberry, eggs Oliver into fighting, Oliver is brutally beaten, causing him to run away for London.

Gerike 4 When Oliver gets near London, he meets the Artful Dodger, who takes him to Fagin, the leader of a gang of thieves. Dodger tells Oliver that this must be the good life, because Oliver gets a free place to sleep while getting food and without much work. When Oliver is brought along to “work” as a pick-pocket alongside the Dodger and Charles Bates, he runs away after his colleagues pick a man’s pocket. Although Oliver is arrested for this offense that he didn’t commit, he is eventually cleared by a bookseller who declares that “The robbery was committed by another boy” (Oliver 85). Mr. Brownlow, the gentleman who was pick-pocketed by Dodger and Bates, decides to take Oliver to his home to live with him. When one of Brownlow’s friends comes around and has no faith in Oliver, Brownlow sends Oliver on an errand to show his trust. While on this errand, Oliver is kidnapped by Fagin’s gang who fear that Oliver might have told the police about the gang and their hideout. Interested in making Oliver a fugitive so that he has to stay with the gang, Fagin decides to use him in a burglary attempt that is being planned by Bill Sikes, a violent burglar. During the burglary, Oliver is threatened that if he tries to run away he will be shot by Sikes. As he is hoisted through a window that only he can crawl through, Oliver decides to try and run upstairs to warn the owners, but is promptly shot because of his unexpected appearance. As Toby Crackit and Sikes run away, they decide to drop the bleeding Oliver in a ditch and abandon him. When Oliver comes to his senses, he finds himself in the ditch where Crackit and Sikes had left him the night before, and stumbles to the nearest house, which happens to be the one in which he had been shot. At the same time as this is happening, the nurse who helped with the birth of Oliver confesses that she had stolen a locket from Oliver’s mother on the night she gave

Gerike 5 birth. This locket contained information on how to find family who would care for Oliver, but it was never used for that purpose. Mrs. Bumble gave the locket to Monks, who is Oliver’s half-brother, although Oliver didn’t realize this. When Monks received the locket, he dumped it in a river so that Oliver couldn’t figure out that he still had family that would care for him. Monks also meets with Fagin, who threatens Fagin for failing to turn Oliver into a hardened criminal, and ruin his life in the process. Nancy, who hangs around with the gang, sympathizes with Oliver, and decides to head to Hyde Park, where the family who is taking care of Oliver is staying. The Maylie’s are stunned when they hear the story of how Monks is trying to ruin Oliver’s life, since Oliver has become very dear to them. Not realizing that she is being watched, Nancy tells Brownlow, who had returned to London, how to locate Monks. Later that night, Noah, who had been spying on Nancy, tells Fagin about her double dealing, and when Fagin finds Sikes, he works him into a raging anger about Nancy’s dealings, to the point where Sikes goes home to beat Nancy to death. When Mr. Brownlow captures Monk and brings him to his home, Brownlow finds that Monks is the son of one of his friends, Leeford, who had died in Rome. Before he had died, though, Leeford had been married to Agnes Fleming, who was expecting a child when Leeford died – the future Oliver Twist. Mr. Brownlow also discovered that the necklace that was supposed to lead Oliver to people who would raise him was destroyed, along with the will of Leeford. Making a deal with Monks, Brownlow decides to give him immunity in return for Monks agreement to give Oliver what he should have originally received according to the will.

Gerike 6 Everything starts to fall apart for Fagin’s gang shortly after the discovery of Monks’ and Fagin’s plan to ruin Oliver. Fagin and Noah are both arrested, while the rest take refuge in a crumbling house. After one of the people staying with Sikes in the house alerts the authorities to his whereabouts, he attempts to escape, but accidentally falls into his own noose, killing himself. Fagin is found guilty and sentenced to death row, while Noah is released for testifying against Fagin. Oliver returns to the town of his birth to discover that he was left the bulk of Leeford’s money, which he later shares with Monks, who dies in prison. Brownlow finishes the book by adopting Oliver, and they settle down and live a peaceful life.

The Critics: There have been countless authors who have jumped at the chance to analyze and form their own opinions about Charles Dickens’ novels. This array of differing opinions from critics is a mark of a great writer. If an author can create some debate over whether the characters are good or bad, or if critics are able to analyze just your writing, you know you have a great novel on your hands. The novels of Charles Dickens have attracted so many people that the list of people who have written critical analyses about Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities can be overwhelming. John R. Reed wrote an essay that discusses the use of figures of speech in Dickens’ writing overall. The main example that Reed uses in this is essay titled, “The gentleman in the white waistcoat: Dickens and metonymy”, is the gentleman in the white waistcoat, who is in a position of authority at the workhouse in which Oliver lives in Oliver Twist. The gentleman in the white waistcoat is never given a name, and is never

Gerike 7 given a description besides his white waistcoat. Reed argues that the gentleman in the white waistcoat is a “counter for a whole class” and that his “prejudices completely overwhelm him” (Reed 8). Reed also mentions that the gentleman in the white waistcoat “does not merely assume the worst about the poor, but wishes them ill” (9). Dickens uses more figurative language when Oliver is given “sage advice” by the gentleman in the white waistcoat that he would have “hanged himself in his cell with his pocket handkerchief” if Oliver hadn’t been living in the workhouse where he had no access to one (2). This bit of metonymy signals that the luxury of a handkerchief equals crime. This statement also has a slightly prophetic tone because stealing handkerchiefs is a large part of the trade that Fagin later tries to instill in Oliver. Reed’s observation in this essay is to bring a new light to the previously unimportant gentleman in the white waistcoat. Corey Evan Thompson analyzes why Fagin was hanged for his crime when only murderers were sentenced to capital punishment at the time. At the outset of this article, Thompson cites another critical essay about Oliver Twist, this one by John Sutherland. Sutherland argues that none of Fagin’s actions “in the context of the mid-1830’s, are hanging crimes” (54). Thompson, looking deeper into this topic, discovered there was really only one good reason why Fagin could have been sentenced to death - the possibility that he was thought to be a murderer. Throughout the novel, Fagin is an “ardent supporter” of a code in which a thief, if arrested, will not talk about the full scheme he was involved in. Strictly following this code is possibly what brought about Fagin’s death, because when he “refuses to defend himself at the trial … he unknowingly

Gerike 8 implicates himself in Nancy’s murder” (1). Because of his strict adherence to the code, Fagin unnecessarily makes himself a scapegoat in a crime that he did not commit. In an essay titled, “Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities”, Jennifer S. Sims explores that personal habits can help define a character’s individual human natures. Sims suggests that through the descriptions of Sydney Carton it can be identified that he is a habitual drinker, and that his daily routine consists of working for Stryver, drinking heavily, and then “habitually walking the streets in the early morning hours” (1). The readers, Sims states, have recognized that Carton’s mind gets trapped in repetitive acts. Sims then cites Athena Vrettos when she says, “In Carton’s universe of potentially endless repetition, his individual routines reinforce social routines shaping the person habit of his body and mind” (403). Sims also analyzes the patterns that appear in the book for Charles Darnay. She sees Darnay as a more reckless person than Carton, finding a pattern of abandonment and socially irresponsibility, which really comes to the forefront when he goes to France and formally renounces the Evrémonde name in a self-serving and heroic proclamation. Not revealing to Doctor Manette his true identity as a man who is kin to the Evrémondes until the day before being married to Lucie was another step on Darnay’s road to social irresponsibility. Darnay’s repetitive behaviors lead him down a path of uncertainty, while “Carton’s repetition of automatic behaviors leads him to sacrifice his life” (2). The final critical essay that I read was “The business of the barrister in A Tale of Two Cities” by Simon Petch. This critical essay covers everything from the “business” of the French revolutionaries to the ideology of Sydney Carton. One thing that set Petch apart from the other essays is the uniqueness of the topics, such as Tellson’s bank.

Gerike 9 Tellson’s means different things to both the French and English citizens. To the English people, the bank was a “symbol of inhumane and conservative inefficiency”, but because Tellson’s helped people under siege from the French Revolution, it is a “source of stability in anxious times” (Petch 10). Another interesting topic that Petch examines is what “business” the French Revolutionaries concerned themselves with. Petch gives an example of a wood-sawyer, involved in a new “business” which was happening during the revolution in France. As Lucie walks close to the prison so that Darnay can see her, the wood-sawyer intently watches her. Whenever he is questioned about watching Lucie, the revolutionary continues to claim, “But it’s not my business” (Tale 287). This is not true though, because it is his business as a revolutionary, who even goes so far to be “rehearsed as a witness by Madame Defarge … to perjure himself … to convict Lucie” (Petch 3). Petch then tackled what seems to be many critics’ favorite topic in A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton, and investigates his relationship with Stryver and his professional life. Carton and Stryver have been friends since they were in school together at Shrewsbury, and Stryver has always been the one with the higher profile and more achieving success. When Stryver asks Carton whose fault this is, Carton responds by saying, “Upon my soul, I am not sure that it was not yours” (Tale 94). Meaning no disrespect by this comment, Carton had fallen into a “habit formed in his school days, the habit of doing exercises for other boys, rather than his own” (Petch 5). That habit continues until the day he dies, a life during which Carton did most of the work while Stryver received the credit.

Gerike 10 My Analysis: Oliver Twist is used by Charles Dickens to try and bring about awareness for the suffering of the poor in Victorian society. One facet of society that Dickens was almost certainly attacking was the 1834 New Poor Law. Corey Evan Thompson asserts that the novel must be set in its specific time period to “justify its overt attack on the 1834 New Poor Law” (1). Dickens shows in the novel how the only options in Oliver’s life seem to be the workhouses, prison, a life of thieving, or an early death. The Poor Law took away many rights from the poor people of England, and really deepened the rift between the social classes. One key place where Dickens made the difference between classes so apparent is when Noah, who belonged to a lower class because he was a charity boy, bullied Oliver because he was an orphan and in an even lower class (47-48). Dickens also gives insight into how bad the workhouses were for the poor along with how the rich men who ran them didn’t care about what happened to the workers. Oliver’s begging for food was seen as a problem for the owners, who send him to the board of commissioners of the workhouse to try and get rid of this “greedy” boy. The gentleman in the white waistcoat was convinced that this particular boy was no good, and declares in front of the board, “That boy will be hung … I know that boy will be hung” (15). Dickens also reveals in this scene that the upper class doesn’t think that it is possible for anyone in the lower classes to rise above their birth status. Dickens uses these dire circumstances to demonstrate what England would become if it did not pay attention to the needs of all of the classes, and not just the upper class. In a very similar way, with A Tale of Two Cities Dickens shows what would

Gerike 11 happen if the poor continued to be treated the way they were, by taking a look back at England and France during the time of the Revolutionary War and the French Revolution. Looking back at history can be enlightening, especially when looking at what would happen if the poor continued to be oppressed as they were in Oliver Twist. The Evrémondes are a great example of what the upper class was like in England in the 19th century, looking down upon the disgusting lower class and not even feeling remorse when they die. After the Marquis Evrémonde killed a child in the streets with his carriage, he was murdered in his bed that same night by revolutionaries who were upset at how he treated the lower class. The workhouse owners, along with the rest of the upper class, needed to be careful that they didn’t spur a rebellion from the lower class in Oliver Twist like the Evrémondes did in A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is also a warning against making too quick of an accusation for a crime. During the trial of Charles Darnay, the judge was so hungry for a conviction of treason that he continued to ask different variations of, “Was he one of those two passengers,” even after they replied that they couldn’t tell. The judge was certain that this was the man who had committed treason, and should be drawn and quartered. But before he could hand down the sentence, Stryver looked at both Carton and Darnay, and exclaimed, “Are they very like each other?” (Tale 93). The judge eventually had to acknowledge that Darnay could not be convicted of treason, but he had to be shown hard evidence before he would stop the trial. Dickens illustrated the point in this portion of the book that England used a judicial system that is based on people being presumed guilty until they are proven innocent.

Gerike 12 Dickens also used the character of Sydney Carton to drive home some important points. When Sydney was first shown in the courtroom, he was looking up at the ceiling of the courtroom with a blank look. The reader immediately can infer that this is a person who is not to be taken seriously, a person with no professionalism at all. However, if the reader thought this, they would have been grossly mistaken. In this novel by Dickens, the “centrality of law”, and its misrepresentation, is a very important part to the storyline (Petch 1). Carton’s habitual drinking throughout the novel is very apparent, but Dickens seems to make a point that this fact does not necessarily make him a bad man. As Dickens establishes that Carton is a very habit driven person, it is possible to see that the drinking that he engages in is an addiction. Carton is described as a jackal by his acquaintances, while Stryver is compared to a lion. This proves that Carton wasn’t looked upon very highly by his peers, because in Darwin’s words, a jackal is “an animal not destined by nature to exist and carrying with it the provision for death” (Barrett 574-75). Dickens seems to have turned around the tables on this assumption though, making Carton the better person, and also the person who does most of the work. Mr. Petch came to the conclusion that Carton did almost all of the work for the Darnay trial, while Stryver took all of the credit. Petch states that “Dickens makes clear that the questions Stryver put to the Crown witnesses in cross-examination at Darnay’s trial were prepared by Carton, and not by Stryver himself” (5). As the reader finds out later in the novel, Carton was “famous among his earliest competitors … as a youth of great promise” (Tale 325). Carton clearly is the most intriguing character in both A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist, mostly because of his mysteriousness, but also because he is one of the only

Gerike 13 characters in either of those novels who is almost exactly what Dickens wanted to see in society. One of the only flaws in Carton seemed to be the fact that he was a habitual drinker, and that didn’t even seem to get in the way of his character. He stepped back from the white hot spotlight to help other people, by helping out both Stryver and Darnay in large ways. Carton had “a firm grasp of the core professional skill which Stryver, his senior barrister, lacks” (Petch 4). But Carton’s last shining action that sets him far apart from the rest of the characters in either of these Dickens novels is when he gives his life for the betterment of others. Dickens wanted social change, and Carton’s altruistic action is the prime example of what Dickens expected from the English society . Dickens’ insight into what were the most pressing social issues is amazing to look back at because most of the pressing social issues that Dickens talked about have stayed in the forefront through all these years. Novelists today still are influenced by Charles Dickens, and his books are still read regularly today. Just as Dickens taught by looking through history with these two novels, we can learn today from them by looking at the history in their stories and learning from their mistakes of their characters. These two great novels have had tons of impact on many societies, especially England, in the 150 years since they were written.

Gerike 14 Works Cited Barrett , Paul H., et al., eds. Charles Darwin's Notebooks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. London: Penguin Books, 2002. Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Random House, 1996 Reed, John R. "The gentleman in the white waistcoat: Dickens and metonymy. " Style. 39.4 (Winter 2005): 412(15). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Chaska High School. 12 Nov. 2008 < ce=gale&srcprod=EAIM&userGroupName=mnkvictoria&version=1.0>. Petch, Simon. "The business of the barrister in A Tale of Two Cities. " Criticism. 44.1 (Winter 2002): 27(16). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Chaska High School. 12 Nov. 2008 < e=gale&srcprod=EAIM&userGroupName=mnkvictoria&version=1.0>. Sims, Jennifer S. "Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. " The Explicator. 63.4 (Summer 2005): 219(4). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Chaska High School. 12 Nov. 2008 < ce=gale&srcprod=EAIM&userGroupName=mnkvictoria&version=1.0> Sutherland, John. Can Jane Eyre be Happy?. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Thompson, Corey Evan. "Dickens's Oliver Twist.(Critical Essay). ." The Explicator. 61.3 (Spring 2003): 147(3). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Chaska High School. 12 Nov. 2008 < ce=gale&srcprod=EAIM&userGroupName=mnkvictoria&version=1.0>. Vrettos, Athena. "Defining Habits: Dickens and the Psychology of Repetition." Victorian Studies 42.3, 2000.