By Dirk den Hartog (auth.)
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Extra resources for Dickens and Romantic Psychology: The Self in Time in Nineteenth-Century Literature
But because of its implicit conflict with Wordsworthian pieties and implication in their violation, it is never associated with the overtly 'good' characters, who remain pallid and drained of life by lacking it, but is always displaced into the demonic grotesques, being in this way at once expressed and disowned. Dombey, by its movement from moral melodrama to an attempted realism of analysis, confronts its author with the inadequacy of this procedure, coming to a head with the tricky question that looms towards the end of the novel of what is to happen to Dombey and Son the firm after Mr Dombey's therapeutic demise.
A similar pattern is present in The Old Curiosity Shop, in the even clearer dual imaginative obsession Dickens reveals with Little 28 Dickens and Romantic Psychology Nell's virtuous passivity on the one hand and Quilp's comically grotesque but demonic energy on the other. Donald H. Stone has recently written of this doubleness in Dickens as an alternation between his own versions of Wordsworthian passiveness and Byronic will-to-power. We might tentatively hazard an explanation of such ambiguity, in the light of the Oliver passage and our general sense of Nell's lyrical morbidity, by suggesting that since the Wordsworthian for Dickens came to represent unresolvable longing, or resolvable only in the fantasy of death (or the living death of an idealised quiescence), it was only logical that the manic denial of such longing, the Byronic willto-power, should come to stand for him, with a peculiarly personal intensity, for life.
215) As well as leavening out pathos with whimsy the closing simile also, in its way, points seriously to that domestication of 'objects through widest intercourse of sense' in reflections of the original source of life and warmth, which the Dombeyan 'tenderness taboo' interdicts. Before going any further with Paul I want to turn back to Dombey himself. I am not, however, thereby implying that the two cases are separable, for one of the novelistic functions of the young Paul would seem to be to offer us an oblique understanding of the buried life in his father that it is the nature of Dombey's own suppressed character to obscure for us - Dickens's own vaguely portentous signallings about 'secret clues' and 'darkened rooms' when dealing with the patriarch do actually catch something about the way he himself must experience his own inner life (as well as inciting us with an enigma to decipher - it is another good example of that co-existence of mimetic and formal modes that I spoke of earlier).
Dickens and Romantic Psychology: The Self in Time in Nineteenth-Century Literature by Dirk den Hartog (auth.)