It is part of a group of late novels - Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend - in which Dickens creates whole complicated interlinked models of society, from the aristocracy, through the bureaucrats and functionaries, to the very poor and the criminal. Bleak House begins with thick fog, which symbolises the obscure and deadening - indeed murderous - processes of the chancery law courts.
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The ruling metaphor of Our Mutual Friend is waste and detritus - the dirt and dead bodies that float down the corrupted Thames, the riches to be found in the great heaps of trash, ashes and dust. The extraordinary energy and brilliance with which Dickens describes slow suffocation and hopelessness is one of the paradoxical glories of English writing.
The ruling metaphor of Little Dorrit is the prison. Mr Dorrit becomes very rich, but remains imprisoned in his mind. The malign Mrs Clennam is imprisoned by her religion and her past. Good men are inveigled into financial speculations and end up bankrupt and imprisoned. Rereading the novel because of the current excellent television adaptation I was struck by how full of anger the book is. It is written as a polished attack on a society Dickens in many ways despaired of. That brilliant invention the Circumlocution Office was made up at a time when examinations were introduced for the Civil Service.
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Dickens felt that bureaucratic indolence and incompetence were responsible for the sufferings of British soldiers in the Crimean war. The Circumlocution Office is inhabited by a family of Tite Barnacles and relations. There is also a world of rich society that centres on the financier, Mr Merdle, and a world of frivolous arty hangers-on what Dickens called tuft-hunters all of whom mingle. Mrs Merdle is a society hostess. Because he makes Pancks do his dirty work, Casby by contrast appears to be generous, though he is ultimately unmasked.
Pancks, fictional character in the novel Little Dorrit —57 by Charles Dickens. Because he makes Pancks do his dirty work, Casby by contrast appears to be generous, though he is ultimately….
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