Little Dorrit (Halfway)

I finally finished Book I in Little Dorrit! (Which means I’m on page 481 out of 912 in my edition…) I had been making good progress but slowed down considerably when I started interspersing other shorter books.

Upon his father’s death Arthur Clennam returns to England after twenty years, eager to finally be free of the family business. He becomes friends with the Meagles family, business partners with inventor Daniel Doyce, and protector figure to his mother’s new seamstress Amy Dorrit. Little Dorrit, as he affectionately calls her, is the daughter of a debtor and has spent her entire young life in the Marshalsea debtor’s prison. Small in stature and large in heart, she seems to exist primarily to make her father comfortable and fret over the whims of her worldly older brother and sister. The characters seem to be split between idolizing her, and viewing her as invisible. In fact, the book could just as easily be called Little Doormat, and Fanny Price has nothing on Amy in terms of being perfect. Yet as a reader, you can’t help but root for her and hope she finally gets a life of her own.

The longer the book the harder I find it to review, simply because so much happens. A few of the blatant social commentary chapters are slightly tedious, like those concerning the Circumlocution Office; otherwise it is an entertaining and engrossing read despite the density. Surprisingly I find myself able to keep up with the wide cast of characters, who are still somehow all distinct. Some, however, seem to have little or no connection to the main narrative as of yet, such as the prisoners from the beginning.

Charles Dickens paints a very compelling picture of London at the time. As bad as the poor sections of cities are today it seems about the same or worse back then. So many are in debt or just struggling to get by. And yet, there is enough goodness in enough of the characters to keep it from being bleak. He often treads a fine line between humor and pathos. I was especially touched by Arthur’s reflections on what Nobody must be feeling, since Nobody (least of all himself) is hopelessly in love with the Meagles’ daughter Pet.

It’s a lofty goal but I’d love to be able to finish this by the end of the month, especially since I’m almost done my library stack. If I read fifty pages a day?

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Published in: on June 20, 2009 at 8:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] wrote about the first half of the novel here. In the second book the newly-rich Dorrit family is traveling in Europe and meets up with […]


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