Little Dorrit (libro en inglés)


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Libro Little Dorrit (libro en inglés). Sinopsis libro, reseña libro. Little Dorrit is a classic tale of imprisonment, both literal and metaphorical, while Dickens’ working title for the novel, Nobody’s Fault, highlights its concern with personal responsibility in private and public life. Dickens ‘ childhood experiences inform the vivid scenes in Marshal sea debtors prison, while his adult perceptions of governmental failures shape his satirical picture of the Circumlocution Office. The novel’s range of characters – the honest, the crooked, the selfish and the self-denying – offers a portrait of a society about whose values Dickens had profound doubts. Little Dorrit is indisputably one of Dickens ‘ finest works, written at the height of his powers. George Bernard Shaw called it ‘a masterpiece among masterpieces, a verdict shared by the novel’s many admirers. Nota: el contenido de este libro se encuentra en inglés.The novel’s range of characters – the honest, the crooked, the selfish and the self-denying – offers a portrait of a society about whose values Dickens had profound doubts. Little Dorrit is indisputably one of Dickens ‘ finest works, written at the height of his powers. George Bernard Shaw called it ‘a masterpiece among masterpieces, a verdict shared by the novel’s many admirers. Nota: el contenido de este libro se encuentra en inglés.Nota: el contenido de este libro se encuentra en inglés. Libro Little Dorrit (libro en inglés).

1 valoración en Little Dorrit (libro en inglés)

  1. Bionic Jean

    Little Dorrit is Charles Dickens’s eleventh novel, published in monthly parts between December 1855 and June 1857, and illustrated by his favourite artist and friend Hablot Knight Browne, or “Phiz”. We tend to give Dickens’s novels convenient labels, such as the one criticising the workhouse: “Oliver Twist”, the one criticising schools: “Nicholas Nickleby”, the one criticising the legal system: “Bleak House”, and the one criticising unions: “Hard Times”. This one could be thought of as “the one criticising government bureaucracy”. But it is much, much more than that.

    By now Dickens had established himself as a literary phenomenon. He was an enormously popular novelist, but he was keen to sustain his literary status as well as entertain the crowds. Like “Bleak House”, this is an elaborate, very complex and occasionally creaky novel with many interwoven and seemingly inexplicable mysteries. In this, it seems more of a natural successor to “Bleak House”, rather than to the much shorter and more direct one which preceded it, “Hard Times” (although the vitriol of “Hard Times” is in evidence here too). Although Little Dorrit is set in about 1826, it was written only a few years after the great Crystal Palace Exhibition “of the Works of Industry of All Nations” in 1851. It is interesting to wonder whether this vicious attack on British institutions is in part a commentary by Dickens on Britain’s grand industrial and social advances.

    Dickens was continuing to work at a frenetic pace — to “burn himself out” in the modern vernacular — and his personal life was equally frenzied. In these two years, he bought two new houses, including his dream house “Gads Hill” in Rochester, which he had admired since he was a boy. He lived in Folkestone, Paris, Boulogne and London, as well as travelling for speeches and business. He continued to write, edit, and give public readings, be involved in the lives of his children, and was as enthusiastic about the theatre as ever. He produced and acted in 6 plays and farces during this time, helped by his friend Wilkie Collins, although Dickens was very much the driving force behind them. And his letters reveal that he was approaching a domestic crisis, and increasingly frustrated with his marriage. He was preoccupied by the idea of freedom in all areas; freedom assumed a greater and greater importance to him, and he was increasingly impatient with the Victorian constraints of his time.

    Little Dorrit is the novel which comes out of this state of mind. The themes of prisons and being trapped in various ways, both physically and psychologically, permeate throughout the book. Dickens certainly felt himself trapped, whatever others thought. He also felt a long-buried shame at his father’s incarceration in the “Marshalsea” Prison for debt. This is perhaps the novel most influenced by Charles Dickens’s early experience, and a sense of gross injustice prevails too. In fact the original title of the novel, for the first four issues, was not Little Dorrit but “Nobody’s Fault”.

    The Marshalsea Prison was a notorious prison in Southwark, Surrey (although Southwark is now part of London), just south of the River Thames. It was one of London’s best known debtors’ prisons, and one with which Dickens was well acquainted. Of course, the irony was that the only way for those incarcerated to survive there, was by purchasing items to keep themselves fed and clothed. Getting out was well nigh impossible, as being incarcerated, they could rarely earn any money! It was very much like a village behind bars, and although it was 30 years since his father had been imprisoned there (and the prison had been closed down in 1842), Dickens had never returned to look at it.

    Only when he came to write Little Dorrit, did Dickens nerve himself to visit the parts of it which were still standing. He notes in his preface, that this was in order to research the “rooms that arose to my mind’s eye when I became Little Dorrit’s biographer.” Yet Amy Dorrit (“Little Dorrit”) is not the main character in the book. If there is just one, it would be Arthur Clennam. Dickens may well have decided to name his novel after Amy, since she is one of the very few virtuous unaffected characters, always seeking opportunities for each of her family, and through sheer determination, working towards the best life they can all have. She may be small in stature, but her heart and courage are great indeed.

    Amy was born in the “Marshalsea” Prison, surrounded by a family who all display the faults which can result from such a meanness of environment. Her father, William, is so pompous, so quick to take offence, and so socially conscious, that having the unofficial title “Father of the Marshalsea” conferred on him, is seen by him as a great honour. He is arrogant, selfish, and “all show”, continually bolstered up by Amy’s coquettish and patronising sister Fanny, a theatrical dancer, and her brother Tip, a roguish ne’er-do-well. William’s brother Frederick, a broken man, has been up to now, Amy’s only true friend.

    We also follow the story of Arthur Clennam. On his father’s death, Arthur has returned from business abroad, and is at a loose end. Arthur’s mother is a grim, old puritanical woman, who is paralysed, and living in the gloomy, decrepit old family house. She is attended by Flintwinch, a malicious man, twisted in both body and mind, who has wheedled himself into being her business partner, and forced the family servant, Affery, to marry him. These three form a unholy trio. The scenes set here have a gothic unearthly quality, and Affery, with her terrified nonsensical babbling, comes across as some kind of wise seer. There is hatred and malevolence here; a deep-seated resentment, but we are not privy to its cause, and neither is Arthur.

    There are myriad minor characters who make this novel sparkle, although it is a sinister sparkle, perhaps as in sparkly vampires. There is the avaricious Casby, with his flowing white hair and twinkly eyes, with a semblance of benevolence shining out of his bald head. There is his whipping-boy and rent-collector Pancks, a little chugging steam engine, busily screwing more and more money out of Casby’s tenants. There is Casby’s daughter, the widow Flora Finching, fat, flirtatious and foolish. Twittery, chattery Flora used to be Arthur’s sweetheart (a fact which now appalls him) and is determined that he will never forget that fact, much to Arthur’s embarrassment and chagrin. She now looks after an equally eccentic and hilariously impossible relative, “Mr F.’s aunt”.

    Flora’s character is based on Maria Beadnell (later Mrs Henry Winter), with whom Charles Dickens had fallen madly in love, in 1830, when he was 18. Maria, like Flora, was pretty and flirtatious, and the daughter of a highly successful banker (similar enough to a property-owner). After three years, her parents objected to the relationship, because Dickens’s prospects did not look good. Dickens wrote to her, “I never have loved and I never can love any human creature breathing but yourself.” And it is clear from his letters to his friend, John Forster, that Dickens had felt completely heartbroken over the break-up.

    He met Maria, now Mrs Winter, again in 1856, and although he knew she was a great fan of her work, he was devastated at how she had changed, although she had tried to warn him, describing herself candidly in a letter as being “toothless, fat, old and ugly”. Dickens found her talkativeness especially irritating, and quickly attempted to extricate himself from all but the most essential social contact with her — and always strictly in public. Dickens it now was, who rebuffed Maria’s flirtatious attempts, and he portrayed her here as the voluble and irrepressible Flora.

    Perhaps an old affection did temper his pen, however. Although it seems a cruel, heartless portrait initially, Flora reveals herself to have a heart of gold, and hidden perceptiveness, as the novel proceeds. These characters who are so vociferous often prove to be the most multi-layered in Dickens’s novels. The silent ones are often more shadowy. But Flora is an appalling delight, and some scenes which feature her may well make you laugh out loud:

    “Wanting the heart to explain that this was not at all what he meant, Arthur extended his supporting arm round Flora’s figure. ‘Oh my goodness me,’ said she. ‘You are very obedient indeed really and it’s extremely honourable and gentlemanly in you I am sure but still at the same time if you would like to be a little tighter than that I shouldn’t consider it intruding’”.

    There is Mr Merdle, the financier and greatest man of his time:

    “As a vast fire will fill the air to a great distance with its roar, so the sacred flame which the mighty Barnacles had fanned caused the air to resound more and more with the name of Merdle. It was deposited on every lip, and carried into every ear. There never was, there never had been, there never again should be, such a man as Mr Merdle. Nobody, as aforesaid, knew what he had done; but everybody knew him to be the greatest that had appeared.”

    Dickens builds Mr Merdle up so much that we are tempted to suspect that everything might come crashing down! In fact Mr Merdle is based on a real life Irish financier and politician, called John Sadleir, a “prince of swindlers”. John Sadleir had resigned his ministerial position, when he was found guilty of being implicated in a plot to imprison a depositor of the Tipperary Bank, because the individual in question had refused to vote for him. His disastrous speculations and forgeries had ruined several major banks, to the tune of more than £1.5 million. John Sadleir had ended his life by drinking prussic acid. There is Mr Merdle’s wife, always referred to as “the Bosom”, on which he displays all his jewels and worldly acquisitions. Mrs Merdle piques herself on being society, hypocritically professing herself “charmed” at the idea of being a “perfect savage”. She values her own status, money and etiquette above all else. There is her son from a previous marriage, Edward Sparkler, a chap of limited intelligence, whose highest praise of a woman is that there is “no nonsense about her”.

    There is young John Chivery, the prison warden’s son, who is devoted to Amy, and has a tendency to keep imagining his own gravestone with appropriate new inscriptions, according to how he feels the wind is blowing with respect to her feelings about him. And the kindly Meagles family: the retired banker Mr Meagles, impossibly convinced that all the world should speak English, his wife, and their cossetted daughter Minnie, or “Pet”. There is Pet’s companion or servant “Tattycoram”, whose real name is Harriet Beadle. Tattycoram/Harriet is an interesting character, who is to play an essential part in the novel’s outcome. She grows greatly in character, but initially has understandable feelings of resentment. She was a foundling, who has ostensibly been adopted by the Meagles. They think they are being benevolent in this, but in fact she feels patronised, instructed to “count five and twenty, Tattycoram” whenever she shows her temper, and is treated more like a servant than a companion. These feelings are encouraged by another malevolent and manipulative presence in the book, Miss Wade, one of Dickens’s most evil creations.

    We have a veritable panoply of characters then, full of energy and life, spilling from the pages, as always in a novel by Dickens — and there are many more I have not mentioned. And the dastardly villain of the piece? He is a true pantomime villain — “Rigaud”, alias “Blandois” — based on the hated tyrant Napoleon III — and we first meet him right at the start of the novel, in a prison, in Marseilles. For this novel does not start out in the dank gloom of the Marshalsea, but in an oppressive hellhole of a prison in the blistering heat of the South of France. We see Rigaud’s arrogant, evil, manipulative, swaggering personality straightaway, and although Dickens keeps up the mystery by rarely naming him, we can recognise him every time he enters the stage, by his malicious, devilish smile, when:

    “his moustache went up under his nose, and his nose came down over his moustache”.

    Mysteries abound in this novel. There are long-lost twins, both male and female, impersonations and doppelgängers, unsuspected marriages and dysfunctional relationships. There is truth, but mostly there are lies, and secrets. There is the collapse of an institution, both metaphorically and in a very dramatic literal scene. It is doom-laden, with delusions and dreams; mysterious creaking sounds are seen to be prophetic. There is a suicide — and a murder — and animal cruelty.

    It is a novel of two parts, entitled “Poverty” and “Riches”. In the second part, there is restitution of a sort, and there is punishment. Debts are paid. Poverty is transformed into riches, and those who were kind to each other when they were poor, become more spiteful or selfish, considering such earlier behaviour to be humiliating. Starting in Marseilles, the action removes to London and then Venice — a crumbling, decaying edifice, reflected in the degeneration of the characters within it. In Little Dorrit any prosperity is almost a guarantee that the wealth will be put to bad use. Even that decidedly decent fellow Daniel Doyce, intelligent and kind, the inventor of an unspecified mechanical wonder, is unable to get a patent for it in the Circumlocution Office, and we fear for his future.

    Nothing in Little Dorrit is what it appears to be. In many ways it is as much of a mystery story as “Bleak House”. Almost all the characters are self-seeking, and the message of the novel is a very bleak one indeed. For whereas the concerns of the novel are similar to those of “Dombey and Son”, in Little Dorrit it is not only business concerns which are corrupt. It has a far wider purview — Dickens here attacks the whole of British society. The novel Little Dorrit does not merely indicate a dark view of human nature, but is a savage indictment of the corruption at the heart of British institutions, and the effects of British economic and social structure upon every single individual. Dickens shows with this embittered novel that he believes British society to be rotten to the core, and riddled with deceit. There are only two refuges from the all-pervasive “Circumlocution Office”, either exile, or prison.

    The very name “Circumlocution Office” is a challenge, and with the monstrous “Barnacle” family, Dickens once more thumbs his nose, by naming the family after a limpet-like marine animal, which lies on its back and attaches itself to anything solid, such as a ship forging ahead and destroying everything in its path. This is another metaphor for that great destroyer of originality, the Circumlocution office. It is a self-serving system of sinecures; a place where all the employees learn “how not to do it”, where all innovation, creativity, individualism and enterprise are efficiently stifled and ultimately quashed.

    Together with the Stiltstalkings, the Barnacles infest both government and society, going around in circles, spewing red tape, and accomplishing nothing. They ensure that no business which might promote the common good is ever done, crushing both originality and initiative, and rendering all relationships false. This damning satiric representation of the Civil Service draws on Dickens’s view of the recent government’s bad decisions during the Crimean War (which they expected would take 12 weeks, but in fact took twelve months, three major land battles and countless actions resulting in loss of life on a massive scale) coupled with the leftover cynicism from his own days as a young parliamentary reporter. Dickens was well placed to comment on the Civil Service, and his view was savage, waspish — and also very witty. Chapter 10: “Containing the Whole Science of Government” is possibly the funniest thing Dickens ever wrote — and that’s really saying something!

    The extraordinary achievement of Little Dorrit is that such a devastating and dour indictment of British society and institutions can be so very readable, so topical, yet at the same time so current, in its description of the never-ending wheels grinding on in the Civil Service — and to contain such delightful characters. Dickens’s characters can be recognised in any age; he knew how to write about the familiar types of people we all know.

    I can see Mrs Merdle with her “Bird, be quiet!”, and the awful spectacle of Mr Dorrit with his airs and graces, posturing, hemming and hawing “hem — hah — ah”. I can see the heart-rending picture of an over-large child, Maggy, Amy’s mentally disabled friend with her “large features, large feet and hands, large eyes and no hair”, devotedly following her diminutive friend Amy round like a little dog, with an inner conviction that if they all go to “’orspital” everything will be all right. I can see timid beaten Affery, worrying about “those two clever ones” always plotting.

    I can see the appalling “varnishing” of the smooth-tongued Mrs General, employed as a tutor to Fanny and Amy, with her insistence on reciting “Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism” at every opportunity, in order to keep the lips in the desired pouting positions:

    “[her] way of forming a mind was to prevent it from forming opinions. She had a little circular set of mental grooves or rails on which she started little trains of other people’s opinions, which never overtook one another, and never got anywhere”.

    And now I can see the final scene in the book open up before my eyes. The two characters we have been rooting for most, come out of the church of St George the Martyr, in Southwark, and are swallowed up in the roar of the city:

    “[they pause] for a moment on the steps of the portico looking at the fresh perspective of the street in the autumn morning sun’s bright rays, and then went down. Went down into a modest life of usefulness and happiness … into the roaring streets, inseparable and blessed.”

    Curiously enough, in the church of St George the Martyr now, Little Dorrit herself is still to be seen. If you approach the altar and look up at the left panel of the magnificent stained glass window behind it, you will see the figure of St George, see that his foot is resting on a piece of parchment. Directly beneath this is a much smaller, kneeling figure of a girl, whose hands are clasped in prayer, and whose poke-bonnet is dangling from her back. This is “Little Dorrit”:

    Dickens always provides us with neatly tied up endings, in which mostly the evil characters get their just deserts, and our heroes achieve some sort of happiness, or growth. We have that here, but we also have a deep sense of doom, or foreboding. Their destinies lie heavily shrouded in the ether; the fug of the city.

    George Bernard Shaw considered Little Dorrit to be Dickens’s “masterpiece among many masterpieces”. I cannot think of a more apt description.

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