Saturday, February 13, 2021

"Telling their history by themselves": The negation of novels in Charles Dickens's "The Old Curiosity Shop"

While Nell Trent and her grandfather in Charles Dickens's "The Old Curiosity Shop" are working in a wax museum in a small English town, Nell sees Miss Edwards, an impoverished boarder at a local school for girls, welcome her younger sister for a visit: "Their plain and simple dress, the distance which the child had come alone, their agitation and delight, and the tears they shed, would have told their history by themselves." For a moment here, Dickens's fourth novel dismisses the need for novels, since the stories they tell can be replaced by the observation of clothing and emotional expression as well as by a small amount of background infomation. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 13 February 2021)


(In the image, an earlier scene, the headmistress of the school chastises Nell.)

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