Saturday, January 02, 2021

The money-lender's "mean and paltry lie" in "Nicholas Nickleby"

Ralph Nickleby, the money-hungry uncle of the title character in Charles Dickens's "Nicholas Nickleby", argues against what he calls "the cant of the lying world" that money-lenders like him grow rich "by dissimulation and fawning". On the contrary, he sees "the money-borrowers" themselves as the ones who tell "mean and paltry lies." From one angle, this makes sense: borrowers often tell many stories to lenders about when they can pay their debts. But Ralph isn't just a "money-lender"; he's a speculator who actually does trick people out of their money. His self-defense is thus the "mean and paltry lie" of a confidence man accusing his victims of what he himself does. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 2 January 2021)

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