Monday, August 28, 2023

On Charles Dickens as “sentimental, theatrical, moralistic, and controlling” (Zadie Smith) — and the end of “Our Mutual Friend"

In "Killing Dickens", in "The New Yorker", Zadie Smith writes that, after a childhood reading "far too much" Dickens, she developed "the usual doubts and caveats about him—too sentimental, too theatrical, too moralistic, too controlling." In my three years of reading Dickens, I saw the sentimentality of the early novels disappear, enjoyed the theatricality, and ignored moralizing. But I found the ending of the otherwise wonderful "Our Mutual Friend" (1865) "controlling": when Bella Wilfer's story ends with her discovery that John Rokesmith/Harmon's courtship of her was staged by him and her benefactors the Boffins, I wondered why she didn't become paranoid but instead appreciated how her friends had manipulated her. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 28 August 2023)


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