Tuesday, August 01, 2023

“The property of strangers” in Charles Dickens’s “Our Mutual Friend” (1865) and “the kindness of strangers” in Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1947)

In Charles Dickens's "Our Mutual Friend" (1865), in a conversation with John Rokesmith, the Secretary for her benefactors the Boffins, Bella Wilfer says what it felt like to have almost been married off to a man she'd never met, John Harmon, and then to suspect after Harmon's death that Rokesmith himself was interested in her: "Am I for ever to be made the property of strangers?" (She does not know that Rokesmith is actually the still-alive Harmon.) When I read that line, I thought of Blanche DuBois's final words in Tenneessee Williams's "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1947) as an inversion of Dickens: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 1 August 2023)

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