March Classics Discussion: Dickens

Katharine over at November's Autumn is hosting a classics discussion every month:

Choose a setting within the novel that most intrigues you. Is it the house of the character? Maybe the place where the novel reaches its climax?

To clarify how this will work: I'll post various questions, don't feel obliged to answer all of them. Participants have the full month to post and share their answers.

The different levels are based on how far into the book you are.Feel free to skip around the levels if you see a question that catches your fancy.

Level 1
How has the author introduced the setting? What does it tell you about the character? about the time period? What is the mood of the setting?

I'm only about 10 chapters into Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop, but I thought I'd do a post on it anyway. The wider setting is, of course, London, and we spend most of the time in the curiosity shop. It seems to be night most of the time! In fact, the daylight hours are not described much, so even when it is day you feel that it's dark or badly-lit (which I suppose Victorian London mostly was, with all that smoke and fog, especially in the poor areas where buildings were crowded together and didn't have too many windows).

The shop itself is dingy, dark, and crowded with antiques and junk, with some living space in the back. It sounds very unpleasant, and Nell's youthful, pretty looks are strongly contrasted with her background. Her grandfather is just like the shop too, but Nell stands out like a light in the dark, making the shop look worse in comparison. This tells us a lot about the story, I think; Nell is supposed to be a miraculous good in an awful place (like Oliver Twist, I suppose).

Level 2
How do you envision it? Find a few images or describe it. Do you feel the setting is right? or was it a weak point of the author?

The descriptions of the shop are fairly general so far. Individual items are not described, just a general murk. I'm not far enough into the story to be able to judge if the setting is right, but since Dickens' London is a major part of his stories, I feel pretty safe in assuming it to be a large part of this one. So far it's a strength, as it just about always is with Dickens.

Level 3
If this particular setting was changed how would it affect the course of the story?

Can you have a Nell and an old curiosity shop that isn't in Victorian London? Probably not.

By the way, I have no idea whether or not Nell dies, only that everyone worried about it. So don't tell me!


  1. I've yet to read Dickens, but have Great Expectations on my list of future reads.

    I do like scene setting in books so I guess you can't go far wrong with him.


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