I've always felt rather eccentric given the stories going on in my head and my unusual perspective of things going on around me. Even among other writers I always felt a little weird. Then I began studying the life of Charles Dickens and felt strangely validated as a writer. Through studying his life and his works, I have learned many amazing things that are thought-provoking and worthy of noting. He was and is a truly amazing man! I hope you enjoy this journey of discovery with me. ~Anita

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Curiosities of the Old Curiosity Shop

Just last Sunday on my local PBS television station, they showed a version of “The Old Curiosity Shop” which was made just a few years ago. It stars Derek Jacobi. You might not know him by name, but many people would see him and think his face is surely familiar. Ironically, he was in the movie “Hereafter” where he played himself, and he was doing a public reading from a Dickens novel.

Anyway, I must confess that TOCS is not my favorite Dickens tale, and watching it again reinforced my feelings. However, I was actually surprised at how my respect and understanding of the story had changed since I’d seen it a few years ago. I’ve also seen another, older, much longer version on film, but given the depressing nature of the story, I think I prefer the more abridged version. Depressing, yes. Powerful, most definitely! Moving and worth seeing, absolutely! It’s certainly no more depressing than any given episode of Law and Order, a show that I’ve only watched now and then when illness has made me desperate for something that will make my mind expand a bit, and I always love the solving of a mystery, and the exploration of the human experience. What continually amazes me about Dickens is his vast understanding of the human experience, even at a very young age. He actually wrote Oliver Twist in his twenties. His twenties! I have children in their twenties, and I love them but I know they don’t have that much wisdom and insight. Ironically I recently came across (quite by accident, except that I don’t believe in coincidences) Oliver Twist on TV and rewatched it, as well. Given that it has no romance in it, and it also has some very difficult circumstances, it is on that list of my less-than-favorite Dickens stories. But I was surprised and amazed at its depth and power. And it has a delightfully happy ending.

Back to TOCS. I was quite blown away by the absolute pertinence the story has for today. Some issues are timeless, I suppose. But it’s the story of a sweet young teenaged girl (Little Nell) whose grandfather (her sole guardian) gambles away everything they have and Nell is reduced to working, then begging in the streets, and suffering all kinds of horrors because her grandfather (who is basically a good man and loves Nell) is so controlled by his addiction that he is destroying himself and her.

Now I am going to give away the ending, except that anyone who knows anything about Dickens already knows this because it’s a well-known story. Little Nell dies in the end. The first time I learned this story, I was furious over Nell’s death. I had words with Mr. Dickens. Whether or not he heard them or cares about my opinion I can’t say. But over time, I have learned more about life and more about the author’s life. For Nell, the ultimate happy ending was for her to be released from the horrors of this mortal life. It was the only truly possible ending for her that could be happily ever after. And Nell’s death brings her grandfather to his senses and he begins a path of redemption.

Addictions are destroying families right and left in the world we live in. So, given the big picture, I found this story and its film adaptation well worth the time in trying to understand, and have compassion for, the victims of addiction that I come in contact with.

In the end, I would highly recommend sharing this film with my readers. Click the picture to go over to the PBS website, and you can even watch it online!

All in all, being a devout Dickens fan, I feel in awe and mightily proud of him for writing a story with such depth and insight that would still be applicable a century and a half later.

1 comment:

Rhonda Miller said...

I've never heard of this Dickens tale, but it does kind of sound familiar with tales you hear all the time on the news. It sounds like we can all learn a lesson from this tale. Thanks for sharing this.