Finally, an instalment that seems to build directly on the previous one! This isn’t the first time this has happened so far, but it feels like a far rarer occurrence than I expected when we first started out. My greatest surprise in reading the novel in this manner is how ill or perhaps I should say oddly it fits into the pattern of weekly instalments.
Is it wrong that Stryver has now become my favourite character? (Although Miss Pross is a close second). JRSD mentioned last week that old (and rather annoying) chestnut “If Dickens had been alive in the twentieth/twenty-first century he’d be writing for East Enders/Coronation Street/The Bill”. Well, this week, in regards to the first chapter at least, I think we might say “If Dickens had been alive in the twentieth/twenty-first century he’d be writing sitcoms”. To me the exchange between Stryver and Lorry reminded me of the kind of humorous play on language that you might get in a Morecambe and Wise sketch or an old-fashioned British sitcom like Open All Hours or Dad’s Army. It made me realize how much of Dickens’s usual humour had been lacking in the novel so far. Comedic scenes have been few and far between. Perhaps this is why I like Stryver so much. Plus I find something quite refreshing about his complete lack of delicacy.
Like last week, the twelfth instalment is a game of two halves, the conversation between Lucie and Carton, although running on a similar subject to that of Stryver and Lorrie, providing a striking contrast, and perhaps, dare I say it, actually bordering on being soapish, by which I suppose we mean focused on the domestic and dealing in the emotional, as well as being divided up into neat little parcels with a suitably dramatic ending to make one eager to unwrap the next instalment. Emotion, whether it be tears or laughter, is notoriously difficult to talk about, and I am finding that myself with this instalment. I find the structuring of the instalment interesting, however – the way Dickens moves from one to the other, juxtaposing and contrasting the two.
What did strike me in relation to this instalment was Lorry’s similarity to Wemmick in Great Expectations. He has his business character as the representative of Tellsons’ and he has private character, in contrast to Stryver who is all business and is unable to countenance in considerations other than business considerations in relation to a marriage proposal. What is interesting about this is that in ‘Inexhaustible Hats’ a few pages later, we get an account of the various tricks inherent in sales of the household goods of people declared bankrupt. John Hollingshead seems to suggest in this article that the world of business and banking is not so far apart from the domestic and the personal, positing a fluid relationship between the two built on ideas of circulation. Does this article act in concert, opposition or dialogue with the TOTC instalment? I’m not sure. The poem ‘Memory’ also seems to speak to the TOTC instalment, although in a rather moment straightforward sentimental depiction of romantic love and loss.