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Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
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Dombey and Son (1848)

by Charles Dickens

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Although this is not one of Dickens’ more well-known novels, and it is described as problematic, I found it quite engrossing and rewarding. Certainly, it does not have the lightheartedness of some of Dickens’ other novels, and in the psychological complexity, it reminded me more of Henry James than of Dickens. Chronologically, it comes just before his more mature biographical books, and looks like a step towards those books.
The story of Paul Dombey junior, who has a sad life and dies early, is sentimental, although Dickens shows his skill in touching the reader in such a simple story. The story of Paul Dombey senior is sadder in his (almost) life-long arrogance, pride and emotional withdrawal. His sentimental turn at the end is undeserved, merely the contrivance needed to make the Victorian readers buy the next issue.
The story of Mrs. Dombey, although heavily contrived as well, is the set-up needed to explore the relationship between Dombey and those around him. She is excluded from power by the social mores of the time, and escapes only be running away with her cousin, but the psychological fight between her and her husband is epic. It makes the pain, fury and frustration of her situation clear, and could stand as an early look at women’s property and marital rights, much like the Galsworthy saga did much later.
The story of Florence, Dombey’s daughter, is the emotional centre of the story, although a highly idealized one, weakened for a modern audience by her flawless purity and self-sacrifice. In spite of that, a reader has to sympathize with her as a lonely, motherless child who wants only to get some recognition from her father but who is completely ignored by him. When she is used as a tool to poison and manipulate the life of her step-mother, you have to feel for her emotional anguish, and feel relief when she is finally able to leave the family home and find a blissful life with her true love.
The minor characters, as in the best of Dickens, are droll and entertaining caricatures. Their sub-plots are not very credible, but they lighten a tone that would otherwise be very somber, and they also give a social context in which the psychological drama of the main characters has to be understood.
This was a long slow read, but I enjoyed coming back to it and felt some sadness as it came to its final end. ( )
  rab1953 | Oct 11, 2013 |
Very Dickensian, which I love, with a large cast of characters & trials and tribulations ending with punishment for the wicked and virtue rewarded.

Mil Nicholson did a marvelous narration for Librivox! ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 26, 2013 |
Memorable for the passage in which Dickens gives vent to his belief that industrialisation is dehumanising his society. He uses the story of a man so absorbed by the nature of business and trade that he renders all human interaction as an exchange. In this novel Dickens wants 'to take the rooftops off' expose the consequences of the rapid development of manufacturing. He brilliantly makes the train an engine of destruction yet is clearly mesmerised by it. Some wonderful passages and not too many of his usual digressions. ( )
  Mercury57 | Nov 23, 2012 |
This is a beautiful edition of a classic for a book collector. The hardcover book has design details on front, back boards and spine. Color plate frontispiece, facing page and ten more throughout book. Each chapter also has a line drawing to left of chapter title. A wonderful way to enjoy a beloved author. Book slips into a box.
  MarieTea | Apr 15, 2012 |
Dickens' seventh major work, and about half-way through his life's works (which I am reading/re-reading in his 200th anniversary year).

While earlier works have a "boys own annual" feel to them, this is a more mature and complex book. While Dickens still annoys with his fantastic coincidences to bring his artificial plots together, in this book there are some interesting and developed characters. Florence, who feels it is somehow her fault that her father doesn't love her, has a modern feel. A comment passed about Dombey, who is obsessively proud, is informative: "Vices are sometimes virtues taken to excess".

I find it interesting that in his works, Dickens has multiple examples of strong, loving, brother-sister relationships, but almost no happy married couples of any depth. I wonder what this tells of his own background?

Darwin continues his social themes, in this work he often highlights the "depravity" deplored by the upper class is often a result of the blighted environment of the poorer peoples. He also points out that the same "depravity" has different consequences in different social stratas - the upper class can effectively sell daughters into a moneyed marriage, while the same process is called prostitution further down the social scale.

I see in Wikipedia that an early critic faulted the plot structure, saying that the death of Dombey Junior was effectively the end of the story, but I didn't find that fault. It was clear that Florence was going to be the hero - would she become the surrogate son? Would she be successful in some other way? Would there be a future marriage and further son? Many possibilities.

The book is L O N G, as usual. And Dickens tests his readers. A Mr Morfin re-appears on page 681. How many readers recall his last appearance on page 175?? I could only do so courtesy of the word search function in ebooks.

The book also has the usual complement of comic characters who regularly appear and regularly use the same "gags" for the same laughs: Capt Cuttle using nonsense nautical jargon; Major Bagstock endlessly referring to himself in the third person, and many other formulaic characters. It would seem that these were popular and sold the monthly parts. :)

So, a good book, with many of the usual flaws of Dickens, balanced by some vibrant writing. Read February 2012. ( )
1 vote mbmackay | Feb 20, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (51 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bourne, John CookeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablot KnightIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fairclough, PeterEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garrod, H. W.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pitz, Henry C.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pryce-Jones, AlanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, RaymondIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dombey sat in the corner of the darkened room in the great arm-chair by the bedside, and Son lay tucked up warm in a little basket bedstead, carefully disposed on a low settee immediately in front of the fire and close to it, as if his constitution were analogous to that of a muffin, and it was essential to toast him brown while he was very new.
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She brings daily in her little basket ... in sheets of curl-paper, morsels of cold meats, tongues of sheep, halves of fowls, for her own dinner.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140430482, Mass Market Paperback)

To Paul Dombey, business is everything and money can do anything. He runs his family life as he runs his firm: coldly, calculatingly and commercially. The only person he cares for is his little son, while his motherless daughter Florence craves affection from her unloving father, who sees her only as a base coin that couldn't be invested'. As Dombey's callousness extends to others - from his defiant second wife Edith to Florence's admirer Walter Gay - he sows the seeds for his own destruction. Can this heartless businessman be redeemed? A compelling depiction of a man imprisoned by his own pride, "Dombey and Son" (1848) explores the devastating effects of emotional deprivation on a dysfunctional family and on society as a whole.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:24 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

A powerful man callously neglects his family, triggering his personal and professional downfall.

» see all 10 descriptions

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Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140435468, 0141199911

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