Discuss how Dickens Creates Sadness in Book the Second Essay Sample
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Introduction of TOPIC
Book the Second is called “The Reaping”, which is another biblical reference going on from “The Sowing”. This comes from Galatians 6:6-18 “As you sow so shall you reap”. The meaning of this is that a persons deeds, whether good or bad will repay them in kind. How a parent “sows” or in other words brings up their child will be shown in how they “reap” or rather how they grow up. The book centres on how the characters grow as individuals are given certain situations to deal with, which is often very sad and emotional given the “hard times” which they experience. Dickens use of emotive language also influences the sorrow within the book.
Stephan Blackpool’s life is full of anguish and sorrow which cries out for sympathy from the reader. He is married to a drunken “monster” of a woman who takes his money and spends it on drugs. He has “no way out” of this relationship without committing a felony and loves a woman named Rachel who, with the use of religious terminology “she looked as if she had a glory shining round her head” and gentle features “delicate”, “irradiated”, “gentle eyes”, seems to be an “angelic” woman. He cannot however marry her as he is already in a marriage which he cannot get out of. In chapter four “Men and Brothers”, Dickens describes the United Aggregate Tribunal, a union at Stephan’s work against Bounderby’s system of long hours and low wages. They attempt to recruit Stephan but he will not join them as he had swore not to get involved in anything like that to Rachel. Slackbridge refers to him as “Judas” and a traitor who has “deserted his post” and “sold his flag”. Through words he attacks Stephan, accusing him of not wanting to be associated in the “gallant stand for freedom and for right”.
Stephan tries to defend himself, saying that the union will likely do them “more harm then good”. He also says that he can’t because of reasons of his own such as the promise he made. Slackbridge is a brutal, belligerent man whereas Stephan is a kind, benevolent man and this can be seen from how they are described. Slackbridge is almost physical in his retaliation to Stephan’s rejection, “gnashing and tearing”. Stephan has a “worn face” which showed “homely emotions” with “kindness in their nature”. He is then ostracised by his workmen and made to suffer for doing nothing wrong. In chapter five, Bounderby brings Stephan in to question him on this rising mutiny. Stephan says nothing to defend the workers who had soon before abandoned him and for it he gets punished due to Bounderby’s irrational thinking. He says that Stephan is so “waspish” and “ill-conditioned”, that “even his own union will have nothing to do with him”, and therefore Bounderby “will have nothing to do with him either”. Getting fired from his job is the last anguish Stephan suffers in Book the Second and it sends him away from the woman he loves as no other employer will have him is Bounderby will not.
In chapter six, Stephan says his final goodbye to Rachel. This is very sad and empathetic in itself as Rachel always was the happiest part of Stephan’s life. He had a monstrosity of a wife, a cantankerous, arrogant employer and a belligerent ostracizing group of other workers, but none of it was so hard to bare as he had Rachel. He met with her and the old woman straight after he has been dismissed by Bounderby and told her that he must “turn his face on Coketown” and seek a new beginning. Although this is beneficial to him, his initial thought was that it would be “good for her, as it would save her from the change of being brought into question for not withdrawing from him.” His good natured, benevolent way of thinking makes the scene even sadder as it shows that with all the trouble he’s had in his life, he has never strayed from the morally right side of life.
“It would cost him a hard pang to leave her” but he knew he must. That night, Stephan, Rachel and the “old woman” went back to Stephan’s for a drink at which Louisa and Tom turned up. Although Louisa is obviously there to help Stephan, it is obvious that Tom is up to no good. He tells Stephan to “hang about the bank an hour or so” after hours and make sure the light porter sees him. The devilish description of Tom whose “breath fell like a flame of fire on Stephan’s ear” makes it easy to tell that he is getting Stephan into trouble and this also creates empathy for Stephan as the reader sees this trustworthy man falling into yet another hole which will lead him into problems. When Tom, Louisa and the old lady had left, Stephan walked Rachel home. When they reached her house “they were both afraid to speak” for the sheer sadness they felt at departing. Rachel wishes “rest and peace” for Stephan and Stephan says “Heaven bless thee,” and wishes her the best, bidding goodbye to the last part of happiness in his life. They left each other in a “hurried parting in the common street, yet it was a sacred remembrance to these two common people,” as it was how they had departed on each of their encounters.
When Mrs Gradgrind passes away in chapter nine, Dickens uses language to create sadness. Victorians loved sadness and tragedy in books and the portrayal of her death is done very emotionally. She is firstly described in the chapter as “helpless” and “feeble” to which the reader empathises with her. All people hate to see people they love and cherish grow old and weak and Dickens is brilliant in displaying the image of this. “The poor lady was nearer truth then she ever had been” This shows how Dickens disliked the utilitarian system, stating that Mrs Gradgrind’s nearest point of truth was on her death bed. As well as showing Dickens’s view, it also saddens the reader
to know how close to death she is. On being told that “Lady Bounderby” had arrived, she
This will take the reader back to when she had no idea what to call him, and the memory is a nice one which again makes it sadder that she is dying. It also shows that she has not changed and is still the woman she used to be. She seems to “have no pulse”, but when Louisa kisses her hand, she can see “a thin thread of life” left in her. This description is again emotional as it shows how little life there is left in Mrs Gradgrind. Within the conversation between Louisa and her mother, Mrs Gradgrind often goes very “silent” for periods of time and has an “awful lull on her face, like one who was floating away on some great water” and “content to be carried down the stream”. This clever piece of descriptions meaning is that Mrs Gradgrind is slowly allowing herself to be carried into the “abyss” of death. But Louisa “recalls her” to ask what it was she wanted to speak to her about.
The use of this river terminology is used again as Louisa again tries to stop her mother from “floating away”. Mrs Gradgrind is troubled because of what Louisa has not learned. She has learnt all the “ologies” from “day until night” but there is “something that her father missed,” She asked Louisa for a pen but “even the power of relentlessness had gone”. Even so, she “fancied that her request had been complied with and that the pen she could not have was held in her hand”. From this she began to “trace upon her wrappers”. It is very sad to see how Mrs Gradgrind is finally seeing the truth and wants Louisa too to see it but she cannot tell her and “the light that had always been so feeble and dim behind the weak transparency, went out” The figurative language used to describe both her weakness and death creates a solemn, melancholy surrounding and although she was never made to be a character the reader was so fond of, it is still saddening that she has passed away.
It ends with a quote of religious terminology from the Psalm, Mrs Gradgrind “emerged from the shadow in which man walketh and disquieteth himself in vain”. This quote has a definite platonic reference to it as in Plato’s analogy of the cave, the prisoners who have seen shadows all their lives (which symbolise the visual world) needed to escape from the illusion created by their senses and find the truth. Throughout this section of the book, Mrs Gradgrind is said to be “closer to the truth then ever before” and “emerged from the shadow” so the Platonic reference is defiantly there.
Mrs Sparsit resented Louisa from the moment she accepted the proposal from Mr Bounderby. It had been her plan all along to marry Mr Bounderby but this had been taken from her and her envy towards Louisa was immense. In chapter ten, Mrs Sparsit’s envy and grief are shown to be getting out of control and she, in her mind “erects a mighty staircase” that she believes Louisa to be on. At the bottom is a “dark pit of shame and ruin” and “down those stairs, from day to day and hour to hour, she saw Louisa coming”. Her physiological instability can be seen as she becomes obsessed with this ides, “it became the business of Mrs Sparsit’s life, to look up at her staircase, and to watch Louisa coming down”. If Louisa had once turned back, “it might have been the death of Mrs Sparsit in spleen and grief”. Mr Harthouse was a big part of this scheme, as he seemed to be “wooing” Louisa and the more time she spent with him, the closer she got to the bottom. “Mrs Sparsit had no intension of interrupting the descent” and was “eager to see it accomplished”. “She kept her wary gaze upon the stairs, and seldom so much as darkly shook her light mitten at the figure coming down.
This scene does not bring sadness to the reader, but instead a certain amount of empathy to Louisa. She seems to be in the crossfire of everyone yet she is one of the most innocent of all. As she has rarely experienced emotions due to her “ology” filled bring up, she does not know how to react to Mr Harthouse who except in kindness as she believes he is being kind and honest to her. Yet his plan is to seduce her, and this is not out of love or passion, but to give him a challenge to fulfil. Mrs Sparsit wants her to fall into a pit of “shame and ruin” out of her own jealousy yet again, Louisa has no knowledge of this and has done nothing wrong to provoke it. There is a definite repetition throughout the chapter of Louisa’s “downfall” from the top to the bottom of the stairs which shows that, although patient, Mrs Sparsit is in no way stable and is becoming more and more addicted to this allegorical image in her mind. She watches Louisa like a hawk, waiting for her to make a mistake and get “nearer and nearer to the bottom”.
In chapter twelve, Louisa goes home to seek her father. The chapter is bares huge turning points in the book as it marks the spark of emotion ignite in Louisa and Mr Gradgrind see the error of his system. The storm outside creates a pathetic fallacy with the mood inside the room. Louisa is described as “dishevelled”, “defiant” and “despairing” which is a shock as she has never had such vast emotive descriptions until then in the book. She first states to her father that “he has trained her from the cradle,” It is sad to see that she uses the word trained instead of loved or cherished as it makes her sound more like a dog then a daughter to him. She then bursts out with “I curse the hour in which I was born to such a destiny”. Her emotions have been unleashed and she is now angry, in despair and confused of what to do. She is dishevelled and has returned home to question her father on her life and its meaning. This is not sad for the reader, but it is very traumatising for Louisa which again creates empathy for her as she has finally realised the error in how she has been brought up.
She asks him “Where are the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart? What have you done O father, what have you done with the garden that should have bloomed once?” This metaphoric language shows her outburst of imagination and her exercise of “fancy”. She is asking him where is the love and emotion she does not have, and what he has done to stop her “strive against every natural prompting that has arisen in her heart”. Mr Gradgrind is “so unprepared” that he has difficulty answering and when he does, it is only to say “Yes, Louisa”. She goes on to say that she does not “reproach” him, as “what he has never nurtured in her, he has never nurtured in himself”. This creates a lot of respect and empathy for her as she is not condemning her father after all the years of no emotion and too much learning.
It can be seen that this strive to teach him his errors is making an effect as he “bows his head upon his hand and groans aloud” and calls her “poor child”, realising the mistakes he has made. She asks him whether he would have “doomed her” to a life of loneliness or “robbed her” of how she should have been had he nurtured her differently if he could see how she would turn out. She then states that if he had ignored and hated her, how better off she might have been as she would have been “free”. She has been won over to the world of imagination and fancy. Throughout the chapter, he moves to support her as she is letting herself out and he actually begins to give her attention and love as a good father should. It is ironic that his child who he has taught his system to is the child who shows how insensible it really is.
To conclude, Dickens uses language and dramatic disasters to create sadness throughout the second book. In 1854, the time at which the book was written, people loved romantic tragedy and trauma which the second book has with both Rachel and Stephan, and Mr Harthouse and Louisa. The death of Mrs Gradgrind is another tragedy which Dickens portrays well and is very emotional. He uses the metaphor of life as a river in which we all just drift down until the end and these uses of language as well as others he uses throughout the book are methods which Dickens uses to sadden the reader. The final scene in which Louisa lets out her emotions upon her father, condemning the day she was born and questioning his motives which lead her to be so dispassionate.