I, like most of you was introduced to Charles Dickens by reading “Great Expectations”. Although I was not happy with the ending, I loved certain characters in the book, especially Pip’s brother –in- law Joe. I remember feeling so happy for him when his wretched wife died and he remarried someone else as sweet as he is. In “A Tale of Two Cities” we are taught of what true love is and the ultimate unselfishness in giving your life for someone else.
Read this great passage from the book. It is Mr. Boffin describing the parting of the child that had been in Mrs. Boffin’s care and how it affected them both. I tear up every time I read it because of the tenderness it portrays:
'The last time me and Mrs. Boffin saw the poor boy,' said Mr. Boffin, warming (as fat usually does) with a tendency to melt, 'he was a child of seven year old…. He was going away, all alone and forlorn, to that foreign school, and he come into our place, situate up the yard of the present Bower, to have a warm at our fire. There was his little scanty travelling clothes upon him. There was his little scanty box outside in the shivering wind, which I was going to carry for him down to the steamboat, as the old man wouldn't hear of allowing a sixpence coach-money.Mrs Boffin, then quite a young woman and pictur of a full-blown rose, stands him by her, kneels down at the fire, warms her two open hands, and falls to rubbing his cheeks; but seeing the tears come into the child's eyes, the tears come fast into her own, and she holds him round the neck, like as if she was protecting him, and cries to me, "I'd give the wide wide world, I would, to run away with him!" I don't say but what it cut me, and but what it at the same time heightened my feelings of admiration for Mrs Boffin. The poor child clings to her for awhile, as she clings to him, and then, when the old man calls, he says "I must go! God bless you!" and for a moment rests his heart against her bosom, and looks up at both of us, as if it was in pain--in agony. Such a look! I went aboard with him (I gave him first what little treat I thought he'd like), and I left him when he had fallen asleep in his berth, and I came back to Mrs Boffin.But tell her what I would of how I had left him, it all went for nothing, for, according to her thoughts, he never changed that look that he had looked up at us two. But it did one piece of good. Mrs Boffin and me had no child of our own, and had sometimes wished that how we had one. But not now. "We might both of us die," says Mrs Boffin, "and other eyes might see that lonely look in our child." So of a night, when it was very cold, or when the wind roared, or the rain dripped heavy, she would wake sobbing, and call out in a fluster, "Don't you see the poor child's face? O shelter the poor child!"--till in course of years it gently wore out, as many things do."
Now doesn’t that passage make them so real? What sweet people they are. I hope that Dickens really knew a couple like this and that he fashioned the Boffin’s after them.
PBS is in the process of doing several Dickens classics on Masterpiece Classics through the month of May. They just finished “Oliver Twist”. It was an excellent production, equal to the 1999 and 2005 versions which are both great. I always judge how good an “Oliver” is by how good the Fagin character is portrayed, and he is great in all 3 of these versions. I recommend you watch all three. Next week they start “David Copperfield”. This is a great version and it is fun to see Daniel Radcliff (Harry Potter) in his first major role as the young Copperfield, but the best character in this is his aunt, Betsey Trotwood, played by Maggie Smith.
Anyway, thanks for letting me enjoy Charles Dickens with you and if you have a favorite Dickens’ character, leave a comment for others to read why. (Sorry this was so long!)