Category: Charles Dickens

The castle of aaaaaaaah

by Andrea Elizabeth

I replied to a Facebook comment that talking is overrated. Talking is mostly good for catharsis. It is a funeral to gain closure for something that has died. A eulogy. Take for example the law of Moses. This was necessary because man had fallen so far that they had no conscience. Except for a couple of guys. These guys naturally did right without being told. They had to instruct people, so their words were because of dead consciences, not living ones. 

Story-telling is similar. Something bad happened and it needed to be told to gain closure and maybe instruct ignorant people. Charles Dickens and Dostoyevsky had terrible pasts. 

But what about love and beauty? These words are also testaments of winter. If there were not scarcity of experience, we would not need to be reminded. If there were abundance, we would still need no reminder and probably would not appreciate one.

So words are eulogies said when something has passed.

T’was lovely

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just closed the tabs related to our trip, such as, what is the distance between Edinburgh and Glasgow? Where is the Bronte Parsonage Museum? Such sadness to be leaving Britain behind. I’m slowly unpacking and reorganizing my new closet that George shelved up for me while I was gone. Is it that my grand adventure is over, or would I rather live there? The proximity to the stomping grounds of my favourite authors, the heavenly sheep dotted country side, the simple, but eminently satisfying tea and scones, the original Victorian woodwork in the pubs, the modest, cozy tidiness of it all?




Cemetery by the Bronte parsonage. They are buried under the Church, however.

Interpersonal relationships in Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky

by Andrea Elizabeth

Orthodox Interventions mentions Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky in its introductions about existentialistic experience. I complained about how the rest of the intros seemed to dismiss western work on interpersonal relationships with the traditional monastic God-focused source of homeostasis. Since they did mention these two authors, I would like to think for a minute about the personal life of Kierkegaard and the characters in Dostoevsky.

There is a funny but naughty characterization of Kierkegaards writings as the Regina Monologues. I do not point this out dismissively as I do think that not having a relationship can actually lead to intensive study about what one is missing instead of taking their supposedly successful experience for granted thinking they have arrived. I came to this observation after listening to a Catholic celibate priest talk surprisingly wisely about marriage. I thought, how does he know? Some might say he was idealist, but I think studying can give one a vision for how things are supposed to be when those closer to it can perhaps not see the forest for the trees, as it were. That said, Kierkegaard seems to have come to a bad end, almost like Edgar Allen Poe’s dying alone in a gutter. I think they needed more personal relating than they got. But would we have such great literature if they had? Suffering yeilds greatness, I suppose.

The world failed Dostoevsky too. His characters’ relationships are soooo tenuous. If you’re looking for a secure, happy ending, you will be disappointed. Shakespeare’s tragedies are different in that external forces are keeping worthy people apart. Dostoevsky’s characters implode on themselves. But Dostoevsky read Shakespeare, and I’ve heard Dickens. I saw somewhere that there is a legend that the two D’s met, but the exchange was brief and uneventful. Was their influence on each other? The Russians even though listening to the west seem to have kept their own identity and distinctions. It’s almost as if their glances to the west are sideways. I also read about how Russian romanticism is different than western, but I can’t remember exactly how – it’s not as faithful to the other. It’s almost inherently tragic in its nature. I’m going to let you down, but love me anyway if you want, or don’t. That sounds too cold, but I think the detachment is right. They are willing to suffer and to cause suffering.

And the world failed Dickens, but he thought he could fix it. His books are persuasive arguments to improve, and I’ve heard he helped. But I don’t think he saw how much more complex the problems would become once a certain kind of suffering – squalor – was corrected. Well maybe he did with Honoria Deadlock and Lady Haversham. I don’t get the impression he thought these two wealthy women’s lives would have necessarily been better if they’d gotten the relationships they wanted. He doesn’t really respect their subsequent ruin nor particularly blame the men or circumstances even if the women do.

Tim Burton I think has the answer in Corpse Bride. He resurrected the phoenix.

Proceeding according to precedent

by Andrea Elizabeth

Chancery, which knows no wisdom but in precedent, is very rich in such precedents; and why should one [victim] be different from ten thousand?

Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Dickens is known as a social reformer, in this case, of the legal system. In order to lead reform, you have to vilify the status quo. Contrarily, Orthodoxy exalts its precedents and believes that what is not broken does not need fixing. I think my problem here is with the seeming vilification of the word “precedent”. Some are bad and some aren’t.

finish what you started first

by Andrea Elizabeth

The Idiot is calling me, but I feel I should finish Bleak House first. Only 360ish pages to go. Should only take a month or so, unless I get more disciplined or I become unable to put it down, which usually happens only in the last part of a good book these days. I almost quit and read The Hunger Games, since my daughter couldn’t put all three books down for the three days it took her to read them, but I can’t get past the horrifying plot. I can probably stand it for the two hours the new movie should take.

The names, the names!

by Andrea Elizabeth

That old Mr. Turveydrop should ever, in the chances and changes of life, have come to the rescue of Mr. Jellyby from Borioboola-Gha, appeared to me to be one of the pleasantest of oddities.

– Charles Dickens, Bleak House, Penguin Classics, p. 613

Guaranteed happiness

by Andrea Elizabeth

In Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Esther is a young woman who was unloved in her younger life. It is natural that she would crave love as a result. Her character is such that she doesn’t solicit it, however. She focuses more on loving others. When love is expressed, though, this is her reaction, “Well! It was only their love for me, I know very well, and it is a long time ago. I must write it even if I rub it out again, because it gives me so much pleasure. They said there could be no east wind [John Jarndyce’s term for bad feelings] where Somebody was; they said that wherever Dame Durden [their pet name for Esther] went, there was sunshine and summer air.”

What does love mean? That you will always be enough for someone and they will never need anything else? That you will save each other? The way the story plays out indicates that this is not the case. Only the characters who have consistently exhibited strength of character have happy endings. It is not their strength alone that saves them, but it seems a belief in cosmic karma guarantees that they will get the help they need eventually. I have read that Dickens was a universalist. I don’t know how that plays into his pattern of bad characters getting knocked off.

This is somewhat related in my mind to Whitney Houston’s funeral. I was impressed with T.D. Jakes’ sermon about universal resurrection. It is true that all the dead will be raised. But no one talked about Judgment Day. The last sermon, at the end of the 3 hours, given by an Atlanta pastor who was Whitney’s last, I believe, only addressed the prosperity doctrine. I cannot understand what it has to do with her death or the afterlife. I could stretch it into some universalist belief, I suppose, that God only wants everyone eternally happy and well-fed. This is true, but it takes something on our part. How much and when are the universal questions. The Sinner’s Prayer? Another chance after death of intellectual acceptance of Jesus as personal savior with a guaranteed result? Or only upon repentance and constant vigilance in this life, with some trials still to go though after death?

I was so hopeful for T.D. Jakes being on to something that I looked him up yesterday. Oh yes, he’s in nearby Dallas. Oh, he’s into the prosperity doctrine too. Nevermind.

the emptiness within

by Andrea Elizabeth

Mr. Tulkinghorn, private confidence man, peacefully steeped in the secrets that ruin.

He does not lament empty chairs at tables or empty houses. He profits from them.

But what if the houses were always beyond the occupant’s means?

What if too many out-of-reach houses were built?

Once something is built, we are loathe to tear it down. It means we are fallible. It bespeaks that there isn’t enough love. We do not want to step backwards. You can never go back. At least not to something smaller. If a plot of land hosts a grand house and no one buys it, it seems depressing to waste the materials and make a smaller one. We believe there will be a person with enough means to eventually occupy it. To redeem the mistakes of another. This isn’t what Dickens was talking about. He lamented debtor’s prisons. Now we have credit and bankruptcy to bail us out. They give an appearance of freedom, but the shackles are still there. Creditors have gotten nicer, collection agencies are less threatening. But no matter what, debt causes stress. One can deny it, but it still damages relationships. Relationships built on lies and denial may not be worthless, but I have trouble with them.

Read Dickens to hear complaints about the ones who lord it over others and profit from their weakness. At the same time, at least he doesn’t make debtors out to be saints. There’s a problem with them too.

by Andrea Elizabeth

Going back to Bleak House’s irresponsible characters, there’s also Mr. Skimpole, the perpetual child. Mr. Jarndyce seems to buy into the child schtick and humors and spoils him. Until Richard and Esther are asked for money, then he feels bad for their being begged. But if a person spoils another person, they are setting up everyone else that person comes into contact with to be expected to provide the same thing. People think they are so nice in spoiling people, but really they are being mean to set a precedent for others to be leached from.

Anyway, Mr. Jarndyce’s response to Mr. Skimpole is amusement. Esther’s response feels like anger and resentment over observing Mr. Skimpole breezing through life without lifting a finger for anyone else, including his family. Esther ends up becoming upset. Justifyably so when she sees Richard get sucked dry by him. I haven’t gotten to that part yet in the book. But before that happens, she is only upset on Mr. Skimpole’s family’s behalf whom she hasn’t met yet, so her criticism of him is silent. She does not ever confront him directly, just in her thoughts. This growing bitterness has no where to go. Silently observing perceived crimes can eat away at one. This is letting the person have a certain control over you. She has a good relationship with Richard so she feels she can share her concerns. Why the silence with Mr. Skimpole? Because he enjoys Mr. Jarndyce’s patronage? I suppose. Her silence is out of a feeling of obligation to Mr. Jarndyce. To criticize Mr. Skimpole is to criticize her guardian’s judgment. Perhaps this is why she ends up not returning Mr. Jarndyce’s deeper affections.

by Andrea Elizabeth

About 1/4 of the way into Bleak House, it seems to me that Charles Dickens is describing Ada as a codependent personality to Richard’s irresponsibility. She is determined to believe in him no matter what and to squelch any misgivings she may have about anything that bothers her. Mr. Jarndyce is continuously hopeful for the best, but is also forthright with Richard about his need to not disappoint those his irresponsibility affects. Esther seems the most worried and open about her concerns while maintaining a close, warm relationship with him and Ada. Since I’ve seen the Gillian Anderson made for TV version, I know that none of these treatments save Richard from himself. Esther probably is least affected by it because she is neither dependent upon Richard, as Ada is, nor responsible for him, as is Mr. Jarndyce. I think I mentioned in another post that Dickens blamed Richard’s shallow education. Mr. Jarndyce comes to blame himself for being too hard on Richard.

I wonder what would have happened though if Ada had exhibited a bit tougher love. I think there is a way to be too hard. Dickens criticizes the stern punishments that didn’t really deter debt. People seemed to have a fatalistic, self-destructive attitude towards it instead of being motivated to change their ways. Dickens probably favors Esther’s non-dependent, yet open and loving manner towards him. Perhaps Ada should have distanced herself until he made healthier choices too.

Enmeshment In Co-dependency

Enmeshment has come to be a popularly used term when speaking about co-dependence. Co-dependence is defined as, being psychologically influenced or controlled by, reliant upon, or needing another person to fulfill one’s own needs or to complete oneself. Originally being co-dependent originated from the recovery movement in Alcoholic Anon. Co-dependents, in that sense were defined as those who were dependent upon or in relationship to or with someone addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Now, generally, people are defined as being co-dependent if they are in a situation where they are psychologically mutally reliant on someone else to meet needs for them that they “should” be able to meet for themselves.

“A co-dependent person is one who has let another person’s behaviour affect him or her, ans who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behaviour” (Melody Beattie, in her book, “Codependent No More”.

What is enmeshment?

“We’re enmeshed when we use an individual for our identity, sense of value, worth, well-being, safety, purpose, and security. Instead of two people present, we become one identity. More simply, enmeshment is present when our sense of wholeness comes from another person.

We hear enmeshment phrases everyday such as, “I’d die without you,” “You’re my everything,” “Without you, I’m nothing,” “I need you,” or “You make me whole.” Many of us find our identity and self-worth by becoming the mate, parent, or friend of a successful and/or prestigious individual, or we find the need to fix and caretake individuals to give us a sense of purpose.

Enmeshment doesn’t allow for individuality, wholeness, personal empowerment, healthy relationships with ourselves or others, and, most importantly, a relationship with our Higher Power.”


The fact that I’m discouraged that even Esther’s treatment didn’t fix Richard, and wanting Ada to be tougher, perhaps that I am “obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior”. Hmmm….. But…. Even Charles Dickens has spent a lot of energy analyzing, diagnosing, and possibly alleging guilt in order to affect change. Is that so bad? I’ll admit a certain disillusionment about Mr. Dickens when I read that he ended up leaving his wife and multiple children for another woman in his mid life. So what did all that relationship analysis accomplish for him? Is it ok to leave people to themselves (not isolating, but learning to not try to control them) and just pray as Elder Zacharia says? Can we not possibly presume to know what’s good for others? At least our own kids? To some extent?