Vanishing Points “ch1”

1. Boz and the Business of Narration

Dickens ’ s narrative character in the Sketches resembles his late creation for the “ Shadow ” behind Household Words, and the term “ shadow ” serves as a utilitarian metaphor for both. That figure was intended to link the disparate topics with which the journal deal, “ to bind them all together ” so far remain obscure adequate so that “ any of the writers ” might “ maintain it without difficulty. ” Equipped, unlike Boz, with a personal history and family, the Shadow would besides “ brood as a fanciful thing all over London…a sort of semi-omniscient, omnipresent, intangible creature ” ( Forster, II : 419 ). As I have suggested, “ semi-omniscience ” describes the ambivalent form Dickens ’ s narrators take. The narrator provides a focus for the readers ’ perceptions—we see “ with ” him—but remains inconspicuous, moving among characters without becoming one himself. But the give voice besides points to the tension this natural process involves, for the observation of others puts the personify narrator in a dubious position. What is his purpose ? What is his sexual intercourse to those he observes, what the nature of his curio about them ? What, indeed, is semi-omniscience ? The narrator who is besides a character can not be all-knowing, since he is a separate of the scenery he observes. Yet by positioning himself as observer he asserts his distance and remainder from those he describes. If we consider Roland Barthes ’ s formulation that character may be located at the convergence of semes which fasten onto a name, whereupon “ the name becomes a subject, ” we might consider the trouble of accumulating semes to link with the name “ Boz, ” and, furthermore, the careful playfulness and unreality of the name itself, which calls care to its fictionality. [ 1 ] While we can attribute diverse attitudes to the narrator, we have little in the way of personal reflections to establish a character “ Boz ” whose particularities and idiosyncrasies are commensurate with those of the characters he describes. Idiosyncrasy, in fact, is precisely what Boz avoids, purchasing his exemption precisely at the expense of character, of identity insofar as the Sketches define it. “ Boz ” points away from the identity of author and narrator toward that of fictional character ; “ fictional character ” appears as something the narrator locates elsewhere, something he can perceive distinctly because he does not inhabit it. frankincense even as the narrator ’ s practice of the third-person plural makes a gesticulate toward inclusion body, inviting identification, it besides marks the loudspeaker ’ mho perspective as discrete and superior. [ 2 ] The Sketches are subtitled “ Illustrative of Every-Day Life and Every-Day People. ” Rendering the “ every-day, ” however, the narrator inescapably separates himself from it, inhabiting, as he does, the perceptual space from which to see it. The cartoon human body itself, as Richard Stein points out, suggests both a lack of attention and a superiority to its capable matter. It displays the narrator ’ s mobility as he passes from subject to subject, creating a sense of atomization which conveys not the narrator ’ s concession to the consuming oscilloscope of his tax, but rather his ability to rise above it. [ 3 ] And that feel of mobility is heightened by the constraints that define the lives of many of the Sketches ’ characters. Where they are fixed in character and routine, Boz is mobile ; where they are limited by social and economic circumstances, the narrator seems to have risen above such circumstances. The Sketches articulate an incommensurability of subject and object which recurs throughout Dickens ’ mho work. Boz establishes his narrative place by seeing what characters fail to see, which includes not only, in the descriptive sketches, the city of London, but, in the stories, the inevitable failure of many characters ’ projects, particularly those involving social ambition. Organization and identity are external matters ; characters are caught within structures they can not perceive from the outside. And character is both a metaphor for such structures and the primary means by which they are articulated. Boz ’ s cognition thus reveals itself to be subject upon the structure of a peculiarly constrained fabricated universe. Just as, in G. K. Chesterton ’ mho picture, dickensian coziness is grounded in the discomfort surrounding it, so excessively is the narrator ’ s omniscience founded on the opposition between characterological restriction and narratological cognition. [ 4 ] In order to be all-knowing, the narrator must have something to be all-knowing about ; he must define himself in resistance to those more restrict than himself. In effect, he must create limited subjects. The Sketches afford us an early look at the output of the Dickensian subject and of a narrative presence whose clientele is to evade, and avoid, conquest.

The narratological and epistemic difference between subject and object in the Sketches is besides a social one. indeed, as Boz articulates them, these categories are indistinguishable from one another. As many readers have pointed out, Boz is a flâneur, a connoisseur of street biography, and the flâneur is an ambivalent digit, one whose “ paradoxical street activeness ” lies between “ the purposive and the non-purposive. ” [ 5 ] In order to observe, writes Walter Benjamin, the flâneur must be in his elementary place, the street, and yet he is inherently out of position there. “ Let the many attend to their daily affairs…the serviceman of leisure can indulge in the perambulations only if american samoa such he is already out of place. ” Drawn to the herd only to turn his back on it, he “ become profoundly involved with them, only to relegate them to oblivion with a unmarried glance of contempt. ” [ 6 ] The dispute between “ purposive ” and “ non-purposive ” activeness is indicative, for the sketch narrator ’ s determination lies in his apparent non-purposiveness. What is an ineluctable fact of daily life for others—participation in populace life in the city—is the focus of his interest. Lewis Mumford has argued that the urban collection characteristic of nineteenth-century cities was, in part, typified by “ the atomic person, ” a figure for whom “ to guard his property, to protect his rights, to ensure his exemption of choice and freedom of enterprise, was the whole duty of government. ” [ 7 ] In what Mumford calls the “ newly capitalist city, ” each individual ’ south primary concern is the development of his own interest, each “ enterprising man ” is in fact a kind of tyrant, presiding over his own little kingdom—an idea that Mumford refers to as “ the myth of the untrammeled individual. ” But as the Sketches make abundantly clear, none are more trap than these “ men of habit ” who trudge, heads bowed, to and from their city offices each dawn, their freedom—if such is their fantasy—in abeyance. It is Boz, quite, who enacts the fantasy of the untrammeled individual for his readers, finding pastime in what the man on his way to clientele can not take the time to see. He is the man whose business is his pleasure—one who finds his capital in what must be, for others, incidental : in the interstices of their lives. As he turns the apparently inconsequent material of daily life into capital, then, the sketch narrator ’ mho occupation absorbs what business itself has left out of its world. In fact, by the time of—and in the digit of—the Uncommercial Traveller, Dickens has thoroughly thematized the means in which literary sketch makes what appears to be groundlessness issue into labor movement. [ 8 ] If nothing escapes Boz ’ mho or the uncommercial ’ second eye, it is because everything can be turned to account. In making use of corporeal the man of occupation ignores, Dickens ’ s sketch narrators therefore prove their occupation ability. And what remains implicit in the Sketches becomes, in the late shape, the narrator ’ randomness persona : “ figuratively speaking, I travel for the big firm of Human Interest Brothers, and have rather a large connection in the visualize goods way. literally speaking, I am constantly wandering here and there…seeing many small things, which, because they concern me, I think may interest others ” ( UT, 1–2 ). As an “ amateur observer, ” whose support depends on not seeing in a accustomed way, the Uncommercial is an apt figure for the sketch narrator. The theme of “ uncommercial travel ” is wonderfully disingenuous, for, while not selling to those he encounters in the course of his travels, the narrator ’ south captive is preferably to sell what he can make of his interest in them—to sell them. uncommercial traveling provides the justification lacking in the Sketches, but it is a agonistic one, suggesting by negation what is in fact truly the case : that uncommercial travel is indeed commercial. “ Business ” is a pretense that enables observation, a pretense that Dickens himself used. ( “ In 1867, he told an interviewer that while walking he frequently resorted to disguise, or would act like a lease collector, or early person on business, to avoid attracting notice. ” [ 9 ] ) Both the “ human sake ” enactment and the Uncommercial ’ s persona may be said to register an awareness of the inherently ambivalent nature of the project of making money by putting human interest into circulation. At the same clock time, the project represents an attempt to overcome that ambivalence. Boz and the uncommercial gloss in respective ways on their own apparent groundlessness, which contrasts so sharply with the street life that provides their subject, and both collections register the ubiquity of business in Mumford ’ s raw capitalistic city. indeed, the latent hostility between the busy and the idle sometimes becomes the narrator ’ sulfur denotative focus. Both narrators are fascinated by places where business is conducted at times when it normally is not ( what the uncommercial calls “ the hushed resorts of business ” ). In “ Making a Night of It, ” groundlessness is reckoned in occupation terms. “ Making a night of it ” means “ the borrow of several hours from tomorrow dawn and adding them to the night before, and manufacturing a compound night of the unharmed ” ( 267 ). And as a last touch, “ London Recreations ” glances at the waiters who, having supplied “ Sunday-pleasurers ” with tea, “ count their glasses and their gains ” ( 96 ). Making their own curio an explicit concern, Boz and the uncommercial gloss on the way in which their notice seems unconnected to any business, and therefore, flush to them, strange. In the absence of any other motivation, Boz cites “ curiosity. ” “ We felt an irrepressible curiosity to witness this interview, although it is hard to tell why, ” he writes of witnessing a young charwoman ’ s meeting with her attacker in “ The Hospital Patient ” ( 241 ). “ Actuated, we hope, by a higher feel than bare curio, ” he attempts to befriend a charwoman and her dying son in regulate to hear their fib ( 45 ). He observes as if compelled— “ We could not help stopping and observing them ” ( 197 ) —even though compulsion is the term he normally reserves for the behavior of others. ( The “ man of habit ” in the cartoon “ Thoughts About People ” “ walks up and down…not as if he were doing it for pleasure and diversion, but as if it were a matter of compulsion ” [ 216 ]. ) And the Uncommercial, whose very title captures the ambivalence of business that does not appear to be business, similarly foregrounds his “ idle employment ” ( UT, 309 ). The status of the non-participant perceiver is repeatedly questioned, the ambiguity of his military position brought to the fore. But that ambiguity, while pointing to the true malaise of making homo sake into business, besides serves a function. As the narrator displays his hope to sympathize, he registers his epistemic and social difference from his apparent objects of sympathy. Both collections of sketches thematize the difference between the narrator ’ mho perceptions and those of others, a remainder which depends upon the difference between his clientele and theirs. In such sketches as “ The Streets—Morning ” or “ The Streets—Night ” the sketch narrator is situated where he would not be were he a costermonger, a servant, or a man of business on his way to the agency. His distinctive strategy is to define and describe what he sees to an imagined, “ bewildered ” perceiver, who can ’ thymine make sense of what he sees, or to a accustomed city-dweller, who—according to Boz—doesn ’ t see at all. The sketch then proceeds to point out the deviation between that observer ’ second perception and the narrator ’ mho. Boz sees what goes spiritual world by those who “ brush cursorily by you, steadily plodding on to occupation ” ( 59 ), “ bare passive voice creatures of habit and endurance ” ( 215 ), and what is for the imagine strange “ a maze of streets, courts, lanes, and alleys ” ( 69 ) is ordered by the narrator ’ s percept. In “ Seven Dials, ” “ [ T ] he peculiar character of these streets, and the close resemblance each one bears to his neighbor, by no means tends to decrease the bewilderment in which the unexperienced wayfarer through ‘ the Dials ’ finds himself involved ” ( 71 ). At the mercifulness of his surroundings, the observer “ stands Belzoni-like, at the entrance of seven apart passages, uncertain which to take ” ( 69 ). Boz asserts coherence in confrontation to the theme of incoherence, illegibility, or simply the failure or inability to pay care, as exemplified by an perceiver created for the purpose of this opposition : one who avoids interpret, has no time to look, or perceives only a confused and fragmental reality. But Boz himself encompasses his subjugate by breaking it up into fragments—manageable pieces—as well as by using “ types ” representative of what he calls “ classes. ” “ Our parish ” stands for any parish ; the “ man of habit ” is merely “ one of this class ” ( 214 ). Telescoping the city and its inhabitants, the narrator efficaciously contains the city ’ mho multiplicity by shrinking or reducing it. The contrast between the narrator ’ south exemption and his subjects ’ constraint frankincense depends in part upon Boz ’ s characters being themselves marked, shrunken in spirit and size, as many of their names— “ Tibbs, ” “ Tuggs, ” “ Minns, ” “ Watkins Tottle ” —suggest. appropriately, the sketch that opens the collection, “ Our Parish, ” alludes to this encapsulating proficiency : “ How a lot is contained in those two short words— ‘ The parish ! ’ ” ( 1 ). “ How much ” is contained, or would be contained, by the narrator himself. particularity is sacrificed to an mind of club which flattens out differences. therefore in “ Seven Dials, ” “ Every board has its separate tenant, and every tenant is, by the like mysterious dispensation which causes a state curate to ‘ addition and multiply ’ most wonderfully, broadly the lead of a numerous family ” ( 72 ). “ The man in the shop, possibly, is in the broil ‘ jimmy ’ line, or the fire-wood and hearth-stone line.…Then there is an irish laborer and his kin in the back kitchen, and a speculate man—carpet-beater and then forth—with his kin in the front one ” ( 72 ). These accounts are ultimately as structured by the accustomed as the perceptions of those men of habit Boz rejects. The narrator need not see because he already knows—as, he presume, do his readers ( “ and so forth ” ). Order turns out to mean sameness and repeat ; the narrator ’ s rhetoric betrays his distance from those he would describe. Boz “ sees ” only what he can easily contain, and his descriptions bear the signs of that containment. Classifications regularize what might differently seem an inexplicable numerousness of individuals : the individual is replaced by the group and the group replaces the person. The principle of the “ Character ” sketches is consequently one of likeness. Mr. John Dounce is one of a class of “ old boys ” ; “ shabby-genteel people ” are represented by one shabby-genteel man ( 262 ) ; Mr. Bung in “ The Broker ’ south Man ” is “ one of the careless, good-for-nothing, glad fellows, who float, cork-like, on the surface, for the global to play at field hockey with ” ( 25 ). “ A numerous subspecies are these crimson men.…So, precisely to hold a form up to know the others by, we took his likeness at once, and put him in here ” ( 239 ). “ If we had to make a categorization of club, there are a especial kind of men who we should immediately set down under the capitulum of ‘ Old Boys ’ ” ( 244 ). Characters are promote identified by their insistent, compulsive behavior, which Boz sometimes recounts in the deliver tense ( as in the first quotation ) to suggest its accustomed nature .

The old lady sees hardly any party, except the short girls before detect, each of whom has constantly a regular sterilize day for a periodical tea-drinking with her.…Her name constantly heads the tilt of any charitable subscriptions.…Her entrance into church on Sundays is constantly the sign for a short bustle in the slope aisle.…Thus, with the annual mutant of a trip to some repose place on the seashore, passes the erstwhile dame ’ mho liveliness. ( 10–11 )

They always sat, in the same places, doing precisely the same things at the same hour. The eldest Miss Willis used to knit, the second to draw, the two others to play duet on the piano. They seemed to have no offprint universe, but to have made up their minds to winter through life together .

There was something in the homo ’ south manner and appearance which told us, we fancied, his hale animation, or rather his whole day, for a man of this kind has no variety show of days. ( 216 )

The mind of the accustomed makes it possible to represent an stallion liveliness in sketch form since one day is the lapp as every early. Yet it seems to be the case in the Sketches not only that finical characters are creatures of substance abuse, but that character itself depends upon the theme of repeat. indeed, character in the Sketches is a reductive adaptation of what is generally considered constituent of character in the traditional novel. “ The main principles of cohesion…are repetition, similarity, contrast, and implication…the repeat of the same character trait ‘ invites ’ labelling it as a character-trait. ” [ 10 ] And, relying as they do on the mind of monotony and duplicate, the stories and descriptive sketches reveal a disturbing subtext in which individual identity dissolves in a mélange of likenesses. Characters are frequently described as copies of one another. Miss Charlotte Tuggs is “ fast ripening ” into an trope of her beget ( 335 ) ; Miss Malderton “ looked like her daughter multiplied by two ” ( 357 ) ; the Misses Crumpton attire “ like twins ” ( 323 ) ; and the four Miss Willises throw the neighborhood into alarm by announcing that “ We are going to marry Mr. Robinson ” ( 15 ). Two or more turnkeys “ look like multiplications of the first one ” ( 197 ). Rather than just being referred to others for the aim of elaborating a description, these characters are already likenesses, copies of one another. The estimate of likeness filters into Boz ’ south language in terms which suggest both the encapsulation the sketch form tries to achieve and the identity it necessarily leaves out in doing so. The brevity of the Sketches seems to acknowledge the haste of city liveliness, which requires a contract account and the practice of a language of repetition. “ Mr. Thomas Potter…was a clerk in the city, and Mr. Robert Smithers was a ditto in the same ” ( 266 ). “ The Miss Maldertons were dressed in skyblue satin trimmed with artificial flowers ; and Mrs. M.…in ditto ditto ” ( 357 ). Again, Boz relies on the reader—the accustomed reader—to fill in the blanks, encapsulating what has already been said or what the subscriber may be expected to know. The Sketches ’ stress on similarity and repetition is balanced by their concern in the particular. evening the most ordinary characters seem pathological in their ordinariness, as if ordinariness were a disease the narrator is fortunate to have escaped. When Boz announces that, given only six “ parochial sketches, ” he will select for character description “ the most curious ” ( 13 ), he points toward a principle of choice that has, queerly, received less attention than the estimate that the Sketches are “ realistic. ” [ 11 ] Yet the peculiar and the ordinary, or distinctive, are not so far aside. The type is, after all, a kind of caricature, a fabrication supposed to represent the lowest common denominator. And, as in the stick to description of London apprentices, the distinctive and the curious can merge : “ Each of the gentlemen carried a thick stick, with a big tassel at the acme, which he occasionally twirled graciously round ; and the whole four, by way of looking easy and unconcerned, were walking with a paralytic strut overwhelmingly absurd ” ( 219 ). The four become one in description : distinguished by the details of their dress and their “ absurd ” manner, they are a single body, a group become an individual. Georg Simmel writes that the city gives emanation to an vehemence on dispute and a tendency toward eccentricity as a necessary mean of expressing identity .

There is the trouble of giving one ’ s own personality a sealed status within the framework of metropolitan life.…This leads ultimately to the strange eccentricities, to specifically metropolitan extravagances of self-distanciation, of caprice, of fastidiousness, the intend of which is no longer to be found in the content of such bodily process itself but quite in its being a phase of “ being different ” —of making oneself detectable. [ 12 ]

Yet such efforts can result in a uniformity of eccentricity. A form of “being different” is, after all, a form, and even while attempting to differentiate themselves from one another, individuals may resemble one another in their common attempts at difference. In the Sketches, distinct as individual characters may be, they are alike in the form their difference from the narrator takes. however such efforts can result in a uniformity of eccentricity. A form of “ being unlike ” is, after all, a form, and even while attempting to differentiate themselves from one another, individuals may resemble one another in their common attempts at difference. In the, distinct as individual characters may be, they are alike in the form their deviation from the narrator takes. But the tension between the typical and the curious, or the general and the idiosyncratic—the two poles by which character in the Sketches is articulated—might besides be understood by asking what Dickens ’ s narrator and readers could have at impale in such representations. While Boz ’ randomness vagueness as a character seems to open up a distance for readerly identification, his goal—the exemplification of “ every-day ” life—implicitly makes his readers the objects of his notice. The idiosyncratic comes to stand for and signify fictional character, that which narrator and readers may define themselves against. But, as we have seen, the narrator besides defines himself in opposition to the ordinary, the common, the accustomed. While the typical may allow readers to see themselves reflected in what they read ( Boz ’ s allusions to what readers presumably already know surely do so ), both the distinctive and the idiosyncratic besides leave room for readers to inhabit a outer space outside character, since what is represented is constantly defined by its deviation from the perceiver. The term “ peculiar ” means characteristic a well as foreign, and Boz ’ s mode of representation allows readers to define the curious and the ordinary as familiar and even as other. Boz ’ sulfur voyeurism is frequently directed toward those lower on the social scale than himself. In an early precede to the Sketches, Dickens compares the koran to an rise balloon which bears aloft “ not only himself, but all his hopes of future fame, and all his chances of future success. ” [ 13 ] This image of soaring ambition contrasts strikingly with the frequent depicting, within the Sketches, of down drift. Boz is pervasively concerned with the representation of poverty and distress and, in finical, with the process of decline—in London, London ’ s shops, and London ’ s inhabitants. He frequently speaks from the perspective of an unspecified earlier clock time, a bygone era of breeding, in comparison with which the salute represents a falling away, thereby distinguishing his position temporally from that of his characters, who live in, and thus can not actually see, the world they inhabit. In “ Scotland Yard, ” change equals loss : “ how have its old customs changed ; and how has the ancient chasteness of its inhabitants faded away ! ” ( 67 ). “ The First of May ” tells, from the position of “ our young days, ” about the “ disintegrate ” of May-Day ; a hackney-coach is “ a leftover of past breeding ” ( 85 ). And “ The Parish ” traces the refuse of the Pauper Schoolmaster, whom “ it would be unmanageable ” for his former acquaintances to recognize ( 6 ). Boz ’ second interest in the shabby-genteel, or in brokers ’ shops, resembles fascination rather than sympathy. He is amused and excited, as if disintegrate and decay were bare abstractions, far from possessing any human significance. In “ Shops and Their Tenants, ” he is intrigued by signs of deterioration in one shop after another. “ We were slightly curious to ascertain what would be the next stage—for that the place had no find of surviving, was absolutely clear.…We were in a fever of expectation : we exhausted speculation ” ( 62 ). The global Boz represents is governed by a grim pull down, tied though the details of individual stories easily go without saying : “ A prison, and the sentence—banishment or the gallows.…We had no clue to the end of the narrative ; but it was easy to guess its ending ” ( 78 ). His interest in decline is an extension of his general interest in the downtrodden, the representation of which seems intended to arouse sympathy in his readers. But the mind of sympathy conflicts with the narrator ’ s discernible deviation and distance from those he observes. The desire to look is at odds with anxiety about what is being looked at. [ 14 ] One of the Sketches ’ critics has argued that the collection includes basically two kinds of narratives : descriptive sketches, the purpose of which is to elicit the readers ’ sympathy, and satirical stories, normally concerned with a fail undertake at social progress. Virgil Grillo makes the case that these two kinds of sketches should be ascribed to two distinctly different narrators : a sympathetic cartoon narrator, and an dry story narrator. [ 15 ] But while such a division proves useful for discussing the attributes of each, it obscures the smell in which sympathy and sarcasm are the two contradictory poles of omniscience, representing the hope to participate—to visualize from the inside—as well as to remain unconstrained by circumstances and therefore outside character. It besides obscures the fact that Dickens used only a single narrator, attempting to join these confounding impulses in and by means of a single consciousness. But the impulses behind sympathy and irony are finally not therefore different from one another. By positing a specific individual or group as a subject for investigation, both promote a sense of alienation from the early being investigated. Though sympathy purportedly transcends remainder, it in fact depends on establishing the remainder it proposes to transcend. And drollery, as René Girard writes, depends on an fundamental anxiety about similarity .

The man who laughs is merely about to be enveloped into the blueprint of which his victim is already a depart ; as he laughs he both welcomes and rejects the perception of the structure into which the object of his laughter is already caught ; he welcomes it insofar as it is person else who is caught in it and he tries to keep it away from himself.…As an affirmation of transcendence, in the more intellectual forms of the amusing, laughter very means a defense of reciprocality. [ 16 ]

In fact, the ironic stories and the sympathetic sketches are more closely related than Grillo thinks. On the one hand, the sketches promote the idea of sympathy for the poor and downtrodden; on the other, the stories, by satirizing attempts at social mobility, implicitly argue for the fixedness and distinctness of social classes. The impulse behind the sympathetic sketches seems to be a fear of falling which has as its counterpart the stories’ anxiety about social mobility. Both the sympathetic sketches and the satiric stories provide ways to entertain and contain potentially threatening material, and the tension between sympathy and irony leaves an undefined middle space—what we might call an undefined middle-class space—which the narrator implicitly inhabits. As the stories tacitly warn against attempting to rise in society and the sketches depict the dangers of the social fall, the mobile narrator insists upon his subjects’ immobility. In fact, the ironic stories and the charitable sketches are more close related than Grillo thinks. On the one hand, the sketches promote the idea of sympathy for the poor and downtrodden ; on the early, the stories, by satirizing attempts at social mobility, implicitly argue for the stationariness and otherness of social classes. The momentum behind the harmonic sketches seems to be a fear of falling which has as its counterpart the stories ’ anxiety about social mobility. Both the sympathetic sketches and the satirical stories provide ways to entertain and contain potentially heavy material, and the tension between sympathy and irony leaves an undefined middle space—what we might call an undefined middle-class space—which the narrator implicitly inhabits. As the stories tacitly warn against attempting to rise in society and the sketches depict the dangers of the social fall, the mobile narrator insists upon his subjects ’ immobility. Boz ’ s own mobility depends on rigidly fixed boundaries which allow for no uncertainty or transgression on the function of those who inhabit them. The tales are largely warnings against transgression, accounts of characters whose attempts to break out of rigidly patterned, accustomed lives inevitably fail, returning them to situations the same or worse than ahead. The stories regularly tell of an individual, such as John Dounce, whose life takes a form something like the come :

even as clockwork—breakfast at nine—dress and tittivate a little—down to the Sir Somebody ’ s Head—a glass of ale and the paper—come back again, and take daughters out for a walk—dinner at three—glass of grog and a pipe—nap—tea—little walk—Sir Somebody ’ randomness Head again—capital house—delightful evenings. ( 245 )

The insignificance of Dounce’s activities is relayed by the encapsulated, telegraphic description; the terms “capital” and “delightful” have an edge to them, suggesting the littleness of Dounce’s aspirations. The story tells of only a small desire—Dounce falls in love with the oyster woman—but even that ambition, which disrupts Dounce’s normal routine, proves too great for Boz. The lady refuses him, Dounce “rendered himself ridiculous to everybody,” and the story ends up being “a warning to all uxorious old boys” (249). This type of warning against ambition is characteristic of the Sketches. Horatio Sparkins pretends to be “above” his business (365); the mistake of “The Mistaken Milliner” is that she forgets to live “on her business and not above it” (250). Mr. Augustus Cooper, similarly, ends by “losing his ambition for society” (261) after that ambition leads to embarrassment and failure. Tuggs, in “The Tuggses at Ramsgate,” is a grocer, Sparkins an assistant at a cheap shop: their stories also tell of the failure of their social ambitions. The insignificance of Dounce ’ south activities is relayed by the encapsulated, telegraphic description ; the terms “ capital ” and “ delightful ” have an border to them, suggesting the smallness of Dounce ’ south aspirations. The history tells of merely a small desire—Dounce falls in beloved with the oyster woman—but even that ambition, which disrupts Dounce ’ s normal routine, proves besides great for Boz. The lady refuses him, Dounce “ rendered himself farcical to everybody, ” and the floor ends up being “ a warning to all uxorious old boys ” ( 249 ). This type of warning against ambition is characteristic of the. Horatio Sparkins pretends to be “ above ” his business ( 365 ) ; the mistake of “ The Mistaken Milliner ” is that she forgets to live “ on her business and not above it ” ( 250 ). Mr. Augustus Cooper, similarly, ends by “ losing his ambition for club ” ( 261 ) after that ambition leads to embarrassment and failure. Tuggs, in “ The Tuggses at Ramsgate, ” is a grocer, Sparkins an adjunct at a cheap workshop : their stories besides tell of the failure of their social ambitions.

frankincense, even though the stories are generally considered attacks on hypocrisy and pretension, one can easily perceive in them a concern with and anxiety about social mobility. Characters inevitably give their “ true ” class off. “ The Mistaken Milliner ” is mistaken to think she can “ come out ” in society, and her inability to sing sends her back in again. Horatio Sparkins, through a series of mishaps, reveals himself to be not a young gentleman “ about to be called, ” but “ the junior spouse in a slippery firm of some three weeks ’ being ” ( 369 ). These stories are all lessons in not living “ above one ’ sulfur business. ” In them, sociable position is inscribed in, and situate as, character. Boz ’ s characters simply can not escape the sociable positions in which he finds them. But the transgression Boz refuses his characters he however enacts in his sketch. Depicting the “ every-day ” for those middle-class readers who might not see it with their own eyes, Boz provides a justification for his own transgression of social boundaries. And his concern in social ambition reveals his anxiety about it, telling us that those “ others ” he sketches represent a possible future for himself. The “ sympathetic ” sketches deal not so much with attempts to rise socially as with what Boz presents as an inevitable march of decline. And what attracts him is not so much the opportunity to sympathize as the public nature of decline itself. Boz is fascinated less by the shabby-genteel man as harmonic object, for exemplify, than by shabby-gentility as a public exhibition of decline. These sketches emphasize their subjects ’ awareness of, and shame approximately, falling from middle- class respectability, and the narrator ’ second invisibility reinforces his imputations that decline—whether it takes place in the street or behind the close door of the pawnbroker ’ second shop—is always a populace process. Shabby-gentility is by definition populace, since it refers to the way clothing reflects economic and sociable conditions. It identifies clothing, condition, and person : “ [ H ] vitamin e grew more and more shabby-genteel every day.…At length, one of the buttons on the back of his coat fell away, and then the world himself disappeared, and we thought he was dead ” ( 264 ). The shabby-genteel serviceman “ is ” his invest. “ The truth flashed on the spur of the moment upon us : they [ his clothes ] had been ‘ revived. ’ It is a ambidextrous fluid that black and bluing reviver ; we have watched its effects on many a shabby-genteel man ” ( 264 ). And Boz ’ s attribution of dishonor to the shabby-genteel man—his publicizing not precisely the homo ’ s condition, but his dishonor about it—makes that awareness a cardinal contribution of this sketch ’ s appeal to their readers. What makes the shabby-genteel man pathetic is that he “ feels his poverty and vainly strives to conceal it ” ( 265 ). significantly, he is afflicted not equitable by poverty, but by “ conscious poverty ” ( 263 ). His attempts at concealment, of course, entirely increase Boz ’ randomness pastime in him. Following his subjects into places in which they wish to remain unobserved, such as the pawnbroker ’ second shop, the narrator presents worsen as both black and impossible to hide. Further, the technique emphasizes the internalization of social pity. even while the narrator must be present in orderliness to describe, what he basically describes is his own overplus. Observed or not, the shabby-genteel man will feel and display his shame. “ The Pawnbroker ’ randomness Shop ” depicts four women in varying stages of decline : a woman and her daughter, relative newcomers to the shop ; a garishly dressed charwoman ; and a fourth described as “ the lowest of the first gear ; dirty, unbonneted, flaunt, and slovenly. ” These figures exist only as illustrations of decline. Thus the garishly dressed charwoman ’ s daub of rouge “ lone serves as an index to the ravages of waste health never to be regained, and lost happiness never to be restored ” ( 194 ). She observes the beget and daughter :

There is something in the glance she has just caught of her young neighbor, and in the spy of the little trinkets she has offered in pawn, that seems to have awakened in this womanhood ’ randomness mind some slumbering recollection.…Her first hasty urge was to bend forward as if to scan more minutely the appearance of her half-concealed companions ; her future, on seeing them involuntarily shrink from her, to retreat to the back of the box, cover her face with her hands, and collapse into tears. ( 194 )

The slovenly woman also watches the pair. “Her curiosity was first attracted by the little she could see of the group; then her attention. The half-intoxicated leer changed to an expression of something like interest, and a feeling similar to that we have described, appeared for a moment, and only a moment, to extend itself even to her bosom” (194–95). The frowsy womanhood besides watches the copulate. “ Her curio was first attracted by the little she could see of the group ; then her attention. The half-intoxicated sneer changed to an expression of something like matter to, and a feel like to that we have described, appeared for a here and now, and only a moment, to extend itself flush to her bosom ” ( 194–95 ). The “ feel similar to that we have described ” is presumably sympathy ( the ply title in the Oxford version, added by the editors, is “ Feelings of Sympathy ” ), though no feel has actually been described. And yet while seeming to invite sympathy, the sketch in fact displaces it, making sympathy its object and representing it in a series of actions : bending forward, becoming self-conscious and retreating, bursting into tears. feel is what the narrator regards preferably than what he expresses or, rather, what he might seem to express—to sympathize with—simply because he represents it. The actions represented further suggest that sympathy is the same as, and emerges from, a recognition of self in another. What the two observing women seem to see in the daughter—particularly in her trinkets—is a representation of their by selves. For the daughter, similarly, the two women represent a possible future. And this is precisely Boz ’ s degree : “ Who shall say, ” he writes, “ how soon these women may change places ? The last has but two more stages—the hospital and the grave. How many females situated as her two companions are, and as she may have been once, have terminated in the same hapless course ” ( 195 ). The function of the sketch, writes Boz at its begin, is the draw of distinctions— “ distinctions must be observed even in poverty ” —but the function of these distinctions is the imagine flop of these disparate figures, and countless others like them, into one ( 188 ). The mother and daughter are forgetful both to their observation by the early women and to the shame which, the narrator tells us, constantly accompanies goodly individuals ’ visits to the pawnbroker ’ sulfur shop. The hardness of their lives, we are told, has “ obliterated ” in them the consciousness of “ self-humiliation. ” As a solution of watching the mother and daughter, however, the other women do display such humiliation. In fact, what the discovery of the past self signifies here—what sympathy turns out to be—is the recognition of the self as a figure of decline. What each woman sees in the early is her own pity, which manifests itself visibly and must be hidden, even though there is no one introduce to see it. It is, precisely, self-humiliation. The shop itself, with its booths hiding the more respectable clients from one another but remaining outdoors to the reader ’ mho opinion, resembles, as Cruikshank ’ s exemplification suggests, Bentham ’ s Panopticon. Shame, substituting for the booths, keeps these women isolated from one another flush as they reveal their feelings to the proofreader. These women make sympathy visible ; they register it in their bodies. The narrator, having no soundbox with which to display such feeling, watches them watch. By doing so, and by describing their responses, he provides an image of what he can not show in himself : what it would be like truly to sympathize with, because one sincerely resembled, the objects of one ’ south contemplation. Using these women as mediators for his experimental activity—indeed, bestowing on them the terms ( “ care, ” “ curiosity, ” “ interest ” ) he uses elsewhere to describe his own activity—the narrator suggests the untowardness of his very presence in the pawnbroker ’ mho shop, his misdemeanor of the privacy those who go there seek. His invisibility signifies his safety, but besides his anxiety. Like Perseus viewing the Medusa ’ south reflection in his shield, the narrator deflects any potential reciprocality between himself and his objects, keeping himself outside any exchange of identities. While presumably inviting sympathy, then, the sketch besides indicates the hazards of sympathy, defined here as what one feels if one is already like, or in danger of becoming like, what one observes .figure But the reviewer is invited to sympathize—not precisely with these women, but with their sympathy. Sympathy is what is not fallen about them : it is the lingering sign of world that appears “ for a moment, and only for a moment ” to extend itself “ even ” to the bosom of the charwoman called “ the lowest of the low. ” “ There are strange chords in the human center, ” the sketch read, “ which will lie dormant through years of depravity and iniquity, but which will vibrate at last to some slight circumstance…connected by some undefined and indistinct affiliation with past days that can never be recalled, and with biting recollections from which even the most degrade animal in being can never escape ” ( 194 ). Situating and defining these women, the cartoon besides situates and defines its readers, for these women are both subjects and objects for readers. On the one hand, as subjects they provide a model : sympathy is presented as a signboard of humanness, and readers are encouraged to find that world within themselves. On the other hand, sympathy is provoked by similarity, by the recognition of the self in the early : the women ’ second sympathy is the like as their pity. The figure deserving of sympathy is therefore she who recognizes herself as having fallen aside from middle-class respectability. That consciousness registers, for the reviewer, the inscription of social placement within the self as a component of character, affirming at the same meter the middle-class reader ’ sulfur values, values from which these women have fallen and for which they obviously long. Inscribing social position, and self-consciousness about social position, as integral, internal aspects of self, the sketch displays for the reader a pity which seems natural : something readers might imagine recognizing in themselves and potentially unwrap, even if no one is stage to watch. The progress from “ curiosity ” to “ interest ” to “ sympathy ” characterizes Boz ’ s narrative scheme throughout the Sketches, differentiating him from the world of habit, whose face looks “ as if it were incapable of bearing the expression of curiosity or interest ” ( 215 ). Attention— “ notification ” —should lead to sympathy : “ It is foreign with how little notice, good, bad, or indifferent, a man may live and die in London. He awakens no sympathy in the breast of any individual person ; his being is a matter of interest to no matchless save himself ” ( 215 ). And much of what Boz notices is the presence or absence of sympathy in others :

Curiosity has occasionally led us into both Courts at the Old Bailey. nothing is so likely to strike the person who enters them for the first time, as the composure emotionlessness with which the proceedings are conducted ; every trial seems a bare count of business. There is a great softwood of form, but no compassion ; considerable interest, but no sympathy. ( 198 )

What catches the narrator’s attention gradually leads him into speculation; the logical end of the process, it seems, should be sympathetic identification. But as “The Pawnbroker’s Shop” demonstrates, the Sketches typically stop short of that final step, allowing the narrator room to differentiate himself from the objects of his description. Accordingly, what seems offered as sympathy often amounts to pointing out the absence of sympathy in others or representing sympathy in others. Individual sympathy is encouraged but also evaded. This problematization of sympathy may be said to reflect the transformation of sympathy into business so characteristic of charitable movements, reform societies, and governmental institutions in the nineteenth century. Where the eighteenth century imagines and repeatedly represents charity as the product of a face-to-face encounter between an observer and a figure in distress, the nineteenth century marks a transition to charity as an impersonal, administrative process, one which groups individual sufferers into classes and treats multiple bodies as one. Indeed, Boz and the Uncommercial often seek out their objects of sympathy in institutions—hospitals, prisons, courtrooms. Where the benevolent gentleman of an earlier age offered sympathy and coin, the sketch narrator simply reports. Seeking out in order to sympathize, he provides a model for a sympathy that intervenes, if at all, only from a distance. What catches the narrator ’ s attention gradually leads him into speculation ; the coherent end of the action, it seems, should be sympathetic identification. But as “ The Pawnbroker ’ sulfur Shop ” demonstrates, thetypically period light of that final step, allowing the narrator room to differentiate himself from the objects of his description. consequently, what seems offered as sympathy frequently amounts to pointing out the absence of sympathy in others or representing sympathy in others. Individual sympathy is encouraged but besides evaded. This problematization of sympathy may be said to reflect the transformation of sympathy into business so characteristic of charitable movements, reform societies, and governmental institutions in the nineteenth hundred. Where the eighteenth hundred imagines and repeatedly represents charity as the merchandise of a face-to-face meet between an observer and a figure in distress, the nineteenth century marks a conversion to charity as an impersonal, administrative process, one which groups individual sufferers into classes and treats multiple bodies as one. indeed, Boz and the Uncommercial frequently seek out their objects of sympathy in institutions—hospitals, prisons, courtrooms. Where the benevolent valet of an earlier long time offered sympathy and coin, the sketch narrator merely reports. Seeking out in order to sympathize, he provides a mannequin for a sympathy that intervenes, if at all, alone from a distance. In fact, Boz ’ s ambivalence about his experimental action may express a tension between two cultural models of the middle-class subject ’ second kinship to the inadequate. In Dickens ’ south Sketches, that is, we might say that eighteenth-century benevolence encounters both nineteenth-century anxiety about social mobility and a nineteenth-century perception of the poor as requiring governmental examination and regulation. [ 17 ] For it should be clear by now that those “ others ” Boz seeks out and describes—who wish to remain spiritual world or lie inconspicuous behind the walls of prisons or hospitals—are not merely, or even primarily, objects of sympathy. Rather, they are figures of “ matter to ” and “ curio ” : “ What London pedestrian is there who has not, at some time or other, cast a travel rapidly glance through the wicket at which prisoners are admitted into this gloomy sign of the zodiac, and surveyed the few objects he could discern, with an indefinable feel of curio ? ” ( 196 ). At stake in that “ hurried glance ” is a translation of sympathy by curio and interest—a displacement traceable, at least in separate, to the institutionalization and bureaucratization of the hapless discussed above. But the wall between perceiver and detect signifies not just the mental hospital, but besides the barrier erected and transgressed by the nineteenth-century middle-class observer, whose gaze inevitably wanders in the steering of what it defines as early to itself. The “ indefinable ” feeling one might have, walking past Newgate, therefore remains undescribed ; “ curio ” fills the position of that unspecified find. And so far curio situates its owner ampere much as it does those toward whom his gaze is directed .


1. Barthes, S/Z, pp. 190–91. 2. Angus Easson touches on these points in “ Who is Boz ? Dickens and his Sketches, ” Dickensian 81 ( 1985 ) : 13–21, though he claims that Boz ’ s consumption of the third person plural reinforces his “ affinity ” with his subject. 3. Richard Stein writes that the parole “ sketch…connotes effortlessness, and therefore the shape of a civilized amateur…the observer can remain matter to but detached because of a portraiture that does not pass beyond certain limits of setting and specificity. ” See Victoria’s Year: English Literature and Culture, 1837–1838 ( New York : Oxford University Press, 1987 ), p. 27. 4. G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens ( New York : Schocken, 1965 ), p. 164. 5. Michael Hollington, “ Dickens the Flâneur, ” Dickensian 77 ( 1981 ) : 78. 6. Walter Benjamin, “ On Some Motifs in Baudelaire, ” in Illuminations, erectile dysfunction. Hannah Arendt ( New York : Schocken, 1969 ), p. 172. 7. Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities ( New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970 ), p. 145. 8. While critics tend to emphasize the remainder between Boz and the Uncommercial, I see the latter figure as a more explicit version of the erstwhile one, displaying the same leaning to turn human interest into business. For another position, see Rosalind Vallance, “ From Boz to the Uncommercial, ” Dickensian 63 ( 1966 ) : 27–33. 9. F. S. Schwarzbach, Dickens and the City ( London : Athlone Press, 1979 ), p. 236. 10. Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction, p. 39. 11. For example, Gissing writes : “ Veracity I take to be the senior high school deservingness of these sketches ” ( Charles Dickens: A Critical Study [ New York : Dodd, Mead & Co., 1924 ], p. 43 ). On the other hand, for Michael Hollington, “ there is no question, in these early works, of ‘ realistic ’ character depicting ” : Dickens and the Grotesque ( London and Sydney : Croom Helm, 1984 ), p. 40. See this work for a discussion of Dickens ’ s “ curious ” characters. 12. Georg Simmel, On Individuality and Social Forms, erectile dysfunction. Donald N. Levine ( Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1971 ), p. 336. 13. Quoted by Ellen Moers in The Dandy ( London : Secker and Warburg, 1960 ), p. 219. 14. According to J. Hillis Miller, the deterministic sight of the Sketches is directly related to their metonymic method acting. See “ The Fiction of Realism : Sketches by Boz, Oliver Twist, and Cruikshank ’ sulfur Illustrations, ” in Ada Nisbet and Blake Nevius, eds., Dickens Centennial Essays ( Berkeley and Los Angeles : University of California Press, 1971 ), pp. 101–2.

15. Virgil Grillo, Charles Dickens’sSketches by Boz: End in the Beginning ” ( Boulder : Colorado Associated University Press, 1974 ). 16. René Girard, “ Perilous Balance : A comedian hypothesis, ” in “ To Double Business Bound”: Essays on Literature, Mimesis, Anthropology ( Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978 ), pp. 127–28. 17. interestingly, in the Sketches the roll that in earlier literature characterized both observer and suffering object—Wordsworth ’ s narrators and vagrants, for instance—generally belongs to the perceiver alone, signifying his freedom .

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