Ichabod is itchy

November 29, 2006

The old curiosity shop

Filed under: literature — by ichabodisitchy @ 7:28 pm

Have just finished this (rather long) Dickens classic. I dare say that most of you know the basic story, which follows the wanderings of little Nell and her grandfather, after they have been reduced to bankruptcy and chased out of London… But I wanted to say a little something about Mr. Quilp.

Dickens does an absolutely amazing job of creating a visual picutre of the evil dwarf, Quilp.  He is completely grotesque– torments his wife, tortures his servant and is generally horrible to everyone he meets. Near the beginning of the book, Dickens describes Quilp in a passage that made me physically wrinkle up my nose at the dwarf’s evilness. But what’s funny is that the passage isn’t one that narrates one of Quilp’s underhanded actions– it simply tells us how he eats his breakfast:

” [H]e ate hard eggs, shell and all, devoured gigantic prawns with the heads and tails on, chewed tobacco and water-cresses at the same time and with extraordinary greediness, drank boiling tea without winking, bit his fork and spoon till they bent again, and in short performed so many horrifying and uncommon acts that the women were nearly frightened out of their wits, and began to doubt if he were really a human creature.”

It is paragraphs like these– so visually intense and so wonderfully effective– that make me enjoy Dickens’ work so much.

If you haven’t read it before, take the time to do so. It’s  a wonderful (and rather unpredictable) book.



  1. Glad you enjoyed it and well done for completing it!

    I’m not ashamed to say I’ve never managed to finish a Dickens novel – I find them too long, too repetitive, too minutely fascinated with nothing much that’s interesting. But I know I’m in the minority here.

    Comment by James — December 1, 2006 @ 11:06 am |Reply

  2. I love Dickens, once I start one (they are a bit daunting as most are long) I can’t stop. Sorry that you aren’t so keen, James, but that’s what is so interesting about reading, one reader’s meat and all that.

    Comment by maxine — December 9, 2006 @ 10:26 pm |Reply

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