27 Şubat 2008 Çarşamba

Poverty in "Bleak House"

"Bleak House" by Charles Dickens is the novel that is characterized by quite a complicated plot in which a variety of themes are closely intertwined. At the same time, the theme of poverty remains one of the central problems the author focuses on and attempts to draw attention of his readers to. Unquestionably, the problem of poverty became a serious social and economic burden of English society of the late 19th century. This is why it is quite natural that Charles Dickens chose this theme as one of the central themes of his novel. At the same time, it is worthy of mention that, to a significant extent, the novel reflects the real life of England of tat epoch and the personal experience of the author that was perfectly realized in his novel. Obviously, the novel "Bleak House" represents English society which is full of contrasts where the poverty is next to enormous wealth, and where spiritual richness is often overshadowed by the material desperate social position of the characters of the book.

In fact, it is necessary to underline from the beginning that the problem of poverty in "Bleak House" should be viewed in two dimensions real or material and spiritual. It should be pointed out that the author attempts to realistically depict the severe life of practically all layers of English society of that epoch with a particular focus on the most deprived. In fact, the book rather represents a profound analysis of the great socio-economic problem of lower classes and, what is more, this work uncovers the importance of the material well-being and wealth in the life of English society. On the other hand, it seems as if the author poses a question whether poverty is really a sin, or something really bad that makes people fall lower and lower in the social ladder, or probably, it is just a poor material position of individuals the lack of certain skills, abilities, knowledge, or even simple luck that do not really affect the personality of individuals who sink in bottom of English society.

In this respect, it is quite noteworthy that the author attempts to be objective and show the wide scope of English society. This is why the poverty depicted by the author is often contrasted by wealth that actually does not make people any better. In such a way, Chalres Dickens probably wants to pose one of the eternal questions concerning the impact of money on individuals, especially on their moral and ethics. At the same time, the problem of social justice, or to put it more precisely, the problem of social injustice as the matter of fact is also of a paramount importance for the author.

"Bleak House" is actually full of contradictive and contrasting characters which seem to be simply taken from the real life and often it is possible to trace parallels between the characters of the book and real people that Charles Dickens was acquainted with. This means that he really profoundly analyze his surrounding and the general situation in English society in order to vividly depict the current problems in his book and poverty, occupies on of the central plays in his novel.

On attempting to find parallels with the real life experience of the author, it is possible to estimate that his experience as the law clerk turned to be quite useful to him and he managed to look in depth on the judiciary system which rather tended to protect rich and upper classes of the society while poor and deprived classes constantly remained oppressed. In order to fully realize the extent to which the author contrasts the opposing classes, it is necessary to briefly look upon some of the main characters of the novel which perfectly reveals the importance of the theme of poverty in the book.

In this respect, it is possible to mention probably one of the most marginal characters Krook who is a poor rag and bottle merchant and collector of papers. In actuality, this person is deprived practically of all benefits of modern life and he can hardly make both ends meet. No wonder that often he is starving and is placed on the lower level of the social ladder. At the same time, he is not a bad person. At least he has some moral principles and beliefs he does not want to refuse from. He lives in the filthy slums which are perfectly illustrated in the original edition of the novel and conveys the real spirit of that epoch and that district where thousands of people lived in poverty and were totally deprived of elementary social and health care services. In fact, on reading and looking at the images it is getting to be clear that the enormous part of English society, at least in urban areas, live in a striking poverty. In fact, it is even hardly possible to say that they live but it would rather better to say that they exist and strive for survival in unbearable conditions where everything reminds about their low social status, the lack of wealth and access to the most essential services.

Strangely enough, the novel and the fate of some of its characters, namely Krook, seems to be a kind of warning against the possible negative consequences of the further progress of such a problem as poverty in English society. To put it more precisely, Krrok dies of spontaneous human combustion, the disease that is and was not actually recognized by specialists even in the time of Charles Dickens. Even though the author sincerely believes that this disease really exists (for instance in the preface he states that "I shall not abandon the facts until there shall have been a considerable Spontaneous Combustion of the testimony on which human occurrences are usually received") it may be still perceived as a kind of warning since the conditions of life in the filthy lums Krook has to live in are absolutely unbearable, if not to say inhuman. This is why his death from a mysterious disease is rather a symbol of the upcoming social disaster or at least a warning against the great human catastrophe that may occur in these slums if the situation remains unchanged.

In this respect, it is quite symbolic that another representative of poor classes, Jo, a young boy who attempts to make living as a crossing sweeper, also dies from a disease. In fact, this character is even more symbolic than Krook since traditionally children are perceived as pure, innocent and spiritually rich personalities which are deprived of any immoral or sinful beliefs and prejudices typical for adults. In other words, a child is traditionally perceived as a tabula rasa and this is why his death is particularly tragic. His death seems like a warning to the rest of the society in which innocent and pure people are dying only because of the crucial social position and lack of access to the elementary social and health care services.

Furthermore, it should be pointed out that regardless extreme poverty the inhabitants of the slums are not bad people and often they turn to be morally better than representative of a much richer classes living in the wealthy districts where everything indicates at the prosperity of the owners of this households that may be also found in illustrations to the book. For instance, it is hardly possible to find any wealthy character that could be as pure or spiritually rich as Jo, or even Krook. In stark contrast, the upper classes of the society are characterized by numerous drawbacks. In this respect, it is worthy of mention Grandfather Smallweed, a money lender, who is really cruel and evil man, merciless to other people, especially those who borrowed money from him. In actuality, people worth nothing to him while money worth everything. Moreover, it seems as if he enjoys inflicting emotional pain on other people and the fact that he drives Mr. George to bankruptcy is another evidence of his evil nature.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Charles Dickens vividly depicted the life of English society of his epoch on the basis of his personal experience and observations. He perfectly depicts all the contrasts and controversies of the society of that epoch which main burden is poverty. Nonetheless, it is necessary to underline that often the material poverty of his characters that live in unbearable conditions is really striking but still these poor people preserve their human nature, they are still able to make good deeds, and they are probably the most generous people in English society which are morally and spiritually rich. In stark contrast, the representatives of upper classes, being wealthy, turn to be spiritual bankrupts deprived of any sense of morality, or any ethical norms and principles. In such a situation the depressing image of the filthy slums where the poorest people have to exist and strive for survival should be viewed as a warning against possible social and human disaster that will inevitably come if the situation remain unchanged.

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