If you have read “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens you may resume reading this but if you haven’t, I suggest you shouldn’t because this post contains the most shocking, the most terrible sample of one’s struggle against ill-wills.
What I will talk about can be read in the 9th paragraph of this link: https://enywulandari.com/2016/01/14/the-old-curiosity-shop-by-charles-dickens-part-3/ .
Nell’s grandfather addiction to gambling is the source of all their misery. Apart from Daniel Quilp’s wickedness, Nell’s grandfather is the one who should take the blame for their impoverishment. I am really, really shocked when I find out how he holds his belief that gambling is the best shortcut to wealth even after he and Nell runs from the shop-cum-house.
My feelings are mixed up when I read the part.
On one side, as I said earlier, I am astonished with the fact that his addiction remain strong, so strong that Dickens describes the old man’s eyes sparkle when he hears the sounds of some people playing cards as one of the gambling method. It feels like the old man’s life spirits come back.
On the other one, I as a reader, am happy because coming to the part wakes me up from the previous reading journey that almost bores me, honestly. Prior to the part, most plots are about their trips and sorrowful stories all along the path that they take. So, this part, particularly on the point when he steals Nell’s money, refreshes the reading process.
I give credits to Dickens who is able to raise my anger to this old man. I can’t believe what he does to his own granddaughter who rescues his life that far. It doesn’t make sense for me to know there is an old man who is so beaten up that he takes away essential things that Nell saves just to keep their stomachaches filled. The scene when he forces Nell to give her purse when he is about to join a group of gamblers at the inn is really frustrating, makes me so furious. It’s like, how could he?
Later on, I try to take a bigger picture on all this. As usual, as a reader of classics which sometimes portray unthinkable characters, I have to view things by using a lot of parameters; psychology, economic, social, etc, which helps me understanding what he does. The fact that they are both poor though Nell actually has a job as the assistant of the wax-working owner doesn’t make him any less happy. He has problems much more than just making ends meet or paying off his debts. His addiction, self-battle against wrong deeds is the root of all his restlessness, whether or not he realizes it. The peak of it all by taking Nell’s money away, not admitting on what he does is more than enough to sum it up with one word: what?
Sadly, Dickens doesn’t say much about this old man annoying trait and his gambling addiction. This topic is out of the plot after Nell successfully persuades her grandfather to leave the wax-working caravan so as he won’t meet with the gambling group, again. It would be more interesting if Dickens adds explanations on the old man’s bad habit. Because for me, it doesn’t really all about the way of making him rich instantly but it tells more about the old man’s personal problems.
If there were any one ask for my opinion what lacks in the novel, I would say about that thing; that Dickens hasn’t really finished or solved the psychological matters that cause the old man so addicted to gambling. Such important matter ends loosely with the finale that sees him dies in the graveyard of Nell’s. After all the torments that he brings about since the beginning of the book, it remains heartbreaking seeing him feeling so gloomy after her death. The fact that he realizes Nell is all that he has in the world and how he no longer argues her decisions as the book comes to its end is I think the most proper reprisal he could have done to pay off his wrongdoings.
Dickens’ way to make readers forgive what the old man has done? May be.