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By Gwen Watkins

Even if the booklet is scholarly in procedure, its simple and vigorous sort, its unique theories and its new therapy of Dickens' lady characters guarantees its accessibility and attract the overall reader in addition to to the professional scholar.

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Extra resources for Dickens in Search of Himself: Recurrent Themes and Characters in the Work of Charles Dickens

Sample text

I know I am affectionate. ' When David says to Dora that being treated rationally need not make her unhappy, she begins to sob, and her only defence against David's proposal is to say, 'I am sure I am very affectionate ... ' Miss Trotwood calls Mrs Copperfield 'a Baby', and Dora calls herself a childwife, and of course what they both resist so fearfully is growing up. Their 'affection', if it exists at all, is purely need-love, which lives only to receive, to have its own needs and desires answered.

The references to her in his letters are of the slightest and most commonplace kind. '15 Most psychologists think that the child must 'react in a fruitful way' with his mother (or mother-substitute) if his later emotional development is to be successful. The mother must make the child feel that what he is, his self, is valuable and worthy of A Vacancy in my Heart 23 respect, and that he is loved because this self is lovable. If the child is not loved in this way, he feels himself to be 'bad' (that is, not what his parents want); he will probably feel guilt at not being 'good', perhaps even guilt at being born, since he is so patently not what they want.

The difference is that this time Arthur Clennam is not an inexperienced boy falling in love for the first time, but a disillusioned man of forty. Dickens was forty-three, and it is easy to see a good deal of selfportraiture in Clennam, a man who has had no opportunity to develop a true self because he has been forced to become what his parents made him, with 'a void' in his 'cowed heart' and 'a nature that had been disappointed from the dawn of its perceptions'. We have in him also the memory of his passionate boyish love for Flora (Flora being, of course, Dickens' portrait of the middle-aged Maria Winter, who had been Maria Beadnell).

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