By Linda M. Lewis
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Extra info for Dickens, His Parables, and His Reader
These traits, in fact, mirror Rose’s selfless love for Harry Maylie, as well as her sisterly regard for Oliver—although Rose herself is perfected to a degree that some readers have found cloying. Dickens, though, makes a play for the reader’s empathy by means of Nancy’s imaginative and intuitive connection to Rose. Nancy foresees that Rose will listen to her and save the boy, but she also “sees” bloody shrouds and the word “coffin” in the print of a book and imagines her own death as a result of her bold Samaritan act.
II. A significant detail of the Good Samaritan parable is that help comes from the least expected quarter. The prostitute Nancy, protégée of Fagin and moll of Sikes, is in Oliver Twist that unexpected source, and her behavior costs her life but guarantees her eternal life. The narrator informs the reader that heretofore Nancy’s young life has been “squandered in the streets, and among the most noisome of the stews and dens of London, but there was something of the woman’s nature in her still . ” (OT 321).
It would be impossible to surmise every reader’s response to every Dickensian parable. Rather, I attempt to explain the likely collaboration of the ideal reader—that is, Dickens’s ideal. The agenda of Janet L. Larson’s influential book on Dickens’s “broken” scripture is to illustrate how things fall apart and the center cannot hold. But John Schad takes a different approach to Dickens and reader response, interrogating meaning and lack of meaning (whether they hold together or fall apart). A Dickens novel does not deconstruct faith, Shad argues, but enables the reader to “consecrate” the meaning that he or she makes in experiencing the text.
Dickens, His Parables, and His Reader by Linda M. Lewis