Dombey And Sons / Charles Dickens

Dombey and Son is not among the better-known of Dickens’ works.  While it does not rank as a beloved classic, it is still well worth discovering.  It is a novel that in the beginning focuses on a proud, wealthy London merchant and his two motherless children, Paul and Florence Dombey.  The father could care less about his daughter; all that matters to him is the frail boy who will inherit the business and carry on the family name.  Yet, not long into the story, Paul dies, and the story, not for the last time,  shifts focus.  As a contrast to Dombey’s wealth, self-absorption, and lack of warmth, Dickens presents to the reader Walter Gay, a young employee of Dombey and Son, and his uncle, Solomon Gills, an instrument builder who runs a business that attracts nary a customer.  Walter lives with his uncle, and although they are poor, this tightly knit family is infused with warmth and love.  Perhaps one reason for the book’s lesser-known status is the plot’s continual shifts in tone.  It is difficult to know just who is supposed to be the main character of the story.  While Dickens has always populated his works with delightful oddball side characters, here he allows a number of them to step into the spotlight and dominate it.  A prime example of that is Edward Cuttle, a retired hook-handed sea captain.  Then there is James Carker, the second-in-command at Dombey and Son.  He is truly a devious man and I guarantee he will make the reader’s skin crawl.  The chapter in which he tries to escape justice and comes to an untimely end is probably one of the best-written sections of the novel.  It is characters such as these that make this an enjoyable book to read.  As Dickens shows here, even a lesser novel by him proves to be a thoroughly engaging experience.

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