Andrade, Mary Anne Savage York (1982)
Dickens' presentation of major villains between 1836-1850: A convention used, developed, and transcended.
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This thesis explores Dickens' early use of the conventional melodramatic pattern of villain versus hero/heroine. Dickens increasingly focused on aspects of that pattern that he could alter and adapt to his own personal interests and experience. The traditional role of the villain, discrediting the hero and separating him from his family and friends, gave Dickens the opportunity to focus on isolation as an evil; he had particular reason to feel interest in this as a result of his own days in the blacking warehouse; and the traditional role of the villain in sexually threatening the heroine gave Dickens an opportunity to explore the ambivalent aspects of his own sexual attitude and that of his age. The major villains from The Pickwick Papers to David Copperfield dramatize these aspects of villainy made uniquely Dickensian, along with other personally felt evils such as the vindictive impulse and crimes against children.
Oliver Twist highlights the evil and fear of isolation as The Old Curiosity Shop highlights the inability to reconcile the sexual impulse with decency and duty. It is not surprising that in these two novels, Dickens creates his two most diabolical villains, Fagin and Quilp.
Dickens' imagination, free from restraint of the conscious mind, as it characteristically is in the early novels, providing the spontaneity and improvisation that so mark these books, is compared in this thesis to the way in which the imagination functions in dream. Giving support to this comparison are the fantastic atmospheres of these two novels as well as descriptions of Oliver and Nell constantly sleeping, dreaming, or in a state of unconsciousness, with Fagin and Quilp pursuing them like demons in a nightmare. In David Copperfield Dickens utilizes the themes of isolation, vengeance, crime against the child, and sexual ambivalence to the best thematic advantage, and with Murdstone, Steerforth, and Heep, gives his most skillfully achieved realization of the childhood fear of the destruction of the home and the fear of growing up.
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Deposited by David Morgan (UBYL020) on
in Royal Holloway Research Online.Last modified on 07-Feb-2017
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Institution: University of London, Bedford College (United Kingdom).