Dickens and Coincidence

Dickens and Coincidence



Dickens and Coincidence

Wonderful Chains:
Dickens and Coincidence*

Neil Forsyth, Université de Lausanne

As his career developed, Dickens became more concerned with the deliberate management of his plots: the rambling, episodic structure of The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby or The Old Curiosity Shop gives way to the tighter, subtler organization of Bleak House, Great Expectations or Our Mutual Friend. In the preface to Little Dorrit, Dickens writes of the weaving of the various threads, and invites his readers to contemplate the pattern now that they can see it finished. He repeats the weaving metaphor in the postscript to Our Mutual Friend. In both cases he is addressing those who are reading his novels in their book form rather than in the serial publications. At the same time he feels compelled to defend the virtues of the monthly number, even though he admits the design of the whole must be taken on trust. He expects his audience to recognize that the artist knows what he is about.
This ambivalence is characteristic. At the same time as he was seeking approval for his kind of novel as a serious, respectable art-form, he was eager to preserve its links with the popular traditions that constantly vitalized it and that were important for the serials—suspense and melodrama, recurring humourous character-types, sensationalism of the kind that feeds the popular press, and coincidence. Remarkable as the increasing command of formal plot-structure was, it seems to have been accompanied by a feeling that the spontaneity and openness to possibility of the earlier fiction was at risk. Coincidence, in particular, with its delight in the unexpected, will be threatened by the emphasis on an over-riding pattern of significance. However much Dickens came to believe in, and to base his fictions upon, what the last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, calls “the mighty store of wonderful chains that are forever forging, day and night, in the vast ironworks of time and circumstance” (ch. 13), he also felt the threat implied in that heavy industrial metaphor. Ironworks are not doing their appropriate work if they keep producing surprises.
Ironworks and weaving. The contrast suggests Dickens’ chronic uneasiness about his position within the rapidly changing world of nineteenth-century production. If he is thinking about himself as artist-producer, he aligns himself with a pre-industrial, dying trade: he is “the story-weaver at his loom” (Our Mutual Friend, postscript). But when he looks for a language to describe the complex world of action imitated by his plots (in the Aristotelian sense of those terms), he turns to the modern factory. The two metaphors have in common the insistent idea of relentless work: in the woven design, something is “always working itself out”, while in that mighty store (story?) those wonderful chains are “forever forging, day and night”. But in the one case, the design is graspable, human, vulnerable: in the other it is impersonal, “mighty”, “vast”—and those impressive chains are made of iron.
This hesitation in the last two novels between soft and mechanical models of narrative structure is akin to the ambivalence that one feels throughout Dickens’ fiction about mastery or control. Murdstones are played against Micawbers, the Jaggers who knows and hears everything is paired with a Wemmick who has a deaf aged Parent at home, while the splendid and powerful Aunt Betsy is committed to that helpless Mr. Dick whose name and function make him as clear a self-parody of Charles Dickens as one could ask for. The anxiety about control is often linked to the problematic status of fathers in his fiction, a recurring Dickensian theme and one which overlaps with the ways the structure of the novels becomes itself an issue in their representation—or is “thematized”, as the current critical jargon would put it. But the clearest case of this characteristic ambivalence as it affects the plotting of the novels is in those ubiquitous and troubling coincidences.
In a 1927 essay, while discussing the common interest of Dickens and Collins in melodrama, T.S.Eliot quoted the following passage from Dickens’ friend and first biographer, Forster, and it has been frequently quoted since.
On the coincidences, resemblances and surprises of life, Dickens liked especially to dwell, and few things moved his fancy so pleasantly. The world, he would say, was so much smaller than we thought it; we were all so connected by fate without knowing it; people supposed to be far apart were so constantly elbowing each other; and tomorrow bore so close a resemblance to nothing so much as to yesterday.
In order to fit the parallelism of the whole sentence, the final phrase requires an addition such as “tomorrow, despite being unknown, in the eventuality bore resemblance to nothing so much as to yesterday”. Otherwise, Forster’s language, in its typically bland way, hints at the dilemma Dickens faced. Coincidence, resemblance, surprise are characteristic turning points in his plots, yet the idea of fate, casually listed here by Forster as a parallel term, came to have more somber meanings for Dickens’ later fiction. What happens when we know that, as Forster puts it, “we were all so connected by fate”, when we make that the main principle of plot construction? The chains of structure threaten to become the bars of a well-built prison. It became harder to protect the delighted fancy of Forster’s untroubled description from the ironic and tragic implications of the phrase “without knowing it”. We shall here watch Dickens finding ways to preserve the delight in the unexpected even as he comes to emphasize more solemnly the pleasures of design.

The first novel to attempt a complex rather than episodic plot is Oliver Twist, but the coincidences by which the tale advances are notorious. Forster remarked that Oliver Twist was “simply but well constructed”, but most readers have agreed with Wilkie Collins, who wrote in the margin of his copy of Forster: “Nonsense! The one defect of this marvellous book is the helplessly bad construction of the story”. Angus Wilson, in his introduction to the Penguin edition, denounces “the extreme ineptitude with which Dickens handles or botches his plot”. Indeed the novel shows, in an acute form, most of the problems with coincidence as a plot-device that Dickens would have to solve.
Bumble arrives in London to deliver two paupers to the legal system (ch. 17), casually opens a newspaper, and the first words he reads are Brownlow’s announcement requesting information about Oliver. Noah Claypole goes straight to the Three Cripples pub when he in turn gets to London (ch.42). Bumble is reintroduced with a long disquisition on the alternance of tragic and comic scenes in melodrama, and with the assurance that “the historian” has “good and substantial reasons for making the journey” back to Oliver’s birthplace. Claypole and Charlotte are described before they are named, allowing the reader the pleasure of first identifying them himself (a common novelist’s device that Dickens liked: he elaborated it in later works, as in the arrival of the Dorrit entourage at the hostelry of the Grand St. Bernard pass, or the visit of Jaggers to the Three Jolly Bargemen). Indeed on the face of it, both these reappearances of minor personages are best explained not so much on grounds of plot, but rather as signs of Dickens’ (and his readers’) continuing interest in their characters of the kind that led to the reappearances of Jingle or Sam Weller within The Pickwick Papers. The recurrence of immediately recognizable characters who have already pleased the serial audience helps to link the separate parts of an otherwise meandering narrative. And Bumble was to be rewritten later as Wackford Squeers, while Claypole initiates a long series of Dickensian sneaks.
Yet there is a difference between these reappearances of the villains of Oliver’s childhood during his London years. Through his unfortunate marriage to Mrs. Corney, Bumble makes an indirect contribution to the denouement—the revelation of Oliver’s mother’s identity. Noah Claypole, however, makes no such minor contribution to the mystery plot: he simply turns up, late in the novel, to become Fagin’s spy, the cause of Nancy’s death, and eventually a police informer. He never mentions Oliver or his past, and even though he actually overhears Brownlow say that “there must be circumstances in Oliver’s little history which it would be painful to drag before the public eye” (ch. 46), he does not connect this with his old enemy. The difference suggests two ways in which Dickens will later make use of coincidence. Whereas the return of Bumble gives Dickens a possible way to unravel the mystery plot, Claypole is the earliest instance of the use of coincidence not to advance the story line but to reveal its moral significance by multiplying character and situation. Claypole repeats, but in a minor contrastive way, the trajectory of Oliver from Mudfog (the original serial name of his birthplace, suppressed for the publication as a book) to London and Fagin’s underworld. The specific theme of the corrupted charity-boy reappears in the splendid Uriah Heep and in Robin Toodles, but the more general device of doubling the hero, often with some unsavoury character, recurs in many forms in the later fiction. And in three of these cases, Heep, the doglike Orlick and Bradley Headstone, the enmity between them, which is left undeveloped at the conclusion of Oliver Twist, becomes a key element in the plot.
Claypole as sneak also suggests one of the main themes of the later part of the book, the way in which the plot must be pieced together from clues gathered here and there, fragments of overheard talk or delirium, or mysterious tokens like the locket. Beginning with Nancy's spying at Brownlow's to retrieve Oliver (ch. 13), the book has by now become a sequence of furtive, hole-in-the-corner episodes. Not only the stage-villain Monks, but even the benevolent Brownlow and Rose Maylie have been reduced to clandestine midnight meetings.
The reappearances of Bumble and Claypole, however, are minor coincidences. The really fantastic coincidences are the major ones out of which the mystery plot is concocted. The first theft in which Oliver participates is the attempt to pick the pocket of his father's former friend, Mr. Brownlow, a man who has always treasured a picture of Oliver's mother on his sitting-room wall, while his first attempted larceny consists of breaking and entering the house of Oliver's aunt, the younger sister of that portrait on the wall.
Steven Marcus, it is true, defended the coincidences on the grounds that they “are of too cosmic an order to belong in the category of the fortuitous”. But this begs the question of whether cosmic events are fortuitous, and in any case coincidences by definition must seem fortuitous, even though one may try on a second view to account for them, whether by the Christian/novelistic idea of Providence or by the tragic concept of fate, moira. Marcus’ argument also confuses the gloomy world of the novel with its plot, the mythos, the arrangement of the incidents. If one wishes to argue for a dark fate hanging over the novel, something Dickens certainly contrived for the plots of later novels such as A Tale of Two Cities, one has to face the difficulty that the nightmare and the coincidences of Oliver Twist have little to do with each other. The two robberies are seen to be such remarkable coincidences only much later, when the history of Oliver's family is rapidly, even perfunctorily, laid before us. It might have been nightmarish if we knew that Oliver were being forced, by some dark logic, to rob his own family and their friends, but by the time we are aware of his connection with his victims, the robberies have long receded from our minds, Oliver has already been rescued, and the revelations come simply with the delight of surprise. The typically linear plot of a “Parish Boy's Progress” towards crime and ignominy has by now been rewritten as the complex fairy-tale of gentle birth reasserting its rights.
It is likely, in fact, that Dickens conceived the rescue plot only after the first serial installments had appeared in Bentley's Miscellany (Feb. to May 1837). Chapter 12, which appeared in August 1837, gives the first hint of the new direction the plot is to take—Brownlow's portrait. Bumble reappears in Chapter 17 (Nov. 1837), although at this point all he can do is tell Brownlow about Oliver's early years. In order to write this installment, Dickens had been obliged to ask the publisher for a copy of the first numbers, covering Chapters 1 to 8, since he had not thought to keep them by him. (For later novels he began the practice of making elaborate plot notes before and after each number, notes which are being published in the Clarendon series). In the same installment comes the first sign of Nancy's later development (Ch. 16), and Dickens wrote to Forster on Nov. 3 saying that he hoped “to do great things with Nancy. If I can only work out the idea I have formed of her, and of the female who is to contrast with her”(I, p.328). The remark is typical for its interest in the pair of characters rather than the plot which is to bring them together.
During this period, two important events had taken place. The sudden death of Mary Hogarth had so affected Dickens that the June number failed to appear. It is in the next installment that Oliver is first taken to Brownlow's and we see the portrait, like a mysterious vision of the dead young woman. Then Dickens managed to get Bentley to accept Oliver Twist as one of the two novels promised under the agreement of August 1836, but the negotiations were so bitter that, according to Kathleen Tillotson, the quarrel with the publisher is the most obvious reason for the non-appearance of the October issue. It is in the next installment that Nancy begins her transformation and that the novel takes its first journey back to the workhouse for the return of Bumble. Each interruption allowed Dickens more time to work out the coincidences from which the elaborate plot is built.
In February 1838 Chapters 23 to 25 appeared with the heading “Book the Second”, even though the initial installment had not been introduced as “Book the First.” It looks as if the main outlines of Oliver Twist as mystery novel were now fairly clear. For in this new installment, the first of the second book, a crucial new character and episode are described. In Chapter 23 we find Mrs. Corney making tea at her fireside—the romance with Bumble is beginning, while in the next chapter we hear the first report of a conversation between old Sally and Oliver's dying mother—something that the novel's first chapter, published a year before, had neither hinted at nor even allowed for. And the workhouse, in that first installment, had a master, yes, but no matron. Mrs. Corney is to play an important role as the recipient of “Agnes” locket, but the absence of both from the first year's material suggests either that no identification of Oliver's mother was originally intended, or that Dickens had not yet thought out the detail that far ahead.
Monks, Oliver’s half-brother, and his conspiracy with Fagin first appear in Chapter 26 (March 1838), but their plan to subvert the will alters, retrospectively, the overt meaning of Chapter 13 (August 1837) in which Fagin's anxiety to recapture Oliver had been caused simply by his concern that Oliver would give the crime-ring away. Even now, Dickens could claim in a letter (mid-March 1838) that “nobody can have heard what I mean to do with the different characters in the end, inasmuch as at present I don't quite know myself”. Rose Maylie eventually appears the following month (ch. 28), a young girl “so mild and gentle, so pure and beautiful, that earth seemed not her element”, and who is to go through a perilous illness and, unlike Mary Hogarth, miraculously recover. But the locket itself, the main birth-token, is first mentioned only in Chapter 38 (August 1838). And the whole mystery, with the intricate and improbable family history on which it depends, was unravelled only when the final chapters (the second part of 39 to 51) were published together in book form in November 1838. This section was written rapidly between August and October, the September installment of the Miscellany being sacrificed for the purpose. Dickens was already publishing Nicholas Nickleby by then, and he also needed to upstage the increasing number of rogue versions which were capitalizing on the success of Oliver. Only then, and all at once, did the original readers discover how Oliver was connected to all those nice people he had been forced to rob.
The evidence strongly suggests that Dickens adapted what would have been a rambling, episodic tale, like those of his favourite author Smollett, one which originated as an outgrowth of “the Mudfog Papers” he had previously been writing for Bentley. He turned it instead into a kind of Tom Jones, the novel recently given the stamp of approval by Coleridge as comparable to Oedipus Tyrannus and Volpone, with their complex plots of reversals, recognitions and rescues. The transformation required some re-imagining of scenes already published, and Dickens managed to cover his tracks rather skillfully. Indeed Oliver's “waking” from harsh reality into Brownlow-Maylie benevolence became, as Arnold Kettle showed, one of the principal themes of the book. Nonetheless, the need to plan such plots more thoroughly in advance had been made clear. The discovery of one's true parents was to become a chief Dickensian theme, but the coincidences which reveal the connections are here made to depend upon no hidden laws, whether of the Freudian kind for which Steven Marcus argued, nor upon those which Aristotle recommended (Poetics 1452a) in his discussion of probability and necessity.

A passage in Nicholas Nickleby shows, I think, that Dickens was aware of some of the difficulties of Oliver Twist, and also what his continuing attitude was to be. After Nicholas and Frank Cheeryble have met for the first time, Tim Linkinwater comments (ch. 43):
‘...that those two young men should have met last night in that manner is, I say, a coincidence -- a remarkable coincidence. Why, I don’t believe now,’ added Tim, taking off his spectacles, and smiling as with gentle pride, ‘that there’s such a place in all the world for coincidences as London is!’
That the characters occasionally comment on the plots they partake in becomes a regular feature of Dickens’ novels from now on, so that Linkinwater’s remark is equivalent to the frank delight of the naive reader. Yet what is interesting is that Linkinwater immediately gets defensive, even belligerent, about the number of coincidences that happen in London, as if he is also voicing some of Dickens’ concern. The passage continues:
‘I don’t know about that,’ said Mr. Frank, ‘but—’
‘Don’t know about it, Mr. Francis!’ interrupted Tim, with an obstinate air. ‘Well, but let us know. If there is any better place for such things, where is it? Is it in Europe? No, that it isn’t. Is it in Asia?. . .
‘I was not about to dispute the point, Tim,’ said young Cheeryble, laughing. ‘I am not such a heretic as that. All I was going to say was, that I hold myself under an obligation to the coincidence, that’s all.’
‘Oh! if you don’t dispute it,’ said Tim. quite satisfied, ‘that’s another thing. I’ll tell you what though--I wish you had. I wish you or anybody would. I would so put that man down,’ said Tim, tapping the forefinger of his left hand emphatically with his spectacles, ‘so put that man down by argument--’
It was quite impossible to find language to express the degree of mental prostration to which such an adventurous wight would be reduced in the keen encounter...
Dickens is clearly having fun with potential (or actual?) critics here, but the passage is also a sign of discontent with his early methods. The obstinacy of Tim Linkinwater also appears in David Copperfield, but for that novel Dickens considerably refined his use of coincidence.
The key to the change is the use of the autobiographical method. What it enabled Dickens to do was incorporate reactions to the many coincidences, and so to make them serve the larger moral themes of the novel. David’s character is the constant point of reference, as Oliver’s passive purity was not. David, for example, is lured to tea with the Heeps one day, and who should pass by in the street outside but Mr. Micawber? The significance is not only that two previously independent threads of the plot are being woven together, for Dickens is already designing the novel more carefully, but that David should react as he does. Two parts of his life, parts he has been trying to keep separate, have spilled into each other, and David is embarrassed by what he expects the garrulous Micawber to reveal. So the coincidence forces David to start coming to grips with his past, even as he is genuinely delighted by the chance encounter. Uriah Heep frequently appears in this role, as David’s second self, making him aware of himself in ways that are often unwelcome, but which foster his maturity. Like David, Heep is a lawyer, he too is in love with Agnes, he has an intense relation with his mother, and he also offers an apologetic autobiography to set off and qualify David’s. His presence turns the coincidence to the service of the larger plot.
The Steerforth coincidences have a similar function. David returns to London and happens to put up at the hotel where Steerforth stays. The unexpected meeting with an early acquaintance is not in itself especially implausible. It is a pleasant surprise for David, and perhaps the reader also, rather than a transparent excuse to reintroduce an interesting personage. But like the coincidental presence of David at Yarmouth for the storm scene, the meeting in London suggests the uncanny power Steerforth exercises over David. Again the hero’s reaction is the main source of interest. Half-drunk, he is hauled off to the theatre by Steerforth. There, of all people, they meet Agnes. Once more two separate strands of David’s life have been woven together, to his embarrassment. Although the warning that Agnes primly delivers in the next chapter goes unheeded, David the narrator retrospectively marks the conjunction of Agnes and Steerforth in his life by calling the chapter “Good and Bad Angels”.
This autobiographical structure allows Dickens to have it both ways. He can give his reader both the pleasure of the unexpected and the sense that a larger design is working itself out. The novel is built, in fact, not on a series of implausible events as in the closed world of Oliver’s powerless childhood, but on significant recurrence, both of character and event, from one stage of life to another. The reappearances of Steerforth are akin, in this respect, to Micawber’s, Traddles’, or Betsy Trotwood’s, but the most suggestive—both surprising and revealing—is the reappearance of the Murdstones. It may be inherently unlikely that when Peggotty comes to Spenlow’s office to see about Barkis’ will she should there run into Mr. Murdstone. But the coincidence serves to intensify the opposition of Murdstones and Peggottys, each an unusual brother-sister pair who exemplify one of the novel’s major themes (David as the unborn Betsy, David and Emily, David as Daisy, David and Agnes). That Miss Murdstone should reappear as Dora’s companion is even less plausible, but it helps suggest that David’s love for Dora repeats his unhappy love for his mother, and may also imply that the firmness of the Murdstone opposition is obscurely necessary to David’s romantic attachment.
However serious the purpose which coincidence was now being made to serve, David Copperfield also contains two passages which echo the Linkinwater speech in Nickleby and show Dickens as wittily self-conscious about his delight in coincidence. At the Waterbrooks’ dinner (ch. 25), David hears Traddles’ name announced. Before he can speak to him, he tells his host that the new arrival is probably an old school-friend of his from Salem House.
‘It’s a curious coincidence”, said I.
‘It is really,’ returned my host, ‘quite a coincidence, that Traddles should be here at all: as Traddles was only invited this morning, when the place at table, intended to be occupied by Mrs. Henry Spiker’s brother, became vacant, in consequence of his indisposition. A very gentlemanly man, Mrs. Henry Spiker’s brother, Mr. Copperfield.’
Waterbrook functions here as a comic parody in miniature of the authorial omnipotence that brings his guest-characters so surprisingly together. Indeed he is then described as a man who “had gone on mounting all the heights of life one after another, until he now looked, from the top of the fortifications, with the eye of a philosopher and a patron, on the people down in the trenches”.
This comic stress on novelistic arbitrariness takes the Linkinwater response a stage further: from the naive delight of a reader, we move to the author’s game with his own position. And this coincidence has also another function, of the moral kind previously discussed. It pairs Traddles with Uriah Heep, who is also present at the dinner party, and the three young men go down together, David flanked by the good and the bad lawyer who are to confront each other in the subsequent plot. And in fact, this meeting takes place during the chapter called “Good and Bad Angels”.
The second self-conscious passage I want to highlight in David Copperfield contains an even more comic stress on the plot’s coincidences, and this time it is David himself whose extended comment draws out the humour. In a late chapter (61), David and Traddles make an otherwise unmotivated visit to a Model Prison run by their old headmaster, Mr. Creakle, who plans the tour like an early Dickens novel. Prisoner Number Twenty Seven is reserved, we are told, for a concluding effect, and David finds it hard to restrain his impatience. Finally, at the door of his cell, Creakle peers in and finds Number Twenty Seven reading a hymn book. Triumphantly, Creakle calls him forth: “whom should Traddles and I then behold, to our amazement, in this converted Number Twenty Seven, but Uriah Heep!” There follows a brief instance of Uriah Heep’s fawning manner and a hypocritical complaint about the beef, and then we are introduced to Number Twenty Eight. David remarks that “I had been so much astonished already that I only felt a kind of resigned wonder when Mr. Littimer walked forth, reading a good book”. David Copperfield contains several books and documents which playfully invert the autobiographical novel itself, the most obvious being Mr. Dick’s efforts to write his own story, efforts which are regularly thwarted because the beheaded Charles I keeps interfering. The fragments eventually end up, in a witty parody of the controling novelist’s overview, flying on a kite. Other instances are Micawber’s discursive letters, piles of legal documents adumbrating those in Bleak House, David’s efforts to learn shorthand, Julia Mill’s diary, and the novels that David himself manages to write—so many in fact that one is led to wonder whether the good book that Littimer is reading might not be a Dickens novel.
The dialogue with Littimer that ensues confirms the fun that Dickens is having here, bringing these sensational rabbits from his magical writer’s hat. Littimer goes on, in a kind of parody of the moral themes of the novel, to acknowledge his past follies or sins, to attribute them to association with young men like Steerforth and David, and to wish, in his peroration, that David will take warning and “repent of all the wickedness and sin to which he has been a party”. The typical closure of the novel form, the meting out of rewards and punishments, with repentance where possible for moral flaws, here moves into self-parody.

Once he had learned, in David Copperfield, to manage for larger purposes, both comic and serious, the coincidences that had seemed merely sensational in Oliver Twist, Dickens went on in his next novel, Bleak House, to construct a much more intricate plot which depends almost entirely on the discovery of hidden connections between people and between the events they make happen. In doing so, Dickens moved closer to the tragic mode, but he was also returning to the nightmare possibilities of coincidence adumbrated in Oliver Twist.
T.S. Eliot proposed that Forster’s biography seriously underestimated the importance of Wilkie Collins in Dickens’ career. They first met, significantly, when Dickens threw himself into amateur theatricals as soon as David Copperfield was finished. The friendship has since been more fully explored in the biographies by Edgar Johnson, Peter Ackroyd and Fred Kaplan. Eliot discusses the renewed interest in theatre and the kinds of plots it could produce by distinguishing melodrama from great tragedy. While admitting that the boundary between the two is vague, Eliot contrasts Collins’ play The Frozen Deep, in which Dickens acted, with Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus: “it is the difference between coincidence, set without shame or pretence, and fate—which merges into character”. In spite of his love of Victorian melodrama, one of Dickens’ constant passions, Eliot suggests that from now on, especially in Bleak House, Dickens achieved the Sophoclean integration of character and fate.
The terms call for some qualification. For one thing, we have seen that David Copperfield already turns coincidence to the service of character. For another, it is clear that Dickens was more at home in the theatrical conventions of the well-made play than in Sophocles. Yet it is true that he now begins to construct recognition scenes, like those Aristotle praised in Sophocles’ Oedipus (Poetics 1455a), in which the main character discovers, as it were, the plot of the novel s/he is in. As Dickens explores this new feature of his plots, a strain begins to be felt, occasionally in Bleak House, explicitly in Little Dorrit and then marvelously resolved in Great Expectations: how is one to retain the naive delight in surprise, “set without shame or pretence”, within the darker worlds he now creates. Dickens has to grapple with the paradox explored by Aristotle (Poetics 1452a): coincidences happen by chance, yet in the tragic world the action moves inexorably toward its climax and chance is replaced by fate.
In these later novels, Dickens begins to construct a solution through a dialectic of fate and coincidence, depending on whether we look at the woven design or at the experience of the character. This accounts in part for the choice of two narrators for Bleak House, one who views the whole action in a godlike present tense, the other who pieces together the events and characters and makes her own little world of coherence and order. This is a new method for presenting what Dickens had already attempted in Oliver Twist, the rescue of the hero/ine from the tragic plot which overwhelms the other characters (Sykes and Nancy, Richard Carstone, Gridley, or Jo the crossing sweeper). Yet the miniature Bleak House over which Esther has charge at the end of the novel may well seem to be little more than a parody of the vaster, more complex, and tragic structure which is the novel of the same name.
A similar difficulty appears in the following well-known passage (chap. 16) in which the narrator makes a melodramatic intervention to link the worlds of the book:
What connexion can there be, between the place in Lincolnshire, the house in town, the Mercury in powder, and the whereabouts of Jo the outlaw with the broom, who had that distant ray of light upon him when he swept the churchyard-step? What connexion can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of this world, who, from opposite sides of great gulfs, have, nevertheless, been very curiously brought together!
Jo sweeps his crossing all day long, unconscious of the link, if any link there be. He sums up his mental condition, when asked a question, by replying that "he don't know nothink."
The book's major and tragic theme of secret connections being uncovered and borne on the air like disease is here presented first as a question, then as an exclamation that recalls the language of Forster about delight in coincidence cited at the beginning of this essay. Then, when the focus narrows to the character Jo, and his ignorance of the connections, the narrator senses the possibility of tragic irony and withdraws his exclamatory assertion by adding, "if any link there be." The uncertainty of tone is a measure of Dickens ambivalence about this new kind of plot. The narrator's proviso, "if any link there be”, suggests also that Dickens knew it was not by melodramatic assertions, but by the plot, the silent arrangement of the incidents, that tragedy must be seen to work.
The plot of the Oedipus, says Aristotle (Poetics 1453b), would make one tremble just to hear it summarized. Yet it is a plot which, even more notoriously than Oliver Twist, depends on coincidence. The old man whom Oedipus kills at the place where three roads meet turns out later to be his father; the woman he wins in marriage turns out to be his mother. The two events are not connected. But Sophocles’ play consists not in the chronological enactment of these events, but in the retrospective discovery by their chief participant of what these past events presently entail. The plot of the play is the structure of self-revelation.
The parallel with Dickens is clear enough. Oliver Twist simply narrates the events in their chronological sequence. Only at the end, and with a rather bewildering rapidity, do the events acquire some structural place through the discovery of Oliver’s parentage. In Bleak House, however, the events that matter have mostly happened before the novel opens, and the development of the narrative consists, like the Oedipus, in the progressive discovery by the participants of the ways in which they are connected to each other. Whereas the discoveries in Oliver Twist have little to do with the hero’s own efforts, and their consequences are, in the end, not painful, in Bleak House, Esther, in common with many other people, is constantly making deductions, not always correctly, while the revelation of her parentage, or the threat of it, drives Lady Dedlock to her death and her husband to a stroke and partial paralysis. Discovery of the past, not chronology, is the defining structural principle of this novel, as it is of Sophocles’ play, and the main characters are the principle vehicles of that discovery. Coincidence now serves this larger purpose.
No doubt it is unlikely that Esther’s summer retreat should be the Boythorn house next to her unknown mother’s estate, but here the bonds of nature, not simply the boldness of the novelist’s imagination, seem to draw mother and daughter together. Dickens again stresses the unlikeliness of the coincidence (it even turns out that Boythorn was once engaged to Miss Barbary, Esther’s dragon-like aunt from the beginning of the novel, who is Lady Dedlock’s estranged sister) but this time the very implausibility points up the enormity of the discovery Esther has made. As in David Copperfield, the focus is on the main character’s reactions, but even in this dark Sophoclean world, there is a trace of Dickensian delight.
A good illustration is the scene in which Sir Leicester Dedlock unexpectedly visits Jarndyce at Bleak House, in order to apologize for the reception Harold Skimpole met when he tried to tour Chesney Wold.  Sir Leicester’s habitually pompous and convoluted syntax has here a special meaning, given the complications of plot and emotional reaction: that
‘this should have occurred to any gentleman, Mr. Jarndyce, but especially a gentleman formerly known to Lady Dedlock, and indeed claiming some distant connection with her, and for whom (as I learn from my Lady herself) she entertains a high respect, does, I assure you, give - Me - pain.’
Esther, hearing him, cannot bear to look, so embarrassed is she, not by the syntax, nor by the treatment of Skimpole, but by the tragic ironies of Dedlock’s language. He goes on, innocent of the effect he is producing in Esther, to refer to the meeting of mother and daughter: “. . . ‘my Lady informed me that she had had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with Mr. Jarndyce and his wards, on the occasion of an accidental meeting during their sojourn in the vicinity’.” After Dedlock leaves, Esther decides to explain matters to her guardian, but as soon as she mentions Dedlock, she does not know how to go on.
He folded his arms, and sat looking at me with an air of the profoundest astonishment, awaiting what I should say next. I did not know how to prepare him.
‘Why, Esther,’ said he, breaking into a smile, ‘our visitor and you are the last two persons on earth I should have thought of connecting together!’
‘O yes, Guardian, I know it. And I too, but a little while ago.’
The smile passed from his face, and he became graver than before.
The astonishment, and the smile, are reminiscent of the earlier Dickensian delight as Jarndyce, the good father-figure, echoes the theme of connection. The gravity that replaces the smile, and which deepens as Esther tells the story, is the mood appropriate to the new, tragic design.
The series of coincidences through which these discoveries are made now has the effect of suggesting that these genuine and past connections, however people may try to conceal them, will affect the present and force themselves into the open through apparently chance events. Such is the effect, otherwise comic, of Mr. Guppy’s reaction to Lady Dedlock’s picture. In Oliver Twist the portrait of the lost mother served merely to give the alert reader (and Oliver) an agreeable frisson of anticipation. But now, the truth that the reader discovers while Guppy, fresh from his captivation by Esther, examines the portrait, is itself one of the novel’s main themes: it entails the full burden of the past, fated and unchanging simply because it is the past. In this case, the discovery is tragic, and the only pleasure that remains to it is the tragic one, catharsis, in that the pattern of truth is knowable.
The delight is displaced now onto other discoveries of the parent-child relation, Mrs. Snagsby’s false perception of the connection between Jo and her husband, and Mrs. Bagnet’s accurate discovery that trooper George is Mrs. Rouncewell’s son. But none of the novel’s many coincidences has any longer the pure delight of the merely fortuitous, for all are seen, finally, as parts of the woven pattern. It is highly implausible, of course, that Jarndyce should choose Esther as a ward without knowing that the woman who had raised her was his friend Boythorn’s former sweetheart and the sister of Lady Dedlock, but no more so than that Oedipus should meet and kill his father as he tries to escape his supposed father in Corinth. The coincidences simply establish the inevitability of the connections.

The pattern, of course, can be made of spurious meanings, the fatalism of melodrama rather than the tragic discovery of inevitable truth. Three years later, in Little Dorrit, I think we can detect Dickens reflecting on his own fiction, aware that he was imposing a design that does not emerge from the materials of the novel. One passage is especially revealing. The passengers on the ship in Marseilles separate (ch. 2), and Mr. Meagles wishes Miss Wade a cheerful farewell.
‘. . .Good bye! We may never meet again.’
‘In our course through life we shall meet the people who are coming to meet us, from many strange places, and by many strange roads,’ was the composed reply; ‘and what it is set to us to do to them, and what it is set to them to do to us, will all be done.’
As a comment upon the novel’s design, this is accurate enough. Some of those people who are to meet have already done so on the boat, Blandois-Rigaud and John Baptist Cavelletto are imprisoned in the same town, while others, chiefly some of the Dorrit group, are in another prison in another town. (Marseilles is not the setting for any other scenes in the novel: it could be any other port, except that its name echoes that of the London prison, the Marshalsea). Miss Wade’s heavy portentousness, placed near the beginning of the novel, suggests that Dickens has by now elevated fatalism into an organizing principle of his fiction, and that he wants the reader to perceive that principle. But as the passage continues, we may wonder whether Dickens was not as uneasy about the principle as he was about other aspects of Miss Wade, such as her oddly obtrusive autobiography and her sexual ambivalence. Mr. Meagles’ daughter Pet is beside her father, and reacts to Miss Wade’s remark.
There was something in the manner of these words that jarred upon Pet’s ear. It implied that what was to be done was necessarily evil, and it caused her to say in a whisper, ‘O, Father!’ and to shrink childishly in her spoilt way, a little closer to him. This was not lost on the speaker.
Miss Wade turns to Pet and, looking full upon her, applies this cruel fatalism to her. They are coming to meet you, she says, and “may be coming, for anything you know, or anything you can do to prevent it, from the vilest sweepings of this very town.” It may not be too much to see here an allegory of Dickensian plotting. The mechanism of fate is potentially evil, as Pet or narrator notices, and she turns to her father for protection. Yet he is another version of what Dickens knew too well himself and installed in so many ways in his fiction -- the inadequate father who is not there at the crucial moments, whose protective power is only an illusion of early childhood. At this stage, it looks as if the fatalism, and the cool, selfish sadomasochism of Miss Wade, interesting as they are, are the dominant forces at work, in both the world and the construction of the novel. We are far from the naive delight of Tim Linkinwater at unexpected meetings.
A later chapter, however, echoes this one. Both, in fact, have the title “Fellow Travellers”. The scene now (II.1) is the hostelry of the St. Bernard convent high in the Alps. Pet, now Mrs. Gowan, is again helpless, in bed after her riding accident, and Blandois lurks outside her door, one of those “vile sweepings” of Marseilles that Miss Wade alluded to. Yet now another force has entered the novel, Little Dorrit herself, the figure of the young innocent onto whom Dickens typically displaces all the Providential longings that his fathers so conspicuously fail to fulfill. She comes to see Pet, bringing Arthur Clennam’s letter which introduces Amy as “a comfort”. And her comment on the meeting is in strong contrast to Miss Wade’s views: “It is a curious chance which at last brings us together”. So the pleasure of surprise, the dialectic of fate and “curious chance”, is still at work, even if Dickens as plotter feels closer to the bleak omniscience of Miss Wade.
The innocence of chance and the dark view which makes all the work of fate have now, however, become dangerously separated, and there is little that redeems the next novel, A Tale of Two Cities, from the gloomy mechanisms of history and fate. Yet in the resulting exchange of letters with Wilkie Collins, there is a revealing phrase. Collins had presumed to criticize the construction of the novel, and Dickens responded that if Collins had done it, “it would have been overdone. . ., too elaborately trapped, baited and prepared”. This makes Collins sound like Miss Wade, and Dickens goes on to compare his plotting, not with fate, but with Providence. “I think the business of art is to lay all that ground carefully, but with the care that conceals itself—to show, by a backward light, what everything has been working to—but only to suggest, until the fulfillment comes. These are the ways of Providence, of which all art is but a little imitation”. The distinction between fate and Providence shows Dickens trying to protect himself from Collins’ charges by making the plot itself the substitute for that fatherly care which is lacking in the novel, or in the Mr. Meagles of Little Dorrit. It suggests, at least, a hesitation about the fatalism which seems to control the worlds of both novels, a desire for a grander vision to govern the elaborate teleology of the plots.

This vision Dickens found for the next novel, and it may help explain why Great Expectations is a more satisfying book. True, the change of ending suggests that Dickens was still hesitating between fate or a kindly Providence as the governing principle, but the problem of the relation between plot-structure and coincidence is elegantly resolved. The autobiographical method makes the woven design and the conscious experience of the main character become one. The earlier delights in coincidence are preserved, even enhanced, as the emotion appropriate to tragedy, the pleasure in discovery, which Aristotle called catharsis (Poetics 1449b). And the occasionally ponderous irony of the earlier books is now transmuted because it becomes the vehicle of the hero’s self-presentation. As the interest of the Sophoclean play lies in how Oedipus himself learns about his parentage and his identity, so the Dickens novel, by fusing the earlier themes and narrative forms, is constructed as the hero’s self-discovery.
      Oliver Twist eventually turns on the discovery of parents and identity, but the story is told by a distant narrator in the Fielding tradition. David Copperfield is an early exercise in the autobiographical method so successful in Great Expectations, but the hero has no doubts about his parents’ identity, and in fact shows remarkably little consciousness of his own role in events. He is only briefly disturbed, for example, when Dora’s father dies immediately after the exposure of David’s clandestine affair with his daughter, or by the reflection that it was he, David, who brought Emily and Steerforth together. Esther Summerson’s narrative combines the two forms, but her own version of her life both needs the counterpoint of the other narration, and is uncertain of its own status: Esther’s constant self-reproach is annoyingly compensated by her coy remarks about how nice everyone is not to see her faults. But in Great Expectations, the narrator normally has the measure of his own responsibility. His much discussed guilt is the moral counterpart of his own failure to see the connections in his story. Dorothy Van Ghent called the Dickensian coincidence “the violent connection of the unconnected”, but here, on the contrary, the connections made by coincidence reinforce, in a more serious way than the earlier novels, the moral connections established by other means.
Nevertheless, Great Expectations is built upon the most outrageous of all the coincidences in Dickens, though the strand of coincidence is hard to isolate, so tightly is it woven with the other threads of the novel’s design. It consists, in fact, in the discovery of what is genuinely connected, but which appears, to the misguided hero, to be utterly separate until the discoveries transform him. The two worlds of false and true benefactors, the world of Miss Havisham with her uptown associates, and the world of Magwitch with his criminal past, are not, as reader and Pip first assume when Magwitch reappears, separate at all. “Never had I breathed, and never would I breathe—or so I resolved—a word of Estella to Provis” (ch. 43). For Pip-as-agent here, the two parts of his mind, the two worlds he is now forced to relate, have not yet come together, yet for Pip-as-narrator (as the brief insertion “or so I resolved” shows) the two worlds can be held together through his own relentless self-knowledge. As the rest of the novel reveals, the two worlds are connected with each other in many ways. Jaggers is the lawyer for both, one of the facts which initially led Pip to his false conclusions about the identity of his benefactor, and Compeyson, the other convict whom Pip had seen at the beginning of the novel in desperate battle with Magwitch, turns out to have been the lover who betrayed Miss Havisham. Most incredibly of all, Estella is the daughter of Molly, Jaggers’ housemaid, and Magwitch.
That Estella should turn out to be Magwitch’s daughter is a novelistic scandal. But now it serves a profound purpose, both for what it reveals and for the manner of its discovery. It shows what really matters, what finally coincides. The relations of parents and children have been Dickens’ major subject, particularly the discovery by the abandoned child of his true parents, whether or not the parents by blood. As in Bleak House, but now in a more concentrated and systematic way, this theme becomes the discovery of what is most hidden, and so most painfully revealing, about oneself. So painful, in fact, would it be for Estella, that Jaggers makes sure that Wemmick and Pip agree not to tell her. Pip must bear the consciousness himself, for it is really his identity, not Estella’s, which is at issue in the novel, constructed as both novel and identity are by the love he bears for her, and its connections with his earlier illusions.
Just as Oedipus pushes the inquiry to its end, over others’ objections, so Pip himself makes the crucial deductions, first about Estella’s mother, and then about Magwitch—the identity of Estella’s father is something that even Jaggers did not know. However sensational the discovery, it is yet made to seem important for what it tells Pip, and for how he tells us, about his needs. Born an orphan, he has always been looking for parents, and has refused for a long time to see the significance of Magwitch’s first appearance, leaping out of Pip’s father’s grave. He has preferred to find his wider family, through the mother image, in the upper middle class world of Miss Havisham and Estella. That world, however, will turn out to be indissolubly linked to the world of prisons and convicts of which Pip has such horror. Pip’s presentation of his discovery has much of the tragic irony with which Sophocles invested Oedipus’s discovery of the implausible coincidences which shaped his destiny. Because of Pip’s autobiographical voice, what finally coincides is his consciousness with praxis, the discovery of the self with the discovery of the meaning of the plot.
Even painful subjects, Aristotle had argued (Poetics 1448b), give pleasure when reproduced with fidelity, because men love to learn. Dickens has now found a similar way to combine tragedy with the old delight. The reader’s pleasure in discovering Estella’s parentage has been long preparing in the novel. Pip-as-agent does not himself understand the resemblance of Molly’s hands to hers until long after the reader, through Pip’s hindsight, has been able to make the deduction. But the discovery of her father’s identity, Pip and reader make together. It takes place when Herbert tells Pip (ch. 50) the rest of Magwitch’s story about his wife. Although Pip is in great pain from the wounds received in the previous day’s fire at Miss Havisham’s, wounds which actualize all he has suffered from her cruel manipulation, his reaction to Herbert’s story makes him forget the pain as he excitedly makes the deduction. Herbert may not know it, but he is tending more than Pip’s physical wounds. As Pip realizes that Magwitch’s lost wife must be Jaggers’ housekeeper, and thus Estella must be Magwitch’s daughter, he also hears something else. Herbert tells him that “‘you brought into his mind the little girl so tragically lost, who would have been about your age.’” Pip’s emotions are not described, but as “after a short silence, in a hurried way”, he goes on to tell Herbert what he has learned, one can imagine his satisfaction to be compounded of joy in the fatherly feeling of Magwitch transferred to himself, a shade of revenge, perhaps, at Estella, Miss Havisham, the unfair world, and the sheer pleasure of knowing the truth.
In the next chapter Pip goes to confront Jaggers and confirm his discovery. Now he unmistakably enjoys his triumph over the man who had seemed to know everyone’s secrets. He has finally taken command of his own story, and “for once, the powerful pocket handkerchief failed”. The knowledge of the sensational fact has given Pip the power that Jaggers normally enjoys. And Pip’s intervention, in which he also reveals Wemmick’s secret life to Jaggers, leads to an unusual playfulness between the two as they tease each other about the softer side of their lives. The pleasure of coincidence has momentarily infected even the stern lawyers. Dickens preserves that pleasure in the midst of his newer interest in the spinning of fate’s threads.
The delight in coincidence is protected by the power of the plot to make meanings. Without that power, which we have seen Dickens gradually acquiring, coincidence may suggest random confusion and so evoke only anxiety. Aristotle’s point about the statue of Mitys is relevant here. By an extraordinary coincidence, the statue fell on the man who had murdered Mitys. Such things do not seem to happen, says Aristotle (Poetics 1452a), without meaning or purpose. Thus even a sensational event will be the more impressive when it is made to arise from the structure of the incidents.
This dialectic of coincidence and plot is parallel with other polarities in Dickens: serial and book forms, surprise and the satisfaction of seeing the pattern, the points of view of the child and the father. Pip manages to represent all of these: he is finally the discerning reader/teller of his own narrated and coherent life, even though he begins his story as the naive reader of the separate letter shapes on his family tombstones.
Dickens’ mastery of plot was accompanied by a playful self-consciousness about his delight in implausible coincidences, and the two accomplishments seem to reinforce each other. He learned to project a consciousness, hesitantly in Esther Summerson, triumphantly in Pip, whose discoveries of coinciding identities we follow with appalled delight. Even in the final novel, heavy with the atmosphere of doom in the dark shadow of the cathedral, the vast ironworks of time and circumstance are forever forging chains that are called “wonderful”.

* This essay first appeared, in a different form, in Modern Philology 83 (1986), pp.151-167, and adopts the Aristotelian approach characteristic of that journal.

T.S.Eliot, “Wilkie Collins and Dickens,” Selected Essays (New York, 1967), p.414. The passage is cited thereafter by, for example, J.Hillis Miller, Charles Dickens: the World of his Novels (Cambridge, Mass, 1958), p.206, Taylor Stoehr, Dickens: The Dreamer’s Stance (Ithaca 1965), pp. 9-10, and Norman Page, Bleak House: A Novel of Connections (Boston 1990), p. 43.

John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens (London, 1876), I:69. In the Everyman edition (J.M.Dent, London 1966) the passage is on p.59.

If one puts it back into its context, one sees that this passage actually has nothing to do with Dickens’ fiction, nor do any of the similar passages (I.50, 96, 263; II.256). Forster is remarking on two shadowy associations between Dickens’ life and his own, before the two friends met: Dickens was married on Forster’s birthday, and Seymour’s drawing of Pickwick was based on a friend of Chapman, the publisher, and this man’s name was John Foster. Forster is struck by this, explains that people often misspell his name, but allows that “the reader will hardly be so startled as I was”. No doubt the two friends did take a momentary pleasure in these mild coincidences, but most of the coincidences in the fiction are much more dramatic and interesting than such oddities of everyday life. Dickens was searching for more than this rather mindless kind of connection.

Cited by Sylvère Monod, Dickens the Novelist (Norman, Oklahoma 1968) 117; cf. Arnold Kettle, An Introduction to the English Novel (London 1967) Vol I. 120f: “It is generally agreed that the plots of Dickens' novels are their weakest feature,” although he allows that Oliver Twist's dependence on “a number of extraordinary coincidences...is the least of its shortcomings.”

5Steven Marcus, Dickens From Pickwick to Dombey (New York 1968) 78.

K.J.Fielding, Charles Dickens: A Critical Introduction (London 1965) l99f.

On the fairy-tale world of Oliver Twist, see Harry Stone, Dickens and the Invisible World (Bloomington 1979) 99-107, but his book makes little of the question concerning us here.

Kathleen Tillotson in her introduction to the Clarendon edition (Oxford 1966), p.xv, argued that Dickens conceived the novel as early as 1833. None of her evidence indicates that the complex plot was in his mind so early. Burton M. Wheeler, “The Text and Plan of Oliver Twist”, Dickens Studies Annual 12 (1984), pp. 41-61, makes a good case for the argument made here. Since he makes nothing of Mrs Corney, one of my chief points here, I have thought the case worth restating briefly.

The Letters of Charles Dickens, ed. Madeleine House and Graham Story, Pilgrim ed. (Oxford 1965), I, p.319.

These notes survive only for Dombey and Son on, but Dickens may have begun keeping them earlier.

Peter Ackroyd, Dickens (London 1990), pp. 238-44, 1165.

Tillotson, pp. xix-xxii; Wheeler, p.46.

House and Story, eds. I. pp.388-89.

Kettle, pp. 123-33.

See also Sue Lonoff, “Wilkie Collins and Dickens”, in Nineteenth Century Fiction 35 (1980), pp.150-70.

This is the aspect of Dickensian coincidence that has received most attention. See J. Hillis Miller, Charles Dickens: The World of his Novels (Cambridge, Mass. 1958) 205-224, picking up the argument of Dorothy Van Ghent’s influential "The Dickens World: A View From Todger's," Sewanee Review 58 (1950), reprinted in The Dickens Critics, ed. George Ford and Lauriat Lane, Jr. (Ithaca 1961) 213-232. She made Dickens's coincidences "consistent with his imagination of a thoroughly nervous universe," adding that "there is no discontinuity in the Dickens world" (222f). And the coincidences are all of a piece. But the Dickens world, it seems to me, changed quite radically between 1835 and 1870, and so did the ingredients of his plots. See also Robert Caserio, Plot, Story and the Novel (Princeton 1979) 105-122. Caserio's focus is the conventional distinction with George Eliot, turning on the presence or absence of coincidence and other such popular and fantastic devices.

Catharsis as clarification is the view taken, for example, by Leon Golden and O.B.Hardison in their translation of Aristotle’s Poetics (Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1969). This is the true end of tragedy, rather than purification or purgation.

The Letters of Charles Dickens (Nonesuch ed., London 1937-38) III 125. Kathleen Tillotson kindly confirmed my instinct that Dickens wrote “but” rather than “not” in the first line of the quotation. The letter has now been printed correctly in the Pilgrim edition.

See Julian Moynihan, “The Hero’s Guilt: The Case of Great Expectations,” Essays in Criticism 10 (1960) 60-79.

10. Van Ghent, “Todger’s” 1950/1961: 223, above n. 15.

Peter Brook, Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (New York, 1984), pp. 128-30. Brooks makes much of the important phrase “by hand”, as in “[Mrs. Joe] had established a great reputation with herself and her neighbours because she had brought me up ‘by hand,’” as Pip says in ch. 2. We miss the joke in all of its irony if we do not know what Dickens's audience understood by this phrase. The biberon had recently been invented, and was enthusiastically described in an 1851 issue of the Lancet , the medical journal. Various other methods of hand-feeding of infants were in current use, notwithstanding the suggestion of Mr. Chick in Dombey and Son (chap. 2) that “something temporary be done with a tea-pot”. See Virginia Phillips, “Children in Early Victorian England: Infant Feeding in Literature and Society, I 1857”, Tropical Pediatrics and Enviromental Child Health [August 1978], pp. 158-66, and Susan Schoenbauer Thurin, “To be Brought up by Hand”, Victorian Newsletter 64 (1983), pp. 27-29.  Mrs. Joe was thus Pip's earliest source of both nourishment and punishment—something which no doubt contributes to the ambivalence of his thwarted search for parental authority through the godmother-stepmother figure of Miss Havisham.


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Dickens and Coincidence


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Dickens and Coincidence