Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Oliver Twist cover-up

Normally this blog saves the non-political posts on the weekend, but I can't resist offering a rejoinder to this Salon piece about classics which kids should avoid.
I'm told "A Tale of Two Cities" gets put on curricula because it's the shortest Dickens novel, but "Oliver Twist" is only a little longer and its mistreated-orphans premise seems vastly more child-friendly.
It isn't. Ask any historian of the period, and ask any Dickens expert who has been paying attention to those historians. In the book, Fagin's urchins are portrayed as "pickpockets" because the novel would have been condemned if Dickens had told the truth. "Pickpocket" is a euphemism. Those kids were child prostitutes. That was the kind of operation which the real-life Fagins got up to, and get up to.

In the book, Nancy tells Fagin "I thieved for you when I was a child not half as old as this." (She indicates Oliver, who is ten.) "I have been in the same trade, and in the same service, for twelve years since..." If you have any awareness of subtext you'll see that she's not talking about thieving. The words "in the same service" give away the true meaning.

Your kids may be better off with Tale of Two Cities.
Agreed 110% ! As long as the kiddiwinkies absorb the message, which is no less relevant in the USA today:

From Wiki:

Dickens wants his readers to be careful that the same revolution that so damaged France will not happen in Britain, which (at least at the beginning of the book) is shown to be nearly as unjust as France. But his warning is addressed not to the British lower classes, but to the aristocracy. He repeatedly uses the metaphor of sowing and reaping; if the aristocracy continues to plant the seeds of a revolution through behaving unjustly, they can be certain of harvesting that revolution in time. The lower classes do not have any agency in this metaphor: they simply react to the behaviour of the aristocracy. In this sense it can be said that while Dickens sympathises with the poor, he identifies with the rich: they are the book's audience, its "us" and not its "them". "Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind".

With the people starving and begging the Marquis for food; his uncharitable response is to let the people eat grass; the people are left with nothing but onions to eat and are forced to starve while the nobles are living lavishly upon the people's backs. Every time the nobles refer to the life of the peasants it is only to destroy or humiliate the poor.

Today, in the US for "nobles" read "corporations" or "the elite" or "the extreme rightwing"
If the nobles are corporations does that make congress the clergy.
Time to read Foucault's genealogy of power/knowledge/capital

To see capital to its end - to its death - one needs to appreciate Baudrillard's hatred and condemnation of it. And Iam beginning to believe that Ayn Rand did just that without knowing that she did it. While professing the opposite of what she was writing, thinking and saying. She was following Nietzsche being"worse than worse".
I have wondered whether the ghosts in The Turn of the Screw (often read in high school) were pedophiles. Never thought of the children in Oliver Twist being prostitutes but I think the age of consent was quite young in Britain at that time.

Love Dickens.

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