Friday, May 11, 2007

Perceptions: Don't Judge A Temple By Its Vessel

I love the way Charles Dickens lauds the virture of the misfortunate while illuminating the self-blindness of the fortunate.

It was natural enough that her short and unfinished dialogue with Kit should leave a strong impression on her mind, and influence her dreams that night and her recollections for a long, long time. Surrounded by unfeeling creditors, and mercenary attendants upon the sick, and meeting in the height of her anxiety and sorrow with little regard or sympathy even from the women about her, it is not surprising that the affectionate heart of the child should have been touched to the quick by one kind and generous spirit, however uncouth the temple in which it dwelt. Thank Heaven that the temples of such spirits are not made with hands, and that they may be more worthily hung with poor patchwork than with purple and fine linen! -- The Old Curiosity Shop, chapt. 11.

It must be specially observed in justice to poor Kit that he was by no means of a sentimental turn, and perhaps had never heard that adjective in all his life. He was only a soft-hearted grateful fellow, and had nothing genteel or polite about him; consequently instead of going home again in his grief to kick the children and abuse his mother (for when your finely strung people are out of sorts they must have everybody else unhappy likewise), he turned his thoughts to the vulgar expedient of making them more comfortable if he could. -- The Old Curiosity Shop, chapt. 14.


JMG said...

Nifty descriptions. I like the metaphors. If I were to assign these passages to my students to read, they would rebel in protest. "This is too hard!" "I don't understand what he's saying!"

Tony Arnold said...

The most important measure for you is to see what they say about passages like this at the beginning of your first class and how they feel about them after the last one.

Then you can measure if you are getting through to them.

I do understand their frustration. I much as I like Mr. Dickens writing, he has some weak points. He did not use "like", "you know", "know what I'm saying," or "check it out dog" even once. Like he can't relate, you know, like to where we are like at these days, know what I'm saying.

If we can teach our inner city youth to understand the way he wrote, they would love Dickens. They would revere him for understanding and illuminating their plight. We miss some golden opportunities to really teach.