Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Writing Prompt: Dickensten

I’m not a huge Charles Dickens fan. I only ever read Great Expectations for school, I’ve seen several dramatic adaptations of The Christmas Carol (who in the world hasn’t?), but I’d never thought of touching any of his other work. Not because I don’t think he’s a good writer. Maybe it’s just because Great Expectations wasn’t my favorite.
One thing Great Expectations is, however, is full of conflict. Tons of interesting things happen because of all of the rich characters. It makes me think that Dickens knew all of these characters so well that he would simply introduce a situation to them just to see how they would react.
So when I saw this project, I was intrigued, but I also saw the impossibility in the proposal.
Writing Prompt #759
I’m sure some of these books would be wonderful to read (and others I would avoid like the plague). The impossible thing is the “book that does not exist” that is “possibly” by Dickens (second on the left). The title, in case you don’t want to squint to read the text, is “The Poor Young Boy Who Gains Immense Wealth Against All Odds Without Compromise of Virtue or Moral Character While the Greedy Old Cantankerous Villain Dies of Jealousy and is Never Remembered.”
There are two reasons why this book does not exist. First is the title. Dickens would never have allowed something that wordy to leave his hands. That title is a plot description disguised as a title. Dickens would have called it “Aunt Bedeliah’s Gift” or something. The second reason this book would never have been written by Dickens is that it has no conflict. No matter how much he treasured the character of the young boy or Aunt Bedeliah, the fact that his hero gains his wealth without changing or growing as a person and that Aunt Bedeliah dies on the first page, make it very non-Dickens-y. Without conflict it would’t be Dickens.
In fact, the story probably wouldn’t get much beyond one page.

Jack didn’t know why his Aunt Bedeliah disliked him so much. As a boy of ten, he understood well that there were some people that liked children and some people that didn’t, and he had always believed his Aunt to fall into the latter category. But as a man of one and twenty, he stood before her lawyer, he was baffled.
The kindest word that he had ever received from his father’s eldest sister had been on his seventh birthday, when she looked him directly in the eye for the first time in his life and informed him that he would “never be worth anything, I daresay; useless child.”
He had enjoyed a happy childhood, despite his guardian’s unwarranted malice. His nurse and subsequent tutors had been encouraging and gracious, and he had learned well. Though he felt little attachment to Amarant House, his aunt’s estate, he was sad to leave it for school, because he had to leave behind his best friend.
Caroline’s tears upon the occasion had been more plentiful and her grief more prolonged than any he had ever seen, excepting the death of her mother, the groundskeeper’s wife. Jack had patted the shoulder of his playmate, explaining that he would be home every holiday, and though they would not see each other every day as they had been, that they would have plenty of opportunity to play their favorite games together when he came home from school.
“No, Jack, you don’t understand!” the girl sobbed. “You’ll go away and forget all about us here and then you’ll get married!”
“We’ll both get married someday, Caroline,” he told her. “Why cry about it now?” He had never understood why she had run home down the gravel lane after giving him an anguished look.
Not until Aunt Bedeliah’s solicitor explained to him that he was the heir of Amarant House, that his Aunt had merely been managing it until he came of age, and because her death and his birthday occurred within days of one another, he was now not only wildly wealthy but also the owner of one of the most prosperous estates in the country.
A young man of fortune, as Jack now found he was, was able to marry as he chose. He only hoped Caroline hadn’t changed her mind.

Surely this wouldn’t have been enough conflict for Dickens. The next obvious thing is Jack’s proposal and Caroline’s acceptance, and then a happily ever after. I suppose there could be something juicy in the why of Aunt Bedeliah’s hatred, but the original title says that “the Greedy Old Cantankerous Villain Dies of Jealousy and is Never Remembered.” So I guess the reason it was never written was because it was so un-Dickensish, and it’s more a commentary on his writing than anything else.
It really seems more like something Jane Austen would write.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I dunno, Jane Austen has quite a bit of conflict as well.

    A lot of people have Dickens ruined for them by being forced to read a certain book in school. My 19th century lit professor in college loved Dickens, but loathed Oliver Twist because he'd read it in school. I adore Dickens, so I suggest trying another one of his books. You might want to go with one of the shorter ones, but the longer ones have a lot going for them too.