Certainly, "Dombey and Son" is not the best of Dickens's novels. Still, as I have said, I have a soft spot for him and enjoy reading him. I agree with you in basically all your opinions regarding this novel: the moralizing parts take steam away from the narrative; Florence is rather colorless (it would have been nice to have seen her confront her father and tell him a thing or two); little Paul's early death hurts the plot, and so on.
For me also, Edith and Mrs. Skewton are the best characters, along with Carker the Manager. I think the chapter on his flight and death could be an excellent short story by itself. Regarding your questions, here are my attempts at answers:
1. Alice and Carker. It seems that Carker seduced her, forced her to committ some kind of robbery or fraud, and then abandoned her to her judicial fate, and so she's keen on revenge.
2. John Carker's crime seems to have consisted in taking money from the firm (stealing). He was pardoned, but as a punishment he was condemned to the lowest rung of the firm and the constant reminding of his crime amid the general slight of his companions. He would be unable to find other employment, as Dombey had the power to circulate his case around. He's also a reminder on his brother that the family has been dishonored.
3. This, however, does not stop Carker the Manager from also stealing from his employer. He has done some deals on the side, and now he tries to run away with the beautiful Edith, who takes the chance to revenge herself from both men.
Or at least that's what I understood.
What's our next assignment?
: I've actually been done for a few days, but I didn't
: post anything because I wasn't sure what else to say.
: I have to say that I genuinely enjoyed the character
: of Edith. Dickens definitely surprised me there. She
: seemed perfectly set up to be a stock "wicked
: stepmother," but he went an entirely different
: direction. Bagstock also struck me as a successful
: character. It seem to me that many years ago I used
: to quote, "Tough, sir, tough, and devilish
: sly" without the slightest idea where it came
: from. Miss Tox is a successful portrait of a standard
: Dickensian type. Although much more sane, she reminds
: me of Miss Flite in Bleak House, as well as several
: others. There is much to admire in this novel, but it
: seems that the narrative flags after little Paul's
: death. Dickens is, in my opinion, unsuccessful in
: shifting our attention and affections to the rather
: colorless Florence. The novel loses its narrative
: drive. Although Dickens is usually verbose by modern
: standards, this is the only novel of his that I would
: have liked to see given a firm editor's hand.
: A couple of questions. I am vague on the connection
: between Alice and Carker. I mean, I know that he
: "ruined" her, by Victorian standards, but
: what was her crime for which she was transported? Did
: Carker have anything to do with it? Somehow I missed
: that. I also was a vague on what John Carker's crime
: was. He's still employed, so it must not have been
: that bad, but what did he do? Why did Harriet
: sympathize with him? I get that Carker the Manager
: hated his brother for Harriet choosing John over
: James, but I don't feel like I understand that whole
: subplot. (And doesn't it seem creepily incestuous for
: him to be so jealous about their sister ?) And
: finally, does Edith go to Carker only to revenge
: herself on Dombey? Or rather, does this seem to her
: to be a way to humiliate both Dombey and Carker, as
: well as expressing her self-hatred?
: Dickens probably provided the answers to these
: questions, but through the long passages of empty
: moralizing and such, perhaps I nodded.
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