Who can read Bleak House and miss the criticism of the British legal system?
I suppose a person who only sees a rather amusing fictional legal system that provides dramatic situations for the characters. There must have been people who disagreed with Dickens's vision as a portrayal of the actual courts. And I don't seriously imagine is portrayal was so very true to life either. No doubt they did ridiculous things as all organizations do, but I think Dickens would have chosen the ones he found most amusing, left out other, exaggerated, invented, and so on and so forth. And however accurate it might have been, the court must have been so different within fifty years as to make any intended commentary completely irrelevant, and while many readers today may note the idea, nobody cares about it because the world it might have had a connection to is long gone.
I do think however that there's something you might call a commentary which I would not. Of course reading the trials and experiences of characters makes you think of your own trials and experiences, your own life, but I wouldn't call that commentary. The (essential?) feeling that yes life is like this need not involve a commentary.
When I read, I want to see and feel with the characters. If someone is dying of cancer, I want to see and feel what that's like for them and the other characters. I want to feel their frustration in dealing with the healthcare system, not to think about how much the healthcare system is in need of change. At some point, it will have changed (I hope) and such commentary would be irrelevant, but what would be left is the interest of seeing how people feel in a certain dramatic situation.
I don't know. It's just how I feel, how I read, so I do enjoy finding quotes that seem to support it. Flaubert said the writer should be like God, present everywhere but visible nowhere. Therefore, we shouldn't be able to tell if Atwood wanted to say anything about Fundamentalism. Joyce said much the same thing. I don't think Atwood minds much if people read things into her work, but I have to believe she aspires to the ideals of Flaubert and Joyce.
By the way, I do think Dickens intended the critique. I think we must do him the favor of forgetting about that.
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