The Old Curiosity Shop

My final year at University is now underway and the reading list seems to be growing and growing. The latest completed novel on my list is another Dickens’ one that I have chosen as a main text for my dissertation.

The Old Curiosity Shop is another great Dickens novel and has increased my interest in his writing further. Now I have covered all the main texts for dissertation, I can really start delving into the true meaning behind the stories that allowed Dickens to construct his texts and shape his dark and hideous villains in the way that he did.

Unlike the two previous Dickens’ novel that I have read for my dissertation, there is only one main villain in The Old Curiosity Shop.  He is one of Dickens’ most vile characterisations and this is the cruel and horrid monster that is Daniel Quilp.

Daniel Quilp  is a deformed dwarf who terrorises Little Nell and her Grandfather throughout the novel. Along with Fagin and Squeers, Quilp is definitely one of Dickens’ most terrifying creations. He mistreats his wife, manipulates those around him and works as a moneylender, something that is particularly terrifying to Dickens after his father was sent to debtor’s prison after being troubled with the family finances.

I think Quilp is one of Dickens’ worst villains because he is almost pure evil. Not only does he delight in the suffering of others, he even manages to drive a wedge between the closest of friendships. He has the worst of traits too: he eavesdrops, is constantly a bad level of sarcastic and it seems that he is just bad throughout.

The novel highlights this as Quilp is frequently referred to as ‘the dwarf’ like he is of a different species from the other characters and obviously is more like Fagin, Bill Sykes, Ralph Nickleby and Wackford Squeers.

However, like most of the villains, Quilp does not have a happy ending (or is not allowed one by Dickens) and his character ends up drowning in the Thames after being lost in the mist. Most of Dickens’ villains meet a tragic death and in The Old Curiosity Shop all would have been fine if it wasn’t for the tragic death of poor Little Nell.  It is this event that is argued to be one of the most shocking scenes that occurs throughout all of Dickens’ work.

Now I have finished my main texts, the only reading that I have to do for my dissertation is on Dickens’ past and some information that people have written on Dickens’ work.  Hopefully I will be looking at all things to do with crime, children, childhood and creations and can build this into my overarching idea of Dickens’ villains.



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