Tuesday, September 10, 2019

"A Real Dickens of a Gift" by Laura J. Sagar



He knew exactly what to get me. My son bought me a t-shirt. But not just any t-shirt - this one had the text of one of my classic novels on it. Not only the text but also the images of the title character and the author are cleverly etched into the text.
     The book was one of my favourite stories when I was eight and still one of my favourite all time books. I’ve read it, seen it on film, seen it live, and auditioned for a part in the musical. I didn’t get the part but I did work backstage.
     My son even resembled the lead character when he was a young boy, as the character has been portrayed. They were both adorable and endearing with a flash of shy smile and innocent blue eyes, they could melt the heart of any motherly figure.
     It is a novel of abandonment and rescue, neglect and kindness, hypocrisy and sincerity. A simple tale really, with a fairy tale ending, but as a child it drew me into its world. If you haven’t already guessed, Oliver Twist is the book, by the incomparable Charles Dickens. Dickens’ ability to weave a tale was unlike any other. His stories have stood the test of time to become great classics.        
     No one could put a name to a character like Dickens could, characters such as Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist or Sir Dedlock of Bleak House and of course the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge of The Christmas Carol. Dickens evoked such descriptive characters from his observation of real life.
     He could draw emotion from deep within readers’ hearts and create images so raw that they stayed with the reader long after reading; indeed, they are not forgotten.  I felt a compassion for Oliver and a wariness for the Fagins of the world. I will admit a smitten admiration for the little rogue, Artful Dodger; a sense of kinship with the motherly figure of Nancy; and contempt for those who sowed injustice.
     His novels were a commentary on the social issues of the times but in many ways his words are timeless. His writings and phrases are woven into our culture, our sayings and our traditions. Who doesn’t recall, “Please sir, I want some more”? What a legacy to have such an influence on generations of readers.
     Dickens was a great writer but a human man. Raised in harsh Victorian times, he understood only too well the sorrows of society’s unfortunate citizens. He was as flawed as any other and caused his share of pain to those he loved. His treatment of his wife and mother of his many children, while carrying on an illicit affair with his mistress, conflicted with his image of champion of morality and justice.
     But history generally looks kindly on those whose contributions to art, history and culture are so magnificent. He could create such characters; both noble and contemptible, pompous and pitiful, humble and imposing. Characters who have inspired newer updated versions for modern times. Likewise, his tales are enduring. They continue to make their mark on new generations. They maintain relevant commentary on society and inspire new versions of time-honoured themes.
     This was the chosen gift from my son. I was delighted not just with the gift but that it was so thoughtful. Well done, my son. A small example of the ordinary achievement of raising a son in a loving home. Charles Dickens would have understood the significance of that.

Laura J. Sagar spent many years in a career of business writing and communication. Now she writes for pleasure. Fiction, poems and short essays are her current endeavours. She enjoys life in Mississauga with her family and adores time at the lake in Prince Edward County.


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