Dickens and the unreal city : the metropolitan symbolism of the mystery story
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London is not only a backdrop in the novels of Charles Dickens. Its workings both conceal truth of various sorts from characters and push it into the open. This thesis claims that it is the primary symbolic means by which Dickens dramatizes the conflict between concealment and revelation which provides the driving force of his fiction. The first chapter discusses how the city extrapolates the gothic motif of the haunted castle - a built environment which attempts to cut off connections with the rest of the world, leading to a state of atrophy and death. The second particularly explores urban squalor as evidence that human relationships have been obscured and that death is the result. Chapter three explores the kind of concealments and deaths effected by London and explains that the regenerative revelation required as an antidote to them is both social and religious in character. Dickens conceptualizes it as a participation in a familial system of love relationships originating in God's love for his children. The fourth and fifth chapters deal with two parts of London's organisation that bring knowledge inexorably to light, the detective police force and the railway network. They are part of a city that hides truth and brings it to light according to a carefully laid plan. Chapters six and seven consider two sub-symbols, the Thames and the crowd, that reflect the city's dual role in bringing both death and regeneration, both concealment and discovery. Characters' immersion in these brings about a death to their old identity and often a re-emergence into a new identity, based on the scheme of interconnections, that is both a revelation and an induction into new life. The mysteries worked out by Dickens's symbolic London are therefore an imaginative engagement with Christianity as a mystery religion, promising revelatory regeneration through surrender to death in the modern world.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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