Identities in Conflict
Tracing Miss Havisham in the Mirror, or Aging through the Other
Universitat de Lleida
1. Introducing the discourse of aging in Charles Dickens
The bicentenary of Charles Dickens was celebrated in the year 2012, showing that, two hundred years after his birth, many of his characters have become part of our common cultural background and iconography. Classic and postmodern theatrical and cinematic adaptations have greatly contributed to popularising Dickens’ novels and characters even further, so as to suit the demands of different audiences through the years. From the perspective of aging studies, some of his novels have featured outstanding old characters that still pervade our popular culture and are, even nowadays, easily identified as eminently Dickensian. The way aged characters were portrayed in his novels significantly evolved as the author grew older. As a case in point, Fagin, in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, published in 1837, when the author was merely in his mid-twenties, is often sarcastically referred to as “the merry old gentleman” or even “the old Jew”, and presented as a self-confessed miser, teaching children to become pickpockets and exploiting them, until he is finally apprehended and sentenced to death. Fagin’s bleak characterisation as an aged character remains negative for the most part until his pitiable anguish and vulnerability is ultimately revealed at the end of the novel, while in prison, he awaits his execution.
Charles Dickens’ portrayal of the aged was subsequently transformed in A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, when the author was over thirty, through...
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