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SUSPENSEFUL SPECULATION AND THE PLEASURE OF WAITING IN LITTLE DORRIT

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 May 2016

Jacob Jewusiak*
Affiliation:
Valdosta State University

Extract

Suspend it all,” writes Charles Dickens in the ninth number plan for his novel Little Dorrit (“Working Notes” 207). Referring to the thirtieth chapter, in which Blandois – formerly Rigaud – arrives on the doorstep of Mrs. Clennam's house, this phrase aptly describes how much the chapter moves the plot forward. Mysteries are gestured toward, but the stakes of the mystery are left blank. Rigaud shows surprise upon seeing Flintwinch, but such surprise is inexplicable until we learn at the end of the novel that Rigaud has met Flintwinch's twin brother abroad. We learn more about the mysterious watch that the dying Mr. Clennam bequeathed to his wife, but not much more than the meaning of the letters “D.N.F.” inscribed within it: “Do not forget.” Dickens suspends so much from the reader that it is hard to feel suspense about anything, a fact that is amplified by Rigaud's insistence on “Secrets!” that can be read as a meta-commentary on the chapter itself: “I say there are secrets in all families,” he tells Flintwinch, adding that the house is “so mysterious” (381–82; bk.1, ch. 30).

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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