Saturday, December 01, 2007

To Dickens, An Old Friend

Charles Dickens always evokes a sense of nostalgia in me.My tryst with classic literature began with an abridged version of 'A Tale of Two Cities' (an edition made specially for children). I was only eight then, and I was astounded by the man's ability to tell a story.I probably learned more about the French revolution from Dickens than I did from my history textbook. I then went on to watch a film version of 'Oliver Twist'. In the seventh grade we had an abridged version of 'Great Expectations' as our reading text.I instantly fell in love with Pip and Estella and more importantly with the work of Dickens.I was ,quite understandably, miffed by the, on screen, modern day adaptation of 'Great Expectations' starring Ethan Hawke and Gwenneth Paltrow.By then I had enough of abridged versions of Dickens' work. So a year later I read 'David Copperfield', all eight hundred and twenty six pages of it. I have never felt as accomplished as I did when I read the last word on the last page of 'David Copperfield'.

As I got older and disillusionment befell(as it befalls all young people sometime or the other), I drifted away from Dickens.I found him too 'whiny' as I put it(or low brow as I meant it). How could you expect me to lap up Rand and Dickens at the same time? Dickens indirectly pleaded for social reform in an age where man and machine were treated as one and the same. He wrote of human cruelty and sacrifice with a simplicity that was nauseating at times. Dickens used humour and jest to cover up for the stark deficiencies in human character. Yet, like every child who drifts away from a favourite toy, I drifted away from Dickens. I moved on to darker pastures, to complexity, to things I couldn't comprehend but loved all the same.

A few days back,I saw the film version of 'Great Expectations' again(the one that I nearly loathed). I remembered Dickens with a sense of grief and regret. When we abandon old friends because they fail to fill a void, that same void gets filled, unconsciously, with a measure of guilt that is quite inexplainable. Maturity has taught me that we cannot expect people to voluntarily complete us. They can only help us seek completion if we allow them. Dickens had so much to say, it's just that I didn't listen closely enough.

For all that it is worth, here's to Charles Dickens - an old friend with a rare spark.

No comments: