Camilla Hoel deposited Secret Plots: The False Endings of Dickens’s Novels in the group Victorian Studies on Humanities Commons 1 month, 2 weeks ago
Oliver Twist does not find wealth and family and live happily ever after. Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam never escape the workhouse. And Eugene Wrayburn does not revive to marry Lizzie Hexam and start a new and productive life. This article takes as its starting point the idea that a story can have ‘false’ endings and uses it as a way of approaching the problem of Charles Dickens’s plots, tracing Dickens’s method in three novels from different periods of his authorship: Oliver Twist, Little Dorrit, and Our Mutual Friend. Dickens’s novels are full of plots that should never have played out and are enabled by a series of miracles. Instead of seeing the happy endings as undermining the impact of the novels’ social criticism, the article argues that Dickens encourages his readers to see through the simple solutions he presents. The novels themselves undermine their happy endings through overt markers of fictionality and use doubled plots and characters to highlight the starker, more realistic outcomes of the main plots. In this way, Dickens manages to evade the hostility and resistance which a more direct approach might provoke.