Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Little Dorrit (2008)

Little Dorrit

We have been watching Little Dorrit on PBS and enjoying it immensely. Since there is not enough time this week to gather my thoughts about it, I was glad to see that Jane Austen's World has an excellent and detailed article about Dickens' novel as well as descriptions of life in the debtors' prisons of old England. To quote:

Once a man of substance, William Dorrit (played by Tom Courtenay) tried to live with some dignity inside the high spiked walls, but much of his self-consequence came at the expense of his youngest daughter, Amy (Little Dorrit), who devoted her young life catering to her father. “In his deepest heart he knows that he’s made an utter mess of his and his beloved children’s lives, but he would never openly admit to this failure. For his sake, the family all keep up the pretence of respectability.” ( BBC) Even at his lowest ebb, William Dorrit finds comfort in the title of “Father of the Marshalsea.” He adheres to social standards, blinding himself to his son’s Edward’s dissolute lifestyle and daughter Fanny’s less than acceptable career as a dancer, and dines in state on the food that Amy has set aside from her own repasts.

The family’s ability to come and go from prison within the curfew hours so surprised me that I wanted to research the topic. Only the debtor remained imprisoned. In reality, as Dickens attests, life inside those walls was not much worse than life outside it - for the destitute. The friendship between Amy and John Chivery was genuine. John performed his duties with humanity, and Amy recognized that the Assistant Turnkey was simply following orders.

Little Dorrit
is available through BBC America.