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Originally published serially in 1848, Dombey and Son is one on the only novels that Charles Dickens actually planned out before he wrote it. Despite it having been written over a century ago, it still addresses a few themes currently at stake today.
One in particular that modern day readers will be able to relate to is the business style of Mr. Dombey. Even after one has finished reading he or she will not be able to accurately answer the question, “What does the company, Dombey and Son, do?” One may think it has something to do with money lending, or some kind of import or export of who knows what.
Throughout the novel, Dombey never explicitly says what it is that he does. Readers easily see his obsession in having his son become a part of the company, but they also see that Dombey and Son is mainly just a powerful name. In today’s business world how many people can you accurately say what it is that they do?
Many times you may find yourself saying, “something with money” or “some kind of international business”. That same feeling of uncertainty is portrayed throughout Dombey and Son. It could have many purposes, but the main one would be to show readers that the ongoings of a business are just as ominous to onlookers as they are to the head of the business.
Aside from the financial plot of the novel, there are numerous other plots such as those of a romantic and domestic sort. This novel is a tomb (in size) and not a good read for someone who has trouble remembering characters. Dickens is known for his use of large numbers of characters in one book and Dombey and Son is no exception. Despite the volume of characters, readers will never be in want of a character that draws emotion from them.
Dombey’s daughter, Florence, at once invokes a feeling both heart-wrenching and admirable, while her aunt is almost insufferable at times. There are even quickly characters, such as Captain Cuttle who always seems to think the little trinkets he carries aorund with him are of the best quality and wanted by everyone.
Another determent to reading this novel are the numerous plot lines that can become rather confusing if not the book is not read continuously. For example, putting down the book and coming back to it a week later may prove fatal to any resolve in finishing the novel.
Also, this novel is best read more than once because there are so many themes that run throughout it that may not be noticed right away. Some of the themes aside from the business model, include the recurring idea of a fairy tale and the witches/monsters that go with it, the sea and its whisperings, birds, and railroad portrayals.
At times these themes overlap and allow the reader to speculate innumerable ideas as to why Dickens has chosen for them to meet. Keep in mind that today readers are able to read the entirety of Dombey and Son in one volume. Previously it would be released in installments and readers would have numerous pamphlets floating about their homes and would pass them around their friends.
This would most likely not allow them to easily look back into the book to see how certain scenes or motifs related to one another. Therefore their reading experience was much different then the one modern readers have available to them.