Reading With Feeling: Revisiting Mr. Dick, Miss Mowcher, and Disability

Brown, Emily, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Chase, Karen, English, University of Virginia

Dickens and childhood is a field of its own in nineteenth century discourse, and archetypes like the inner child, the adult child, and the child hero comprise its refrain. In Great Expectations, everyone knows, Pip’s innocence—and dynamism—rescue him from a fate like Miss Havisham’s. Similarly, Oliver Twist evades a dark world, and (Little) Amy Dorrit’s brave traversal triumphs; but Fagin is supposedly irredeemable, and William Dorrit is pitifully deluded. Dualities like these have been exhaustively analyzed. Yet these binaries, defined by youth versus age, innocence versus guile, and hope versus doom, exclude consideration of the deluded, disabled, or otherwise inhibited figures who redeem and defy fates like Miss Havisham’s. Perhaps even more than the young and lovely, the impaired and “deformed” successfully tow the line between the praiseworthy “stopped growth” and the imperative resistance to fixity. If “Where We Stopped Growing” is a Dickensian hymn to the inner child, and David Copperfield his autobiography, then the childish and confused Mr. Dick and the peculiarly small Miss Mowcher are the first characters to examine in a study of disabled heroism.

MA (Master of Arts)
literature, Dickens, disability
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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