by Charles Dickens
Flora Finching & Mr. F's Aunt
Flora, Arthur Clennam's ex-fiancée, and Mr. F's Aunt, Flora's aunt-in-law, are another great set of paired characters, in the Pet and Tattycoram mold. Sure, at first glance Flora is a woman past her prime who is constantly living in the past and trying to get Arthur to reignite their love affair. Basically a caricature. But what are we supposed to make of Mr. F's Aunt and her immediate and totally out-of-control anger and hatred toward Arthur? Well, we could just write her off as a crazy old lady. But Shmoop would suggest that Mr. F's Aunt gets to say all the things that Flora really can't. She basically gets to be enraged on Flora's behalf.
Seriously – Arthur did just totally buckle to his parents' wishes, dump Flora, and run off to China for twenty years. Flora's life after that – a short marriage, no kids, widowhood, back to living with her dad – is probably not what she had in mind for herself.
Check out this scene for a nice combo of the two women, and imagine that this is the subtext: Flora is talking about the past and all of its possibilities, and Mr. F's Aunt is talking about the bitter defeat of the present:
'The withered chaplet my dear,' said Flora [to Arthur], with great enjoyment, 'is then perished the column is crumbled and the pyramid is standing upside down upon its what's-his-name call it not giddiness call it not weakness call it not folly I must now retire into privacy and look upon the ashes of departed joys no more but taking a further liberty of paying for the pastry which has formed the humble pretext of our interview will forever say Adieu!'
Mr. F.'s Aunt [said] 'Bring him for'ard, and I'll chuck him out o' winder!' [...] Having reiterated this demand an immense number of times, with a sustained glare of defiance, Mr. F.'s Aunt folded her arms, and sat down in the corner of the pie-shop parlour; steadfastly refusing to budge until such time as 'he' should have been 'brought for'ard,' and the chucking portion of his destiny accomplished. (2.34.46-49)
It's funny, but it's also sad. And the whole non sequitur aspect of their exchanges (one remark has nothing to do with the next) makes them sound like characters in a Samuel Beckett play.