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Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit


by Charles Dickens

Little Dorrit Freedom and Confinement Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

'Look at the birds, my pretty!' [said the Marseilles jailer.]

'Poor birds!' said the child [his daughter].

The fair little face, touched with divine compassion, as it peeped shrinkingly through the grate, was like an angel's in the prison. John Baptist rose and moved towards it, as if it had a good attraction for him. The other bird remained as before, except for an impatient glance at the basket.

'Stay!' said the jailer, putting his little daughter on the outer ledge of the grate, 'she shall feed the birds. This big loaf is for Signor John Baptist. We must break it to get it through into the cage. So, there's a tame bird to kiss the little hand! This sausage in a vine leaf is for Monsieur Rigaud. Again--this veal in savoury jelly is for Monsieur Rigaud. Again--these three white little loaves are for Monsieur Rigaud. Again, this cheese--again, this wine--again, this tobacco--all for Monsieur Rigaud. Lucky bird!'

The child put all these things between the bars into the soft, Smooth, well-shaped hand, with evident dread--more than once drawing back her own and looking at the man with her fair brow roughened into an expression half of fright and half of anger. Whereas she had put the lump of coarse bread into the swart, scaled, knotted hands of John Baptist (who had scarcely as much nail on his eight fingers and two thumbs as would have made out one for Monsieur Rigaud), with ready confidence; and, when he kissed her hand, had herself passed it caressingly over his face. Monsieur Rigaud, indifferent to this distinction, propitiated the father by laughing and nodding at the daughter as often as she gave him anything; and, so soon as he had all his viands about him in convenient nooks of the ledge on which he rested, began to eat with an appetite. (1.1.24-28)

What do you think of this little bring-your-daughter-to-work day in the Marseilles jail? Does it make it more or less scary to call the prisoners "birds"? Why does the jailer have the little girl feed the two men?

Quote #2

'Out to-day!' repeated [Meagles]. 'It's almost an aggravation of the enormity, that we shall be out to-day. Out [of quarantine]! What have we ever been in for? [...] I am like a sane man shut up in a madhouse; I can't stand the suspicion of the thing. I came here as well as ever I was in my life; but to suspect me of the plague is to give me the plague. And I have had it--and I have got it.'

'You bear it very well, Mr. Meagles,' said the second speaker, smiling.

'No. If you knew the real state of the case, that's the last observation you would think of making. I have been waking up night after night, and saying, NOW I have got it, NOW it has developed itself, NOW I am in for it, NOW these fellows are making out their case for their precautions. Why, I'd as soon have a spit put through me, and be stuck upon a card in a collection of beetles, as lead the life I have been leading here.' (1.2.11-15)

Meagles is experiencing what medical interns and hypochondriacs the world over know – when you hear or read about symptoms of some dread disease, you immediately start to feel them. It's pretty witty that because of the vaguely scientific reason for their confinement – quarantine – Meagles compares them to a bunch of pinned beetles.

Quote #3

'But I bear those monotonous walls no ill-will now,' said Mr. Meagles.' One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it's left behind; I dare say a prisoner begins to relent towards his prison, after he is let out.' [...] The reserved Englishwoman took up Mr. Meagles in his last remark. 'Do you mean that a prisoner forgives his prison?' said she, slowly and with emphasis. [...] If I had been shut up in any place to pine and suffer, I should always hate that place and wish to burn it down, or raze it to the ground. I know no more." (1.2.69-80)

And there we have one of the key ways to sort the novel's characters. Who else immediately forgives a prison on being let out? Who holds a grudge against a prison forever and tries to burn it down? Is there anyone who stays neutral?

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