| Quote #1
Fifty thousand lairs surrounded him where people lived so unwholesomely that air water put into their crowded rooms on Saturday night, would be corrupt on Sunday morning; albeit my lord, their county member, was amazed that they failed to sleep in company with their butcher's meat. Miles of close wells and pits of houses, where the inhabitants gasped for air, stretched far away towards every point of the compass. Through the heart of the town a deadly sewer ebbed and flowed, in the place of a fine fresh river. What secular want could the million or so of human beings whose daily labour, six days in the week, lay among these Arcadian objects, from the sweet sameness of which they had no escape between the cradle and the grave--what secular want could they possibly have upon their seventh day? Clearly they could want nothing but a stringent policeman. (1.3.2)
Imagery of contagion and disease runs through the novel. Dickens's reader would immediately have thought of the recent cholera outbreaks in London when they read this passage. This was before the germ theory of disease was in wide circulation, and the general consensus was that epidemics were somehow related to dirt and pollution.
| Quote #2
'Mother, our House has done less and less for some years past, and our dealings have been progressively on the decline. We have never shown much confidence, or invited much; we have attached no people to us; the track we have kept is not the track of the time; and we have been left far behind. I need not dwell on this to you, mother. You know it necessarily.'
'I know what you mean,' she answered, in a qualified tone. 'Even this old house in which we speak,' pursued her son, 'is an instance of what I say. In my father's earlier time, and in his uncle's time before him, it was a place of business--really a place of business, and business resort. Now, it is a mere anomaly and incongruity here, out of date and out of purpose. All our consignments have long been made to Rovinghams' the commission-merchants; and although, as a check upon them, and in the stewardship of my father's resources, your judgment and watchfulness have been actively exerted, still those qualities would have influenced my father's fortunes equally, if you had lived in any private dwelling: would they not?'
'Do you consider,' she returned, without answering his question, 'that a house serves no purpose, Arthur, in sheltering your infirm and afflicted--justly infirm and righteously afflicted--mother?'
'I was speaking only of business purposes.' (1.5.16-19)
A great play here on two meanings of the word "house." Arthur is talking about the "House" as another word for firm or business – a place where family love and sentimentality don't belong. His mother immediately guilt-trips him by speaking of the house as a shelter for "your infirm mother." Nice.
| Quote #3
You are going back?'
'Oh yes! going straight home.'
'As I take you back,' the word home jarred upon him, 'let me ask you to persuade yourself that you have another friend. I make no professions, and say no more.'
'You are truly kind to me, sir. I am sure I need no more.'
They walked back through the miserable muddy streets, and among the poor, mean shops, and were jostled by the crowds of dirty hucksters usual to a poor neighbourhood. There was nothing, by the short way, that was pleasant to any of the five senses. Yet it was not a common passage through common rain, and mire, and noise, to Clennam, having this little, slender, careful creature on his arm. How young she seemed to him, or how old he to her; or what a secret either to the other, in that beginning of the destined interweaving of their stories, matters not here. He thought of her having been born and bred among these scenes, and shrinking through them now, familiar yet misplaced; he thought of her long acquaintance with the squalid needs of life, and of her innocence; of her solicitude for others, and her few years, and her childish aspect. (1.9.81-85)
Another play on words. Amy says she's going home, using the phrase unthinkingly, as an idiom. Arthur can't help but get stuck on how strange it is to call a prison home.