The Home Theme
There are very few homes in Little Dorrit. There are many living spaces (such as in the Marshalsea prison), but these are so public and temporary that they cannot rightly be called homes. This lack of private, domestic spaces paradoxically creates an air of claustrophobia. Characters who wish to speak to one another cannot easily find seclusion to do so, and almost no one can keep separate things they wish to display to the world from those they'd rather keep hidden. (For more on this topic, check out our thoughts in "Setting.")
Questions About The Home
- What are different houses like in the novel? How does the Meagleses' house compare to, say, Casby's? To Fanny and Sparkler's? Are there differences between the way urban and suburban homes are shown? Which of our senses do the descriptions engage? Why?
- Are there any places in the novel that afford characters true privacy? Are the locations of these private spaces surprising or unexpected? Are there places that seem like they should be private but actually are on display?
- The Plornishes decorate their city house with a mural of a village cottage. Are any other characters shown decorating or transforming the spaces where they live? What do their efforts reveal about them to the reader? What don't they reveal?
- Why does Mrs. Clennam's house come crashing down at the end of the novel? Why does it signify?
Chew on This
The home is traditionally the place of maternal comfort. This novel lacks places that feel like homes because it lacks the kind of warm, loving mothers that are usually able to transform a house into a home.
Rather than being a place of nurture and protection, the home is presented as a trap, a prison from which characters need to escape. This need to break free is so great that most take the first opportunity that arises to do so, regardless of the consequences.