Study Guide

Little Dorrit Book 2, Chapter 2

By Charles Dickens

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Book 2, Chapter 2

Mrs. General

  • Traveling with our friends is Mrs. General, who is basically a governess for the young Dorrit ladies but is way too self-important to allow herself to be called that. (Governesses were basically half a step up from servants, back in the day.)
  • Who is Mrs. General? She's kind of an intensely severe, very proper lady.
  • She used to be married to an army guy, who died and left her with way less money than she wanted.
  • So she decided to become a kind of live-in parenting adviser. OK, who are we kidding – she decided to become a governess but doesn't want to be called one.
  • Dorrit stumbled on her by asking his bankers for such a woman – to help his daughters make up for the education they never quite received, and to ready the Dorrit girls for a position in high society.
  • When he came to meet her at her first job, he tried to ask how much she wanted to be paid. Mrs. General then made a huge, crazy deal about she's never talked about money and wasn't about to start now. But you know, if he did want to ask her employers, that's OK. Oh, and, he'd have to pay a third more than they did, since he had two girls.
  • Um, OK, lady.
  • Mrs. General's basic educational philosophy is a harsh satire on the kind of secondhand clichés that were used to teach "culture" at the time. She ignores and doesn't want to hear anything about anything negative, unpleasant, or real. She doesn't want to ever have her students generate their own opinions about anything. Mostly, she just wants them to be super-correct, stick-straight, and extremely proper. In other words, half-dead and half-comatose.
  • What a delight.

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