Don't Know Dickens

Charles Dickens, that is.

Don’t take your guns to town, son

For some reason, Johnny Cash’s Don’t Take Your Guns to Town pops into my mind when I think about Barnaby (and his mother). Like the boy in the song, Barnaby does not mean harm, but he is caught up in the mob fever (no mob in Cash’s song, by the way–just a stupid kid who gets shot for pulling his weapon more slowly). Barnaby wants his mother to be proud, and it is touching–and sad–when he tells Hugh that he wants his mother to see him at his best. How could that ever happen in the company of a man/boy like Hugh?

Again, the romance of war is at work and that is something I will never understand.

I also don’t understand why Barnaby becomes a focal point of the mob’s attention. That Hugh gets attention makes sense: Hugh is hotheaded and reckless, promising a better life. I can understand why the young men follow him, but where does Barnaby fit it? Dickens makes it clear that Barnaby is “different,” so, by using such a character, is Dickens making the case that those who participated in the mob were crazy and stupid?  Or is it to make the point that even an innocent like Barnaby can get caught up in violence?

I think my favorite part of this novel is that Dickens puts the reader in the middle of the mob. This book evokes excitement and dread in ways I haven’t experienced with the other books we’ve read this semester.


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