i first read hard times about 35 years ago as a teenager. it remains my favourite dickens novel, and one of favourite novels of all. don’t know why. i remember little–for example, i totally forgot about cissy and the circus–how fantastic! the circus! we still have circuses! we still have those dark, satanic mills–we may no longer have child labour, but other poisons exist–and no doubt what little i remember has become confused. also, much has happened to me, so this gives me an excuse to express as well as reflect. well, i probably will do little accurate reflection.
thompson writes, ‘One of the prophets who was first really sensitive to this [globalization, what thompson, writing in the mid-1980s, calls ‘planetization’] was Charles Dickens….[hard times] was a study of those immigrants who came from Ireland and the north to Manchester and Birmingham, and had to work in the Social Darwinism of “get on the bus or get out of the way.” He studied with a great deal of intensity the people who had no sense that anything was of value that couldn’t be weighed or measured, and studied the rise of economics taking over from all the other forms of knowledge and value. Economics became the governing science of the modern world, and Dickens was very sensitive to the shift from religion to economics.
‘But as well as discussing the rise of industrial classes, he also studied a weird group of people who formed a special kind of “community.” The way in which you belonged to this community was “not fitting” – if you were a misfit, you fit. It was a community in which there was closeness to animals and a shocking exposure of the body – they would show a lot of thigh. It was the community of play. It was, in other words, the circus.
‘The circus was like pre-industrial culture gathered up as it was about to disappear, miniaturized, compressed and imaginatively celebrated. In pre-industrial culture, people lived with, had a kind of intimacy with animals, so the horses and all the rest were brought back. This was a culture of nature in which the body was part of the reproductive cycle and was accepted, and so for Victorians, the shocking exposure of thigh was tolerated. This was a culture of village idiots, funny uncles and misfits that were all accepted because they were misfits. It was a society, in other words, that was being eliminated by urbanization and bourgeois industrialization.’
i wasn’t much of a juggler or a rider before my cavernoma, and i did try to succeed in business (failed miserably, think i had a nervous breakdown), but really i was a ‘quirkyalone‘ and a misfit. seems civilization’s having a nervous breakdown. maybe we should choose the circus.