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Dickens and Dostoevsky

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Title:
Dickens and Dostoevsky a comparative study of their approaches to history and psychology in England and Russia
Creator:
Tulien, Michelle Denise
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
vi, 103 leaves : illustrations ; 29 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Psychology in literature ( lcsh )
History in literature ( lcsh )
History in literature ( fast )
Psychology in literature ( fast )
Genre:
Criticism, interpretation, etc. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Criticism, interpretation, etc ( fast )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 101-103).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, English
General Note:
Department of English
Statement of Responsibility:
by Michelle Denise Tulien.

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|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
34015638 ( OCLC )
ocm34015638
Classification:
LD1190.L54 1995m .T85 ( lcc )

Full Text
Dickens and Dostoevsky:
A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THEIR APPROACHES TO HISTORY AND
PSYCHOLOGY IN ENGLAND AND RUSSIA
by
Michelle Denise Tulien
B. A., University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 1993
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
English
1995


This thesis for the Masters of Arts
degree by
Michelle Denise Tulien
has been approved
by
C. Kenneth Pellow
/fr
Date


Tulien, Michelle Denise (M.A., English)
Dickens and Dostoevsky: A Comparative Study of Their Approaches to
History and Psychology in England and Russia
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Bradford K. Mudge
ABSTRACT
Dickens and Dostoevsky both explore in their novels how their respective
nations might best cope with change by adhering to universal ideals.
However, the people of both nations view history as an object, a discrete
entity separate from a place in infinity. Rather than remember the moral
implications of actions, they think in terms of ideals devoid of any connection
to a greater context. Dickens, in David Copperfield, and Dostoevsky, in The
Brothers Karamazov, explore how to link the people of their nations back to
the universal whole, the subject. Although Dickenss ideal will ultimately
focus on the individual, while Dostoevskys will offer a principle the whole
nation can adopt, both see the ultimate ideal as a transcendent, universal
one rather than a historically specific national ideal.
In this study, I will explore the ways in which progress in both nations
affect their views of respective history. In particular, we will look at the
philosophical debate that generates from a division in thought between
theistic or transcendent and positivist or rationalist thought. I argue that
both Dickens and Dostoevsky see this debate as indicative of a greater
iii


division: that of history as an objective ideal rather than part of a whole that
extends infinitely.
Both authors project this division on their heroes. In their novels, the
heroes reflect a sense of rootlessness and search for an identity that
ultimately reattaches them to the infinite whole. We see this search primarily
through their psychological developments; thus, I explore the psychological.
techniques employed in the novels by the authors. In particular, I look at
the characters psyches for their manifestations of rootlessness and
reconnection. The psychological techniques reveal, I argue, the sense in
which both authors viewed ideals, as well as how they proposed their
nations reconnect with universal ideals.
IV


CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS............................................vi
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.......................................1
Dualities........................................1
Progress in Russia...............................4
Progress in England.............................12
Two Ideals; Two Authors; Ohe Universe...........19
2. HISTORY............................................24
Russias Sense of History and Philosophy........24
Englands Sense of History and Philosophy.......36
3. PSYCHOLOGY.........................................47
Psychology in Dostoevsky and The Brothers Karamazov.47
Psychology in Dickens and David Copperfield.....66
4. CONCLUSION.....................................92
NOTES.......................................................97
WORKS CITED............................................101
v


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This study originally started as a paper for an independent study directed by
Associate Professor Ken Pellow at the University of Colorado at Colorado
Springs. Since that time, I have found my field of interest increasingly
centering on many of the critical aspects explored here. However, my
interest rarely strays too far from the two authors. For his willingness to
listen while I jumped from idea to idea about texts, arguing both sides of a
position (a technique I learned from him), as well as his criticisms of my text,
I thank Dr. Pellow. I am also grateful to Associate Professor Brad Mudge for
his specific and insightful criticisms on this study as well as his help in
Russian and English history. For her understanding and patience as well as
her comments on the text, I am indebted to Professor Mary Rose Sullivan.
Finally, I would like to thank the Department of English at the University of
Colorado at Denver for its support through a graduate fellowship.
VI


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Dualities
On March 12, 1876, Fyodor Dostoevsky included these
remarks in response to an article in New Times, No. 13,
that proposed a solution to the Eastern question:
Where are the good people? . Good people
are associated with ideals. In Francein
Miserables. In solid EnglandDickens, his
ideal is too modest and uncomplicated. . .
How should the equality of people be
structuredthrough universal love, utopia, or
through the law of necessity, self-
preservation, and the scientific method?1
Although the purpose of this study is not to explore the
relationship of influence between Dickens and Dostoevsky,
it should be noted that Dostoevsky regarded Dickens as a
master at character depiction.2 Given Dostoevsky's deep
regard for Dickens as well as his borrowing of characters
and technique from the English master, the above comments
seem somewhat puzzling. What did he believe Dickens's
ideal was? Did he really believe that Dickens's ideal
was too modest and uncomplicated, or did he simply
believe that the two nations' problems were too different
to withstand comparison?
Dostoevsky suggests that the problem centers on
progress, strongly associated with the scientific
1


community, and its apparent incompatibility with
universal love. Thus, we must ask how it is that
Dickens's way of dealing with progress was too modest and
uncomplicated to satisfy Russia's dilemma. But we now
have new questions: were the problems associated with
English progress too modest and uncomplicated, or was it
the way(s) in which Dickens dealt with progressthe
idealthat was? The problem thus reduces to the ways in
which Dickens and Dostoevsky link "good people" with
ideals, equality, progress, and universal love. Both men
are clearly interested in all aspects of the problem, but
both also see the problem from different perspectives.
The dual perspectives of the English and Russian
authors are nothing more than a reflection of the
dualistic nature of the problem. As Dostoevsky suggests,
the concern centers on a materialistic, objective view of
the world contrasting with and obscuring a subjective,
universal, infinite picture. As we will discover over
the course of this study, despite Dostoevsky's concern
about the distinction between Dickens's ideal and his
own, both men present heroes who are affected by problems
of their respective nations and who try to find a way to
resolve some of the conflicts. The English ideal, as
Dostoevsky believes it to be, focuses on social issues,
but for Dickens and the English, the magnitude of those
2


issues is such that the answer of universal love may seem
like a band-aid. From Dickens's perspective, the social
issues are a symptom of a deeper-seated problem, the very
same one in fact that exists in Russia: how to get the
nation's people to quit looking at time and place as an
object, a temporal discrete, and to start seeing it from
the greater universal perspective.
Neither author is so unaware of human nature as to
offer pat answers, yet both show startling insight into
the ways in which psychology can be of use in helping to
heal scarring from years of dissent. Since the
lovelessness of a materialistic era best defines the
concerns of both men, how that lovelessness manifests
itself in the human psyche and how the hero resolves the
issue will best reveal the perceptions of the respective
authors. Thus, as we look at the texts, we will be
looking closely at the psychological techniques each
employs. By starting with the commonalities in their
texts, we can ascertain the ideals proposed by each
author and then determine how Dickens's ideal could have
been perceived as too modest and uncomplicated for
Dostoevsky's Russia. As we compare the two authors'
novels, The Brothers Karamazov and David Copperfield, we
will explore how Dostoevsky changes Dickens's ideals to
fit the Russian situation, but by looking back at
3


Dickens, we will see that the two ideals are very much
the same. To begin, we first must understand what kind
of progress faced each country as well as what prevailing
philosophies defined and monitored that progress.
Progress in Russia
When Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in Moscow on October
30, 1821, Russia was in the midst of an identity crisis.
For centuries, the nation had been characterized as
Orthodox, occult, patriarchal, and agrarian. The church
leaders ruled the country almost as strongly as the
monarchy. And yet the church's approach to rule was
based on mystical, unquestioned beliefs that belied
progress or modernism. The superstitious approach to
religion by the church and the fierce, unsophisticated
nature of the people helped keep Russia more or less
isolated from the rest of the world. Then, many years of
war and religious strife led Peter the Great, czar a
century before Dostoevsky's birth, to turn to Western
technology and ideas as tools for making the nation self-
sufficient.3 The builder of St. Petersburg, Peter had
modeled the city after Amsterdam in Holland. He
aggressively pursued Western ideas about government,
economics, and war. Although the country was still an
autocracy, it sought to strengthen its people's national
4


identity as well as make itself known as a strong,
absolute power in the world.
Even after Peter's death, some Russians continued to
align themselves with Europe. Perhaps most symbolic of
the crisis to come in Dostoevsky's time was the language
barrier raised in the mid-eighteenth century. In 1756, a
"diplomatic revolution" linked the ruling class with the
French, causing the noblemen to turn to French as their
language of choice. The lower and working classes,
however, continued to speak Russian. Progress in the
form of cultural awareness had come to only a few of the
Russians, but its appearance marked the beginning of a
long conflict between the Russian aristocracy and the
Russian proletariat. The directors of the country could
converse with anyone who spoke French, which was just
about everyone else in Europe, but they could not speak
to their own countrymen. Therefore, instead of
concentrating on Russia, the ruling class turned to
Europe for cultural satisfaction.
The timing could not have been better for people
tired of political concerns. Although Peter the Great
had opened the door facing the West, he had allowed only
the most practical of ideas to enter. Now, with the
growing interest in philosophy in France and Germany,
Russian aristocrats could satisfy their cultural and
5


intellectual pursuits, which they in turn introduced into
Russia. The years 1755-1756 marked the founding of the
first Russian university and permanent theater. The
number of books published increased from seven during
1726 to an average of 105 in the 1760's. Universities,
theaters, and books all acted as arenas for philosophical
and cultural debates. Catherine the Great's rule, from
1762 to 1797, further increased the interest of the
aristocratic classes in ideas meditative as she sought to
base her power on philosophical logic and truth. The
Russian Enlightenment was at hand.
It was a curious kind of enlightenment, however.
Although it had generated the genius Michael Lomonosov,
the great Russian scientist, educator, poet, essayist,
orator, and historian, it was built on a shaky
foundation. Catherine seemed to interpret philosophy
according to how it would best serve her own purposes.
For example, she based her right to rule on rational,
natural order as presented in her philosophical defense
of monarchy, Nakaz (1766-1767) A rebuff of Nikita
Panin's attempt to curtail Catherine's imperial power
through the establishment of an aristocratic Imperial
Council, Nakaz argued for absolute monarchy. Threatened
by the aristocracy's growing realization that it must be
allowed a voice in the government if it was ever to
6


employ any of the new ideas it was learning, Catherine
quickly reverted back to the Russian belief in a
monarch's divine power.
The philosophy contained therein was purported to be
based on Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Law and
Beccaria's On Crimes and Punishment, both of which argued
for a rational, pedagogical approach to government. Her
ideas sounded like Utilitarianism, but in practice her
governing style resembled hedonism. Catherine proclaimed
that legislation was "the Art of conducting People to the
greatest Good," which was "whatever may be useful to
mankind." However, she spent so much time exploring how
she could find the greatest good that she barely ever
actually acted for it. Instead, she built great palaces,
arrayed herself in garish clothing copied from the
Baroque, and indulged in revenge and despotism. Then,
with the advent of the French Revolution, Catherine
turned away from French ideology altogether. The
hypocrisy of Catherine's claim to high-minded ideals and
her selfish actions helped generate a greater search by
enlightened individuals like Gregory Skovoroda and
Alexander Radishchev for ideals with which Russia could
live.
Skovoroda's ideas came to resemble what would later
become a movement toward the past. A seeker of truth, he
7


believed "that happiness lay only in full inner knowledge
of oneself, which in turn required a highly personal and
mystical link with God."4 He also believed that "Carnal
lust and worldly ambition are the principal lures of the
devil."5 Although he rejected the Church and old-belief
traditions, he also rejected the lures of the modern,
secular world. His resemblance in character to Goethe's
Faust, a symbol of Romantic mysticism, contrasted with
his rejection of Goethe's purpose, to enlighten others to
the intricacies and complexities of human nature.
Instead, he became the proverbial wanderer, in search of
personal enlightenment, isolated from the world, enclosed
in the Russian dilemma.
Radishchev, on the other hand, suffered from a
social consciousness. Born an aristocrat, he gently but
determinedly attacked Catherine's despotism. In search
of political reform, he wrote Journey from St. Petersburg
to Moscow (1790) to present his views. He opposed
artificial social constraints like serfdom and absolute
monarchy. He never saw whether his ideas would come to
fruition; unfortunately, he had irritated Catherine by
not getting official approval for the book and for
publishing it during the first year of the French
Revolution. Thus, his ideas sounded rather subversive to
a nervous and touchy Empress Catherine. He was sentenced
8


to be decapitated, but Catherine commuted his sentence to
exile in Siberia. After Catherine's death, Radishchev
returned to Moscow where he spent the remainder of his
days, until his suicide in 1802, trying to draft a new
Russian constitution for Alexander I. Alexander, who
ruled after Catherine, was too busy with the Napoleonic
wars and his own increasingly bizarre search for
spiritual fulfillment to worry about enacting democracy
in Russia. Radishchev's work, nevertheless, would come
to symbolize a growing awareness in Russia that progress
would need to consider the rights of humanity, not just
of government or nations.
During Czar Nicholas I's reign, the general concern
created by Peter for a strong nation and the growing
concern for personal and spiritual growth crystallized
into movements. During the reigns of Peter, Elizabeth,
Paul III, Catherine, and Alexander I, the old believers
found in the Synod and scattered throughout Russia had
continued to wreak havoc on any attempt at reform.
Although in some ways reformers themselves, the highly
religious and superstitious resisted any and all attempts
to move the country into the nineteenth century. They
saw the movement as a turning away from devotion to God.
Thus, when Nicholas took over power, he voiced his
reaction against the extreme reform attempts of Alexander
9


I in the terse epigram "Orthodoxy, Autocracy and
Nationality."
However, Russia had been exposed to too many Western
ideals to return to the days of Muscovy and Russian
xenophobia. Unlike England, which seemed to have
embraced progress spontaneously, Russians seemed poised
on a precipice, the choice of returning to the old world
or going with the new one lying on either side. Progress
represented a loss of their religious heritage while the
old dogmatic beliefs represented a denial of progress.
Indeed, the question of direction became one that
divided the thinkers of the day: one faction, the
Westernizers, believed the country should become more
like Europe, embracing progress and materialism; the
other faction, the Slavophiles, wanted Russia to remain
as it always had been, agrarian and patriarchal. The
more immediate heritage of the French Revolution and
Napoleon's subsequent invasion of Russia left the country
with confused feelings about progress, which culminated
with Nicholas's sense that the best action they could
take would be to close the door on Western secularism.
Conversely, the Westernizers were trying to salvage that
which was good from the modern world. The only idea the
two sides agreed upon was that Russia needed to continue
as a powerful, established nation. The question
10


remained, how could the country maintain a position as a
world power and its religious integrity at the same time?
As these idealists saw it, the final problem came down to
whether the country should leave its past behind and
forge a new bond with the future or close the door to all
progress in favor of tradition.
Dostoevsky would see the problem from a different
perspective. The division of thought can be seen to
represent a problem that would occur in England, too.
Both the Westernizers and the Slavophiles viewed history
as an object, an absolute, discrete time that had no
connection to a greater whole. For the Westernizers,
embracing the modern world meant leaving the past in the
past, as if it had never occurred. For the Slavophiles,
embracing the past meant leaving the encounter with the
modern world behind, as if that had never occurred.
There could be no synthesis of the two ideologies despite
the fact that both histories were already a part of the
whole of Russian history. Dostoevsky writes about this
link in Diary of a Writer (1873-1881):
The Slavic idea, in its loftiest sense, has
ceased to be merely a Slavophile idea ... in
the live sentiment it has coincided with the
popular movement. But what is this "Slavic
idea in its loftiest sense"? It became clear
to everybody what it is: above alli.e.,
prior to any historical, political, etc.,
interpretationsit is a sacrifice, even a
longing for self-sacrifice in behalf of one's
brethren, ... to establish the great all-
11


Slavic communion in the name of Christ's truth,
i.e., for the benefit, love and service of
mankind as a whole, for the defense of all the
weak and oppressed throughout the world.6
For Dostoevsky, then, what was needed was a new
philosophy that linked both sides back to the infinite,
not just as a nation, not as a people of intense and
extended heritage, but as a part of the universe.
Progress in England
While Russia was struggling for identity, in England
progress was the catchword of the day. As industry
increased, people flocked from the country to the cities,
as illustrated by London's increase in population from
two million in 1837 to six and one-half million in 1901.7
The growth of the railway industry was almost as
dramatic. Railway lines increased in England and Wales
by almost 80 percent from 1854 to 1870, from 6,140 miles
of track to 11,043 miles.8 The increase in speed of
transportation as well as distance covered meant that
manufacturers and farmers could ship their products
farther and faster. Shipbuilding, another major
industry, increased from 18 steamships turned out in 1830
to 433 in 1870, with a total of 6,048 made during the
forty-year span. While these figures represent the
tremendous increase in employment, industry, and income,
they also represent the technological advances made in
12


manufacturing as well as the increase in demand for
British products.
Progress was epitomized in 1851 when Prince Albert
opened the Great Exhibition, which included the famed
Crystal Palace, an iron and glass construction built upon
modern architectural principles. Meant to celebrate the
wonders of progress, this exhibit would come to
symbolize, for writers like Ruskin, the disparity between
progress and the human condition. For Dickens, the
Exhibition was "too much." In a letter to Mrs. Richard
Watson, Dickens writes, "I have a natural horror of
sights, and the fusion of many sights in one has not
decreased it."9 As we think of the kinds of sights that
might have horrified Dickens, we realize the monstrous
symbol the Crystal Palace had become. Like the pyramids
of Egypt, this construction celebrated progress that was
made at the expense of humanity.
As always, progress did not come without a price.
Workers suffered under the capitalist system, which
allowed the factory owner to prosper while the employees
were considered little better than slaves; workers
protested and rioted periodically for higher wages and
better working conditions; depression and strikes led to
workers flocking to cities and subsequently being packed
into slums; social panaceas turned disastrous. For
13


example, the problem of how to feed the poor and homeless
became magnified as the Corn Law, enacted in 1815, kept
prices up while crops failed in 1845 and food became
scarce. Clearly, trying to run an essentially new
country by the old rules was no longer effective.
Even with the repeal of the Corn Law in 1846, the
process to improve the situation was unbearably slow
compared to the pace with which people's suffering
increased. In 1833, Parliament had passed Lord Althorp's
Factory Act, which, in addition to allowing inspectors
inside factories, limited workdays for children to twelve
hours. But it would take fifteen more years before
Parliament would reduce the workday for women and
children through the Ten Hours Act.10 In the meantime,
writers like Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Kingsley, and
Charles Dickens, were recording in their novels images of
living and working conditions so horrible that readers
could only believe them to be exaggerations. But they
were not. As conditions stagnated or worsened,
philosophers and social critics like Benjamin Disraeli,
John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Carlyle turned out reams of
essays lambasting England for its apparent inability or
unwillingness to evoke change for the better.
The conflict between progress and the historical way
of conducting business is crystallized in "The Present
14


Time," written by Carlyle for Latter-Day Pamphlets
(1853). In his essay, Carlyle proclaims,
There must be a new world, if there is to be
any world at all! That human things in our
Europe can ever return to the old sorry
routine, and proceed with any steadiness or
continuance there; this small hope is not now a
tenable one.11
Carlyle believed, as did many other critics, including
Dickens, that the root of the problem lay in England's
unwillingness to change from the traditional way of
conducting its policies. The philosophy of "Business as
usual" no longer fit in a time when neither the business
nor the situation were usual. The age of Mammonism, as
Carlyle would term it in Past and Present, would condemn
the country to the "Hell of the English" unless England
worried less about making money and more about human
beings.12 But in this age of discovery, the English
people could not even be sure of their roles as human
beings.
Not only was the country changing from an agrarian
society to an industrialized one, but scientific
discoveries were redefining the country's perception of
the world, its workings, and its history. When Charles
Darwin published Origin of the Species in 1859, England
was still reeling from the knowledge disclosed in Sir
Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology (1830) and Robert
Charles's Vestiges of Creation (1843-46) that the earth
15


was not merely a few thousand but instead a few million
years old. This shaking of historical and, by
implication, religious foundations left Victorians
questioning how reliable their beliefs were. Thus, we
find writers like Alfred Tennyson questioning humanity's
relationship to nature and God:
Man, her last work, who seemed so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who rolled the psalm to wintry skies
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law
Though Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed
Who loved, who suffered countless ills,
Who battled for the True, the Just,
Be blown about the desert dust,
Or sealed within the iron hills? (56.9-
20)13
As Tennyson implies here, Victorians wondered if their
steadfast belief in God and His teachings was naive. Did
all their attempts to improve their lives, situations,
and moral character come down to a matter of natural
selection, survival of the fittest, with a final resting
place in a mountainside, not Heaven?
Philosophical thinking reflected the division
between nature and a greater being. The Utilitarians and
positivists believed the rationality of the Neoclassic
eighteenth century would best support the growing focus
on science and industrialization; the transcendentalists
16


and theists looked to German and English Romanticism for
metaphysical answers to an increasingly chaotic present.
As we will see in Dickens, the urge was towards a
transcendent awareness, but the material world constantly
intruded in the search for answers.
By and large, writers like Dickens tried to posit a
convergence of progress, scientific discovery, and a
belief system based on God's will. Dickens wrote of this
merging in "The Poetry of Science," a review in The
Examiner of Robert Hunt's book The Poetry of Science, or
Studies of the Physical Phenomena of Nature:
. . to show that if the Dryades no longer
haunt the woods, there is, in every forest, in
every tree, in every leaf, and in every ring on
every sturdy trunk, a beautiful and wonderful
creation, always changing, always going on,
always bearing testimony to the stupendous
workings of Almighty Wisdom, . it is a
purpose worthy of the natural philosopher, and
salutary to the spirit of the age.u
Dickens can still envision the magic and mystery of
science, but he links it to its proper place in the
universe. As we will see with Dickens, the trick for
Victorians would be to look at progress and growth as a
way of revealing "the workings of Almighty Wisdom."
Not many of Dickens's reactions to progress were
quite as glowing as this review. However, for Dickens,
progress in the form of factories and Crystal Palaces and
public schools is a symptom of a greater underlying evil,
17


the social institutions that support progress while
trying to maintain a status quo. For Dickens, these
institutions rival Tennyson's Nature for sheer lack of
compassion. His concern for the children who crawl out
from under the rule of public or church schools, factory
work, orphanages, or missionaries dramatically, but not
exaggeratedly, illustrates the need for reform of the old
forms. Institutions, whether in the form of churches or
government or justice, tend to take on an organic life of
their own. They begin to behave as if the institution
rather than the individual is of the utmost importance.
Soon, institutional ideals replace moral and theistic
ideals. For Dickens, this replacement is reprehensible.
In the Victorian Age, progress can be viewed as one
more symptom of the moral morass in which the nation was
trapped. England had been built upon a Puritan religious
foundation and an aristocratic class system. The lower
class was meant to work for and obey the upper class
based on the principle of divine order. The upper class
was meant to care for and protect the lower class based
on the same principle. Somehow, somewhere, this second
idea had gotten lost, and as a result the first idea was
being questioned. Whether the loss occurred because of a
loss of God or because of a growth in human greed, the
lower and middle-class individuals were losing the
18


meaning of life. The institutions that were meant to
teach meaning instead worried about institutional ideals.
Experience imbued individuals with a meaning, but not a
positive one. When people searched for meaning, they
would remember a particular experience or lesson, but the
corresponding
moral would be missing. They would be unable to put the
experience in a greater context, a subjective one. They
could only see the object. Dickens would concern himself
with restoring the greater context.
Two Ideals: Two Authors: One Universe
As with Dostoevsky, it Was primarily his country's
loss of connection to the universal law that most
disturbed Dickens. While his friend Carlyle would write
pages and pages of didactic essays on the subject,
Dickens's immensely popular novels would emphasize the
subject. But because of England's firm grip on progress,
as well as its strong sense of identity, Dickens's ideal
may have had one less issue to deal with than
Dostoevsky's. Indeed, as we will see in David
Copperfield, Dickens does not question people's identity
as a nation, only identity as a child of an all-loving
God or of an uncaring environment.
Despite the obvious differences between Dickens and
19


Dostoevsky, they have much in common. Both authors
reveal their Romantic heritage in their concern for
children; both present in their novels children without
parents and consequently without a sense of identity;
both follow the progress of a child in his or her quest
for identity; both look for a way to link children to a
higher ideal. In fact, we can compare Dostoevsky's The
Brothers Karamazov with Dickens's David Copperfield for
sheer autobiographical details. But while Dickens's hero
is unquestionably in search of identity, it is not a
national identity. Dostoevsky, on the other hand, seems
to believe that his own hero needs to solve questions of
national as well as moral identity. But his focus on
nationalism, materialism, rationalism, or any other -ism
masks the true value of the novels. Despite the concern
with progress and modern ideals, Dostoevsky is at his
best in solving the puzzle of the human search for peace
and solace.
Although both authors use various strategies to
arrive at some kind of a resolution, a strategy most
common to both is the use of memory as a medium through
which one may transcend the evil and pettiness of
everyday tyranny and achieve an ideal. In The Brothers
Karamazov and David Copperfield, both authors connect
childhood memories with the memories' impact on the adult
20


situation. Dostoevsky finds through memory a way to
preserve a feeling of hope in a nation filled with
despair. In The Brothers Karamazov, we see people at the
very nadir of despair: they have lost belief in God;
they are brought up in an atmosphere of forgetfulness.
The psychological ramifications of this sense of
loss abound; for instance, a Jungian would claim that the
psychological reaction to situations such as that facing
Russia is to succumb to the dark side of the psyche as a
protection from the destructive force of a loveless
environment.15 This reaction is part of Dostoevsky's
picture. Ultimately, he projects the woes of a nation
onto the individual in his book. If Russia has, as
Dostoevsky perceives it has, lost its connection to God
as an all-loving, universal being and can only regard Him
as an object about which to argue, then the people left
on this earth are doomed to primitive, selfish,
animalistic, of insane behavior.
Dickens, too, projects the woes of a nation onto the
individual. His novels show more than a mere awareness
that tradition presented issues, such as class'
consciousness without human consciousness, that needed
revisiting and change. As he presents it, England has
not yet woken to the fact that its longstanding heritage
of a benevolent class system is in fact a romanticized
21


picture. Even the increasing popularity of histories and
biographies does nothing more than present an inaccurate
view that has nothing to do with reality. Carlyle
discusses the need for a greater context in Past and
Present when he says, "The thing becomes not 'in a day'
impossible; but in some two generations it does."16
Thus, despair arises when time erodes the moral
implications from the ideological foundations, leaving
only empty, unconnected beliefs. As Carlyle notes, this
erosion is a slow process. Dickens shows through the
growth of an individual how to discover what ideals have
strayed from the greater ideal, how to link the object
back to the subject. A country so concerned with change
as an object, a signification, without a signifier or a
connection to a greater context, needs a wake-up call.
As we will see in the subsequent chapters,
Dostoevsky's interest in the psychology of children, the
development (or perversion) of individual psyches, links
itself to the importance of history, of memory, which in
turn ties in with the Westernizer/Slavophile debate even
while hesitating to side with either argument. While
some might argue that Dickens's own concern with
children's psyches is more generic and romanticized, his
focus on the development of Copperfield's psyche belies
this idea. I believe we will find that, far from being
22


too simplistic, Dickens had an astounding insight into
both the problems of the era and the psychological
attitudes necessary to solve the problems. That he is
able to employ them so well in his novels is an important
legacy he imparts upon his readership, Dostoevsky
included.
23


CHAPTER 2
HISTORY
Russia's Sense of History and Philosophy
The Russian has always had a strong link with the
past, but as the eighteenth turned into the nineteenth
century, this link became problematic. Although the
French Revolution, with its betrayal of monarchic ideals,
left Russia questioning its own place in the world, the
seeds of revolution against tradition had been sown
earlier. Peter the Great's reign had opened the door to
Western civilization, and when Czar Nicholas I ascended
in 1825, his attempt to close the door met with
resistance. Russia had spent the previous century
exploring the fascinating world beyond its own
boundaries, and it was in no hurry to forgo the romance
and freedom it saw there.
Philosophy and Russia had a rather stormy
relationship. James H. Billington, in The Icon and the
Axe (1970) theorizes that, because of its long and
theologically-based history, Russia had previously
rejected philosophy "not only because it was irrelevant
to salvation but because it can lead menin the words of
an early nineteenth-century Old Believer'to contemplate
24


the overthrow of kingdoms.'"17 As the Russians learned
from the French Revolution, this prediction was all too
true. Catherine's horror at the Revolution was directed
less at the fact that there was a war and more at the
possibility that the Russians, who had been reading the
same books and entertaining the same ideas, might decide
to overthrow her government, too.
The change Nicholas was attempting to create, one
through which the country would return to its
nationalistic heritage, closing out the Western world and
all its materialistic ideologies, created a division
among Russians. On the one hand lay the "Old Believer"
Russians, the Slavophiles, whom Billington characterizes
as believing in "pietistic glorification of inner
regeneration, family harmony, and a new universal
church."18 On the other hand were the newly-created
Westernizers who were more allied with French philosophy.
They turned away from the religious fanaticism and
disorder they had seen during Alexander's time, accepting
either Catholicfrom the Frenchor atheisticfrom the
philosophersideology in the wake of Russia's increasing
conservatism and their own increasing doubt in religion
and its power to answer questions. Although both
factions were new, opposed in some ways to Czar Nicholas,
and interested in the good of the nation, both factions
25


also represented a part of the problems.
In F. M. Dostoevsky: His Image of Man (1962),
Miriam T. Sajkovic notes a particularly interesting
aspect of the Westernizers. In a quotation Sajkovic
takes from Vassili V. Zenkovsky's A History of Russian
Philosophy, we learn that the Westernizer intelligentsia
are characterized by
Lack of roots in the soil, a break with all
class life and traditions. . Owing to
Russian political conditions, the
intelligentsia found itself divorced from
practical social work, and that easily led to
social day dreaming.19
This group of aristocrats and highly educated young
people was beginning to find that the promise of progress
was empty.
Although Peter's overtures to the Western world had
helped the country establish itself as a military power,
it also meant that the military power had an obligation
not to slip back into superstition and mysticism. But
the future of the country was subject to mutability, and
for the Russian religious leaders, the only salvation was
through devout and extreme worship as in the days of old.
In order to restore any sense of continuity, the Russian
intelligentsia would have to replace the old system of
belief with a new one. For these Westernizers, the
answers Schelling provides for German philosophy satisfy
their own desire for "phenomena which they felt had been
26


artificially excluded from the mechanistic world view of
the eighteenth century: the beauty and variety of the
organic world, telepathy and mesmerism.1,20 In
particular, it can be noted that the mystery of the
Russian Orthodoxy is replaced by modern science's version
of mysticism. A problem arose, however, as it did in
England, when the Russians discovered that mystery must
be linked to a purpose greater than the mere replacement
of one tradition with another*;
Dostoevsky seems to agree with this view. The need
to be involved in a philosophy that encompasses all that
Russia had known as well as all that it would become is
at the center of The Brothers Karamazov. He does not
seem to embrace the beliefs of either the Westernizers or
the Slavophiles. Ultimately, Dostoevsky transcends both
beliefs by using that which he observes in manin
practical, everyday experienceto create a philosophy
that links humanity back to the infinite.
Dostoevsky creates a link by acting as an
interpreter. The enigmatic and obscure way meaning had
been presented in the past was part of the Westernizer1s
concerns. Modern philosophy makes sense because it
attempts to explain how and why meaning is made. Thus,
Dostoevsky interprets his ideas for his reader, acting as
a teacher.
27


Dostoevsky talks about the link between the
material, the philosophical, and the infinite universe
throughout The Diary. For example, here he discusses the
final words of young Werther, Goethe's popular hero:
The self-destroyer Werther, when committing
suicide, in the last lines left by him,
expresses regret that he would nevermore behold
"the beautiful constellation of the Great Bear"
and he bids it farewell. Oh, how was the then
still youthful Goethe revealed in this little
trait! Why were these constellations so dear
to young Werther?Because, whenever
contemplating them, he realized that he was by
no means an atom and a nonentity compared with
them; that all these numberless mysterious,
divine miracles were in no sense higher than
his thought and consciousness; not higher than
the ideal of beauty confined in his soul, and,
therefore, they were equal to him and made him
akin to the infinity of being. (158)
Dostoevsky recognizes something in this passage that many
Russian philosophers had failed to see: that philosophy
can be useful as a tool for teaching the Russians, but
the mystery of the words needs to be explained. So he
takes the time to decipher the symbol of Werther's final
words, showing his readers that the beauty of modern
philosophy is that it is not materialistic, positivistic.
When Werther looks at the stars, he is not looking at the
mass of stone and gas that astronomers look at; instead,
he is looking at the sign the stars create by being
signifiers for a concept.
Others, however, believe Dostoevsky fails to offer
any answers. In the otherwise astute Dostoevsky and
28


Dickens (1973), N. M. Lary claims that Dostoevsky arrives
at no conclusion, finds no ideals in The Brothers
Karamazov, but rather asks important questions.21 Lary,
in noting Dostoevsky's preoccupation with the
intelligentsia, the people who would reshape Russia using
the European model, questions whether Dostoevsky could
possibly arrive at philosophical answers while embroiled
in a war of national survival. But Dostoevsky's fight
with the intelligentsia comprises only a part of the
whole in this book; his ideas from The Diary clearly
spell out his goal, and the echoes of those ideas in The
Brothers Karamazov delineate his path towards that goal.
As he writes in his eulogy to George Sand in The Diary of
a Writer,
We, Russians, have two motherlandsRussia and
Europeeven in cases when we call ourselves
Slavophiles. . The greatest among their
great future designations, already apperceived
by the Russians, is the designation common to
the whole human raceservice rendered to
mankind as a whole, not only to Russian, not
only to Slavs in general, but to humankind in
toto. Think of it, and you will agree that the
Slavophiles held an identical view, and this is
why they urged us to be more rigid, firmer and
more responsible Russians, specifically
realizing the fact that the conception of
universality of man is the principal personal
characteristic and designation of the
Russian. (342)
The paradoxical problem of national consciousness is that
despite the difference in countries, the people are all
part of the human race. Therefore, Dostoevsky's concern
29


is linked inextricably to the human questionhow do we
find what is ideal in man?which leads him to search for
an answer in The Brothers Karamazov. However, the
influence of the national discussion in the
Westernizer/Slavophile debate is clear.
In The Diary of a Writer, one of his earlier entries
is about two famous Westernizers, Alexander Ivanovich
Hertzen and Vissarion Grigorievich Belinsky. In a
chapter entitled "Old People," Dostoevsky writes,
They all, akin to [Hertzen], were ready-born
emigrants, even though the majority of them
never left Russia. During the hundred and
fifty years of the preceding life of the
Russian nobility, with very few exceptions, the
last roots had rotted, the last ties with
Russian soil and Russian truth had
disintegrated. History itself, as it were,
predestined Hertzen to embody, in a most vivid
type, this rupture of the overwhelming majority
of our educated class with the people. In this
sense it is a historical type. (5)
As we can see in this passage, Dostoevsky's concern with
his nation's ties to history are directly linked to the
debate. Cut loose from a sense of family that frequently
accompanies nationality, people like Hertzen are free to
take on new nationalities, new identities. In a
technique common to that of Dickens but not exclusively
his, Dostoevsky depicts the philosophy of Hertzen in The
Brothers Karamazov in the character Miusov, the emigrant
who goes to France. Described in the novel as "A liberal
of the forties and fifties, a freethinker and an
30


atheist,1'22 Miusov comes to embody all Dostoevsky finds
repellent about this position.
As Dostoevsky goes on to note in The Diary, his
concern about Hertzen is centered on the philosopher's
personal hypocrisy:
He denied family, and, it seems, was a good
father and husband. He denied property, but at
the same time he managed to arrange his
affairs, and abroad he experienced with
pleasure his financial independence. . The
reflexthe faculty of turning a most profound
personal sentiment into an object with he set
before himself, which he would worship and
which, a minute later, he would ridiculethat
faculty was highly developed in him. (5)
Catherine the Great had employed the same double standard
when she insisted that her court be educated in the
Western tradition and then attacked the court, as she did
Radishchev. We see this same type of hypocrisy in
Miusov: Dostoevsky slyly and ironically juxtaposes the
characterization of Miusov as a liberal with the
information that he is engaged in a series of lawsuits
with the monastery over land use rights (32) However,
Dostoevsky ultimately denounces Western materialism less
out of concern for its self-righteous hypocrisy and more
out of concern for its failure to acknowledge Russian
heritage, which cannot be excised from the infinite span
that comprises the whole.
Belinsky, on the other hand, represented to
Dostoevsky the potential of this philosophy:
31


Treasuring above everything reason, science and
realism, at the same time he comprehended more
keenly than anyone that reason, science and
realism alone can merely produce an ant's nest,
and not social "harmony" within which man can
organize his life. He knew that moral
principles are the basis of all things. He
believed, to the degree of delusion and without
any reflex, in the new moral foundations of
socialism, (which, however, up to the present
revealed none but abominable perversions of
nature and common sense). (5)
These "abominable perversions" become smoothed out as
Westernizer philosophy paired with German philosophy, as
Billington notes in his study. In particular, the
connection between the Russian and Hegelian philosophies
was of paramount importance:
Coming at a time when depression, wanderings,
and even suicide were taking an increasing toll
among the romantic idealists, Hegel seemed to
say that all purely personal and subjective
feelings are irrelevant. Everything depends on
objective necessity.23
Even though Belinsky rejects Hegel for a time, the
duality of subjective and objective, inner feelings and
external forces, chaos and wholeness, come to clarify and
focus the debate. For Dostoevsky, however, ideas like
Hegel's dualism would be, as would anything that rejected
a part of the whole equation, ultimately empty.
Although he tells us he "passionately embraced
[Belinsky's] teaching," we find Dostoevsky throughout the
course of The Diary trying to work out the connection
between the sense of history embraced by the Slavophiles
32


and the sense of the infinite, the whole (9). His
speculation about Belinsky's concluding doctrine is
telling:
Oh, in vain it was said later that had
Bielinsky [sic] lived longer, he would have
joined the Slavophile doctrine. He would never
have ended with that. Perhaps, he would have
ended by emigrating, that is, if he had lived
longer and he could have managed to emigrate;
if so, now, he a tiny and enraptured little old
fellow, with his original warm faith precluding
any slightest doubt, would be hanging around
somewhere at conventions in Germany and
Switzerland. ... (8)
Here, an awareness of the potential comfort the German
Romantic philosophy offers and a somewhat belittling
attitude towards the simple answer exist simultaneously.
Belinsky is presented as loitering at conventions,
continuing to profess words without any connection or
grounding in the real world. Furthermore, any philosophy
that purports to offer metaphysical comfort without
considering the limitations of humanity ultimately fails,
as Dostoevsky wryly notes by questioning the ability of
an old, doddering man to undertake the arduous task of
emigration. Kolya, in The Brothers Karamazov, tries to
espouse Belinskean doctrine only to be skewered by
Alyosha, who recognizes the empty words and the inability
of the young man to link those words to any greater
context. Similarly, Kolya's young schoolmate memorizes
who the founders of Troy are without knowing what "to
33


found" really means (550-559). Although Lary believes
that a direct attack on nationalistic issues of this sort
does not lead to a conclusion, surely it must.
Dostoevsky works very carefully to include these
important doctrines and expose their weaknesses. The
conclusion he draws from studying philosophy and ideology
is that each must be connected to reality, to humanity.
Probably more pertinent to Dostoevsky's concern was
Belinsky's own rejection of Hegel, quoted in Billington:
All the talk in Hegel about morality is pure
nonsense, for in the kingdom of objective
thought there is no morality any more than in
objective religion. . The fate of the
subject, the individual, the personality is
more important than the fate of the whole world
and the health of the Emperor of China (i.e.
the Hegelian Allgenmeinheit).... [even] if
I should succeed in lifting myself to the
highest rung on the ladder of development I
should demand an accounting for all the victims
of circumstance in life and history ... of
the inquisition, of Philip II. . .24
Just as Belinsky discovers a weakness in Hegelian
thinking, so too does Dostoevsky in followers of Hegel.
Not only does Dostoevsky correlate Hertzen's hypocritical
objectifying of personal sentiment with Hegel's objective
religion, but he also finds in this passage inspiration
for another Westernizer's lament: Ivan Karamazov's
demand for accountability.
Viewing history as a fait accompli removes its
important teaching power. Moreover, it excises the
34


feeling that history is a process and a part of a greater
existence. Dostoevsky goes to great lengths to express
his dismay at the Slavophiles' refusal to live in the
present, with all the illuminating ideas modern
philosophy has to share. He also exposes the fatal flaws
of Westernizer philosophy. For Dostoevsky, the Russian
people would never be complete without remembering the
past and the lessons learned there. Although we will
discuss the psychological ramifications of forgetting in
the next chapter, it should be noted here that the
dramatic shift in attitude of the peasants at Dmitri1s
trial acts as one more example of the hypocrisy that
appears when people live only for the moment, forgetting
the past (751-753). Their self-contradictions stand out
in startling contrast as Dostoevsky presents the before-
and-after comments when the sentence is read. It is
almost as though these peasants would blindly march into
war again for their country, forgetting that people were
killed in the previous one.
The attempt to coalesce experience into ideas
results, for Belinsky as well as Dostoevsky, in a
paradox. As Dostoevsky tells us when describing the
hero, Alexei Fyodorovich, in the enigmatic yet
significant introduction to The Brothers Karamazov,
One thing, perhaps, is rather doubtless: he is
a strange man, even an odd one. . For not
35


only is an odd man "not always" a particular
and isolated case, but, on the contrary, it
sometimes happens that it is precisely he,
perhaps, who bears within himself the heart of
the whole, while the other people of his epoch
have all for some reason been torn away from it
for a time by some kind of flooding wind. (3)
Dostoevsky's introduction of the hero illuminates the
problem as he saw it. The people of his time have "for
some reason been torn away from [the whole] by some kind
of flooding wind." However, Alyosha has within him the
vision, which is the heart, of the whole. As we will
see, as he passes this vision on, he creates others who
will in turn present their vision, and the reconnecting
of a nation begins.
England's Sense of History and Philosophy
Ivor Brown, in Dickens in His Time (1963), argues
that the writers between the time of Homer and Dickens
had a world whose "fixity . has vanished from
ours."25 Although "fixity" is a relative term, we can
usefully compare the earlier age to the Victorian in
terms of political, social, and economic developments.
What Brown calls the "Age of Quantity and Anyhow"
consisted of dramatic change and suffering. As I noted
in the introduction, progress certainly did not translate
into prosperity for all.
How to deal realistically with the change of the
country became the job of the philosophers of the time.
36


The same school of German philosophers who started Russia
on its way to its identity crisis also affected English
thinking. In particular, the English became divided over
whether their lot was predetermined or subject to change
by free will. In Victorian Will (1989), John Reed argues
that the schools of thought broke into the theistic or
providential and the positivist or scientific, and
"fundamental to their dispute was a different perception
of human freedom and the nature of laws governing the
universe.1,26 Others, such as Michael Goldberg and Brown,
labeled the scientific school Utilitarian, but Reed
argues that the Utilitarians were not as interested in
the meaning of history. Since we are concerned with just
that, we will stay with Reed's denotation. The
positivist school was led by Henry Thomas Buckle, famed
and controversial determinist. The theistic school,
exemplified through the writings of Carlyle, believed
that history was a study of humanity's struggle to
discover the eternal. Furthermore, as Carlyle wrote in
Past and Present, "Words are hard, are importunate; but
how much harder the importunate events they
foreshadow!1,27 As he goes on to tell us, words (in the
form of history) allow us to avoid or at least temper the
blow of a repeated event.
Contrary to Carlyle's belief, Buckle believed that,
37


given the same circumstances, events would occur exactly
the same as they had previously. Part of the
deterministic doctrine was the belief that human nature
was such that even if it wanted to proceed differently,
it would go on as before.28 Although we do not have to
explore the many obvious contradictions to this belief,
Dickens did. As we will see, Dickens takes this
doctrine and puts it to the test, and the conclusion he
draws is much closer to the belief of his theistic
friend, Thomas Carlyle.
Carlyle was quite outspoken about his dismay over
England's lack of concern for its weak and poor, but even
more distressful was the notion that the country was so
focused on its immediate problems that it could not see
its way clear to the answer. Carlyle's answer was to
look beyond the immediate and discern the infinite. He
writes this idea in various configurations, of which I
will cite two:
If a man could shake-out of his mind the
universal noise of political doctors in this
generation and in the last generation or two,
and consider the matter face to face, with his
own sincere intelligence looking at it, I
venture to say he would find this a very
extraordinary method of navigating, whether in
the Straits of Magellan or the undiscovered Sea
of Time.29
and
The curtains of Yesterday drop down, the
curtains of Tomorrow roll up; but Yesterday and
38


Tomorrow both are. Pierce through the Time-
element, glance into the Eternal.30
As we see here, Carlyle envisions history as one
perception in a part of an organic whole. A certain
event or focal point is an object, and one must look
through the object to the meaning hidden behind.
Furthermore, similar to Father Zosima's ocean metaphor,
in which we "touch it in one place, and it echoes at the
other end of the world" (319), Carlyle's description
shows that all that happens in time becomes part of a
huge web, connected through experience.
As Dostoevsky would believe, the problem with
history in England is that the Victorians too often
viewed it synchronically rather than diachronically.
Rather than, or perhaps in addition to, thinking of all
the change that had occurred during the Industrial
Revolution, they symbolized the change in the Crystal
Palace. This symbolization or emblemization is an
efficient way to store memories, to be sure, but somehow
all the tragedy and suffering that accompanied the
Revolution gets lost in the translation. Dickens borrows
this emblematic way of remembering but endows it with the
subject, the meaning behind the emblem, when he presents
David recalling an encounter with Rosa Dartle:
I could not help glancing at the scar with a
painful interest when we went in to tea. . .
There was a little altercation between her and
39


Steerforth about a cast of the dice at
backgammon, when I thought her, for one moment,
in a storm of rage; and then I saw it start
forth like the old writing on the wall.31
The close link between symbols or emblems and certain
moments in time are the standard way of calling up the
past, but for Dickens those emblems should accompany the
web of history surrounding it. Thus, when Dickens
created an emblem, it was designed to encompass more than
a one-dimensional image: when Copperfield is introduced
to Mr. Spenlow, the solicitor, he describes him first as
golden, from his watch-chain to his arm, and then he is
stiff like Punch, the puppet (322-323); when Steerforth
is describing Doctor's Commons, it becomes a place of
"obsolete old monsters of Acts of Parliament, which
three-fourths of the world know nothing about, and the
other fourth supposes to have been dug up, in a fossil
state, in the days of the Edwards" (316). Dickens's
clever way of creating images that do more than present a
picture comes to be a hallmark of the English master, a
hallmark his Russian protege will borrow in his own quest
to find a way to convey the enormity of the universal.
In order to shake England free of its obsessive
regard for a particular instance, horrible and
overwhelming as it may be, Dickens showed that the past
could do more than just serve as a symbol for stability.
In particular, David Copperfield presents an
40


autobiographical account of how Dickens was able to
overcome the present and focus on a greater good. He
i
suggests through his novels that the past does indeed
play a part in who we become, but in the grand scheme, an
ability to look through the object, the moment in time,
to the subject it represents best reveals the wholeness
of the universe. Thus, when Copperfield must choose who
i
he will become, he is not constrained by the superficial
surroundings because he answefs to a higher law, a
theistic one. ,
In order to better convey his message, Dickjans often
turns to the antithesis of his ideal. Consequently, some
of his images of evil characters are more memorable than
his heroic ones. For example, Dickens's views on
positivist thinking are far more barbed and direct than
his views of human weakness. As Goldberg notes,!
The system of 'Facts' is clearly attached to
eighteenth century rationalism of which
Bentham32 and Gradgrind are heirs. It is the
ethos of many of Dickens' satirically drawn
f igures.33
We can agree with Goldberg that a rationalism that
neglects humanity is worthy of Dickens's scathing
depictions. I
Not only is Thomas Gradgrind of Hard Times subject
|
to Dickens's disdain, but so too are all who exhibit
ideas based solely on logic and reason. Thus, iri David
41


Copperfield we see Mr. Murdstone react to all bothersome
events with evenhanded logic but an appalling lack of
emotion, treating all who come his way as if they were
just one more beast to be broken. His treatment of David
after their first altercation reflects Dickens's fear
that reason without human compassion will reduce humans
to the level of animals:
'David,' he said, making his lips thin, by
pressing them together, 'if I have an obstinate
horse or dog to deal with, what do you think I
do?'
'I don't know.'
'I beat him.' . .
'I make him wince, and smart. I say
to myself, "I'll conquer that
fellow"; and if it were to cost him
all the blood he had, I should do
it.' (42)
This lack of compassion, this thinking with the head but
not the heart, would come to exemplify one of the many
problems Dickens saw in the history debate.
Murdstone represents a character with a narrow,
focused view. He cannot imagine a view in which a
greater scope is revealed. But for Dickens, the only way
to coalesce the past with the present is through
imagination. More specifically, people needed to recall
the past but realize that its power lies in education,
not determinism. Thus, by learning from the past,
recognizing what existed there, both positive and
negative, but also imagining how those experiences fit in
42


a greater schema, a person could imagine a future that
evolved into something better.
This better future needed to include a moral aspect,
an ideal that could only come from an intuitive or divine
sense of right. In other words, Dickens recognized the
metaphysical sense of right that could not be found in
any specific past or present; it could only come from
finding or creating positive senses from all of one's
experiences. For example, whfen David Copperfield
discovers Steerforth's perfidy, he uses the moment as a
learning experience:
In the keen distress of the discovery of his
unworthiness, I thought more of all that was
brilliant in him, I softened more towards all
that was good in him, I did more justice to the
qualities that might have made him a man of a
noble nature and a great name, than ever I had
done in the height of my devotion to him. . .
[my remembrances] of him were as the
remembrances of a cherished friend, who was
dead. (418)
Here Copperfield has turned Steerforth into a subject of
history, an example from which to learn. Not only does
he recognize the humanity in even the worst person, he
also recognizes the value of putting Steerforth in a
historical context. He imagines Steerforth, on the one
hand endowing him with greater virtues than he ever
seemed to exhibit in reality, and on the other hand using
this fanciful image to make his experience with
Steerforth useful.
43


The difference between English and Russian
philosophy of history, seems to come down to very little
in the eyes of Dickens and Dostoevsky. Both men saw
their country treating history as an object or a
signifier, not looking through it to the subject, the
signified concept, the meaning behind it. Although
Dostoevsky believes his nation's situation is such that
Dickens cannot provide an answer, I believe the two men's
ideals are similar enough that Dickens does in fact act
as a precursor to Dostoevsky's ideal. The main
difference becomes how each treats the subject of moral
leadership.
When we use Steerforth and Kolya as a point of
comparison, we see that while both boys present a picture
of disconnected youth, each is educated in the thinking
of the day. While Kolya becomes reconnected through his
relationship with Alyosha, Steerforth lacks the moral
guidance to use free will for anything but selfish
motivations. Thus, he represents the determinist
thinkers who view the world objectively. He acts as if
his lack of guidance and his lack of connection to
humanity have determined his path. He cannot escape from
who he has been raised to be. He has no greater call to
answer to.
For the Russians, the importance of history lay in
44


its inextricable tie to identity, both national and
personal. Being torn from its place in the whole
picture, even if the picture had been one of mystery and
faith, the nation found itself floundering, feeling
forsaken. England, on the other hand, found itself
unable to connect the events of the day, as well as those
that had gone before, to a greater concept, a universal
ideal. So, what had seemed to be a difference is
actually a similarity: both nations regard history in an
objective way when what both authors see as necessary is
for them to view it in a subjective way, as part of a
greater whole. Thus, the message Dickens weaves into his
work would naturally strike a chord with Dostoevsky;
however, the national issues remain to be settled.
As Dostoevsky suggests, we cannot fairly compare the
two situations, because England was simply looking at
history from an English perspective. In particular, the
objective way each nation viewed its own history would
have made it nearly impossible to imagine a world history
that linked all people together in one universal law.
Although Carlyle's French Revolution and, more obviously,
Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities tried to emphasize the
similarities between nations, settings and occurrences,
the reformation of England needed to happen at the local
level before it would or could occur at the world level.
45


The only fair way to compare the two situations
would be to look at what can be transported from one
place and time to anotherin other words, what can be
viewed as constant throughout time. For both authors,
constancy lies in human nature and its inconstancy. The
psychological perspectives Dickens offers in his novels
show up time and again in Dostoevsky, and yet we rarely
think of Dickens as a psychological master in the way we
think of Dostoevsky. However> the psychology Dickens
employs is just as valid in terms of how it suits the
historical and national context as Dostoevsky's.
46


CHAPTER 3
PSYCHOLOGY
Psychology in Dostoevsky and The Brothers Karamazov
As Dostoevsky as psychologist has been well
documented by everyone from Freud to Nietzsche to
Bahktin, we will, rather than situate him as a
psychologist, explore some of Dostoevsky's psychological
observations about the Russian people as recorded in his
Diary and novel. His view of how psychology works is
closely correlated to the kind of philosophical solutions
he proposes because he sees the human psyche as an object
of a greater, divine whole. In particular, he seems
concerned with how psychology develops in and affects
children. This concern makes sense in light of how he
views history: children are the ones who need to be
linked with the infinite. Adults are already formed,
already intelligent or mediocre, as the case may be, but
in any case already filled receptacles of experience.
In discussing his work in A Raw Youth, Dostoevsky
writes,
I took an innocent soul, but one already
polluted with the dreadful possibility of
depravity, early hate, because of his
nothingness and "accidentalness," and that
breadth with which a still chaste soul already
admits vice to his thoughts, fondles it in his
47


still bashful but already daring and
tempestuous visionsall this left solely to
his own forces, his own reasoning and, perhaps,
in truth to the will of God. They are all
cast-offs of society, "accidental" members of
"accidental" families. (160)
As Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, and Goethe believed,
children have the ability to see with fancy, with
imagination, in a way adults cannot. However, Dostoevsky
recognized that children are capable of being corrupted.
This belief seems to dispute Dickens's often
sentimentalized children, who are sometimes too pure to
be believed. However, as we will see with Steerforth and
Kolya, Dostoevsky is the one who sentimentally saves a
child while Dickens presents Steerforth as lost. The
trick to salvation, according to both authors, is to
intervene early in the process, before the child is
corrupted. Dostoevsky believed fancy could be cultivated
in a youth, who could be encouraged to blossom into an
adult who would understand his or her place in the
infinite. However, he is also aware it is the "odd man"
who sees this infinity.
More frequently in Russia, it seemed as though
people either believed in ideals from the past or the
present, objectifying their place in history without
seeing it as a part of the whole. Dostoevsky believes
they had forgotten their link with the infinite.
Psychologically, people who try to forget the past, such
48


as the Westernizers, become maimed emotionally. Milan
Kundera discusses a similar situation in his novella, The
Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978). Kundera, in
discussing the Czech government's attempts to erase the
past and a people's need to remember a century and a half
after Russia had started the attempt, gives the case of
his own feelings when his father died:
I couldn't forgive myself for asking him so
little, for knowing so little about him. . .
That the external infinity escapes us, we
accept with equanimity; the guilt over letting
the second infinity escape follows us to the
grave. While pondering the infinity of the
stars, we ignore the infinity of our father.34
Although the Westernizers can try to focus on the
material world, Kundera, as with Dostoevsky, recognizes
that there is something about human nature that refuses
to allow us discontinuity. As Thomas Butler notes in his
essay "Memory: A Mixed Blessing" (1989), "Memory is not
only what we personally experience, refine and retain
(our 'core'), but also what we inherit from preceding
generations, and pass on to the next."35 As we shall
see, Dostoevsky takes an approach of generational
continuity to find a way to heal his country's wounds,
believing that being linked to infinity starts at the
individual, not the national level. To accomplish this
healing, Dostoevsky uses The Brothers Karamazov to give
an example of how someone establishes the link.
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The destruction in Dostoevsky's world comes when the
past is forgotten. He would certainly have been
concerned with a lack of memory in a society that
incarcerates the artists, the keepers of the past. The
people in Brothers Karamazov who forget are doomed to
confusion, discontinuity, and despair. Of all the
characters, Dmitri is a prime example. He has few
memories of his childhood; he leaves his father's (or
housekeeper's) house at the age of four, moves four or
five more times, and ultimately has no real roots. His
family has failed to establish a link: his father
forgets about him the minute Dmitri's mother dies, and
his mother's relatives forget about him, too. Then his
mother's cousin, Pyotr Miusov, takes an interest in him,
but as we know, Miusov represents the intelligentsia who
view even children as objects, embodied ideals, but not
actual organic parts of an organic whole, so he also
forgets about him after a short time.
Dmitri inherits this heritage of forgetting. His
thoughts and speech are often chaotic, primarily because
he cannot even remember what he said or did two minutes
previously. He refers to himself constantly as
"falling," as though his safety net, his web of memory,
has been removed. Although falling is a symptom of
epilepsy, from which Dostoevsky suffered and about which
50


Freud talked in his essay on the author, Dostoevsky also
links "fallen" with isolation in The Diary of a Writer
when he refers to a group of juvenile delinquents as
"fallen" angels and comprehends "into what such a savage
little soul may be converted in the face of such
forsakenness and isolation from social intercourse" (172,
174),36 This sense of isolation is the "absence of
love," the lack of an emotional appreciation for (human)
objects, a characteristic of criminals described by Freud
in his famous essay "Dostoevsky and Parricide."37 We can
see Dmitri putting up the same defense systems Jung later
describes and the delinquents in the novel employ.
That Dmitri is a delinquent is apparent. He
develops bad behavior as a way of protecting his
"sensitivity" from harsh reality; as a result, he is as
careless about human compassion as Dickens's Steerforth
in David Copperfield. Dmitri can be joyous and generous,
but this generosity stems from a careless and at times
manic nature rather than a caring one. We see in Dmitri
a person searching for some way to establish a link with
humanity, to negate his bad behavior. When he feels he
has missed his chance to remake himself, life becomes
hopeless. Dmitri arrives at a crisis when he thinks he
has lost Grushenka, his one chance for roots, and so
decides to kill himself. Dostoevsky records his thoughts
51


on suicides in The Diary of a Writer:
[The] majority of the suicides, in toto,
directly or indirectly, were committed as a
result of one and the same spiritual illness
the absence in the souls of these men of the
sublime idea of existence. (542)
The sublime idea is the link to infinity, the realization
that everyone has an immortal place in the universe.
Dmitri suffers from this blight, as do the many other
people in Brothers Karamazov who wrestle with spiritual
bereavement. However, Dostoevsky sees what happens to
Dmitri as prophetic of what will happen to Russia if
someone does not step in and instill a sense of
importance. The logical place to start is with children.
Dostoevsky's preoccupation with children and their
lost link echoes in Ivan's memories (236-246). Ivan,
whom many critics have correlated with Belinsky, concerns
himself with the need to revenge himself on an uncaring,
vicious world. The link is made national by Ivan's
constant refocusing on Russia whenever he starts to
discuss other nations and their atrocities, but the
tragedy is further underscored by the fact that the
Russians are the same as their other human counterparts.
Everyone, the world over,, is guilty of horrible torment
of children, the innocents of the world. The Russians
are merely behaving in a human fashion: "I think that if
the devil does not exist, and man has therefore created
52


II
him, he has created him in his own image and likeness,
Ivan tells Alyosha (239). Ivan will never forget the
images of tortured children, but these images have
destroyed his link with the "sublime idea," too. He
tells Alyosha,
I need retribution, otherwise I will destroy
myself. And retribution not somewhere and
sometime in infinity, but here and now, on
earth, so that I see it myself. ... I want
to be there when everyone suddenly finds out
what it was all for. (244)
The fear that life is nothing more than continual
persecution of innocents destroys Ivan's hope. All he
can live for is revenge and the hope that somehow,
someday, meaning will become clear.
Unfortunately, Ivan's mania for revenge leads to
madness. We see the progression through Ivan's
counterpart, Smerdyakov. Smerdyakov is a living example
of a child who is treated as an object, not a human
being, and he is an example of the sterility of a world
without shared community. Again, Smerdyakov's memories
of childhood are filled with pain: his alleged father
does not acknowledge him, and his foster father tells
him, "You are not a human being, you were begotten of
bathhouse slime, that's who you are ..." (124). As
the narrator tells us, "Smerdyakov, it turned out later,
never could forgive him these words." As a result of his
upbringing, his internal musings and investigations have
53


no grounding in a positive external world, so when he
starts drifting into trances and epileptic fits, the
associations he makes are poisoned. The narrator
speculates that,
. . perhaps suddenly, having stored up in him
impressions over many years, he will drop
everything and wander off to Jerusalem to save
his soul, or perhaps he will suddenly burn down
his native village, or perhaps he will do both.
(127)
Or perhaps, having committed an atrocity as a way of
somehow ratifying his existence, as he does, he will
commit suicide in a fit of despair or detestation.
Smerdyakov's only road to salvation is his
absorption of Ivan's words as a guiding principle
"everything is permitted." However, because Ivan is as
lost as Smerdyakov, neither is saved. Ivan is unable to
act to save others because his present is clouded by
memories and images of humanity at its worst with no
examples of how to save the damned. Smerdyakov can act,
but his actions reflect his inability to link back to the
infinite, the sublime idea. He believes his past is his
destiny, that those "begotten by bathhouse slime" are
destined always to be slime. Ivan's recognition that he
truly is responsible for Smerdyakov's actions, just as he
is responsible for not picking up out of the snow the
peasant he had knocked down, causes madness. He finally
realizes he is as guilty as those in Russia who stood by,
54


watching children being destroyed. He has created a
devil in his own image.
But Dostoevsky does not want his readers to believe
that the past is destiny; he wants to show how the past
can be reshaped into a positive moral influence. He
recognizes, however, that a past as horrible as we see in
the book needs a strong influence or guide to show the
way to a positive future. Dostoevsky's own experience in
Russia leads him to believe that man is incapable of
finding good on his own. We can follow Dostoevsky's
message through the "gang of boys."
Dostoevsky shows that humanity, with portions of its
various traits reflected in myriad ways in each
individual, must choose its own destiny. The problem is
that Dostoevsky's Russians have such a bleak,
materialistic outlook that they need someone to point
them in another direction. In the face of a loss of
belief in God, they need a God on earth, another savior.
Thus we find in the boys, particularly in Kolya, people
who could be sinners or a saints; they have had plenty of
practice at being both.
Kolya seems to represent Dostoevsky's "accidental"
youth, left to his own forces and reasoning. Kolya plays
with children, but he torments his dog. He frightens his
mother terribly with his foolish pranks, and he tries to
55


run off her suitor. He recognizes the power he has over
the younger schoolboys, but he chooses to use it to
coerce Ilyusha. He also rescues the dog for Ilyusha, and
he swears he had good intentions in his actions towards
the boy. But he is right between childhood and manhood.
In The Diary, Dostoevsky tells us that "Our youth is so
placed that absolutely nowhere does it find advice as to
the loftiest meaning of life" (544). The youth need
advice that can shape a future. Kolya recognizes his own
need for a mentor, someone to instill faith in his life;
he needs someone to tell him about Jerusalem.
Dostoevsky fills the novel with boys without guides,
without a web that links- them to humanity. We see sons
who cannot find roots because they have in some way been
forgotten; we see them struggle to find meaning that can
reconcile their experiences with their memories. That
this idea parallels closely Dickens's idea we will see
further on. However, Dostoevsky believes that each
individual is responsible for the teaching of others.
Thus, the fact that Alyosha, at the end of the novel,
preaches his first sermon to a group of boys is
significant. The book begins and ends with boys who have
been forgotten but who are also the receptacles of the
past and the future, the hope of infinity, of
immortality.
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This sense of continuity is best explained in
Alyosha's speech, delivered near Ilyusha's rock. Lary
dismisses Alyosha's speech as "inadequate." However,
Lary's belief that Alyosha suggests "that he and the boys
will always be better people because they have been kind
to Ilyusha in his last illness and because they have
buried him" completely misses the mark.38 Another look
at the speech as well as a look at how its message
manifests itself throughout the novel should clear up
this misbelief:
. . [and] whatever may happen to us later in
life, even if we do not meet for twenty years
afterwards, let us always remember how we
buried the poor boy, whom we once threw stones
atremember, there by the little bridge?and
whom afterwards we all came to love so much.
He was a nice boy, a kind and brave boy, he
felt honor and his father's bitter offense made
him rise up. And so, first of all, let us
remember him, gentlemen, all our lives. And
even though we may be involved with the most
important affairs, achieve distinction or fall
into some great misfortuneall the same, let
us never forget how good we once felt here, all
together, united by such good and kind feelings
as make us, too, for the time that we loved the
poor boy, perhaps better than we actually are.
My little doveslet me call you thatlittle
doves, because you are very much like those
pretty gray blue birds, now, at this moment, as
I look at your kind, dear facesmy dear
children, perhaps you will not understand what
I am going to say to you, because I often speak
very incomprehensibly, but still you will
remember and some may agree with my words. You
must know that there is nothing higher, or
stronger, or sounder, or more useful afterwards
in life, than some good memory, especially a
memory from childhood, from the parental home.
You hear a lot said about your education, yet
57


some such beautiful, sacred memory, preserved
from childhood, is perhaps the best education.
If a man stores up many such memories to take
into life, then he is saved for his whole life.
And even if only one good memory remains with
us in our hearts, that alone may serve some day
for our salvation. (774)
The speech goes on to extol the use of memory as a
deterrent from evil, but we can use this portion to
illuminate many of Dostoevsky's ideals. That the speech
is a melodramatic end to a hectic, chaotic book goes
without saying; however, to claim, as Lary does, that it
is ill-suited to finalize and pull together the themes is
unjust. In this speech, one can read Dostoevsky's hope
for humanity, hear his attempts to instill this idea in
his readers' minds, and consider how the parts of the
book are meant to coalesce.
Alyosha, in his speech, tells the boys they should
always remember. In giving the speech by the rock, he is
actually fixing the memory in the boys' consciousness.
Robert Belknap, in The Genesis of The Brothers Karamazov
(1990), notes Dostoevsky's use of psychological
techniques39. One technique Dostoevsky uses is the
repetition of words; for example, in the passage quoted,
he uses "remember'' four times, "good" four times,
"memory" five times, and "afterwards" three times. He
also uses icons, such as the icon of the rock, which will
serve as an image by which the memory will come flooding
58


back whenever the boys see it or think of it.
Dostoevsky's use of mnemonic devices probably has
many sources, but one likely source is Dickens.
Dickens's interest in mesmerism shows up frequently in
his novels, as we will explore further on. In this case,
Dostoevsky's attempt to fix this moment is fraught with
hypnotic suggestions. As Alyosha speaks, he uses
mesmerizing techniques to fix the moment in the boys'
latent psyches.
As Belknap notes, part of the reason Dostoevsky
would have used words as mnemonic tools would have been
his concern with immortality. Thus, the funeral
service/sermon Alyosha delivers becomes doubly
significant, as indicated by this early note of
Dostoevsky's:
They say that man is destroyed and dies
completely. We already know that it is not
completely, because man as he physically gives
birth to a son, transmits to him a part of his
own personal individuality, // and thus morally
leaves a memory of himself to people (NB. the
desire for eternal memory in the funeral
service is significant), that is, he introduces
a part of his former earthly personality into
the future development of mankind.40
Although Ilyusha is too young to convey his memory
through progeny, Alyosha intervenes with the funeral
service. The combination of emotion and hypnotic
techniques serve to make Ilyusha's memory significant and
part of the eternal memory.
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The emotional moment is heightened by Dostoevsky's
use of the bird imagery in the speech to fix the moment
in thought, and the positioning of the sermon directly
after the funeral, at a time when the boys' emotions are
in a state of strong flux and so are more likely to be
recalled. One finds the connection between bird imagery
and constant memory in Plato:
As you may suppose a man to have caught wild
birdsdoves or any other birdsand to be
keeping them in an aviary which he has
constructed at home; we might say of him in one
sense, that he always has them because he
possesses them, right?41
In this case, Plato is establishing the bird image as a
symbol for the permanence of memory.
However, the bird has a more personal meaning for
Dostoevsky. As Robert Payne tells us in Dostoevsky: A
Human Portrait (1961),
Fyodor's earliest recollection was of being
taken to the place in the country, where there
were huge lime trees and flower gardens, and
suddenly he was taken into a church, and held
up to receive the sacrament and to kiss the
chalice. In the bright summer air Fyodor
distinctly caught sight of a dove flying in
through one window of the cupola and darting
out of the other; with the chalice just in
front of him, he cried out: "A dove! A dove!"
He saw the dove only for an instant, but he was
haunted for the rest of his life by its
inexplicable beauty.42
The close association Dostoevsky makes between this image
and the mystery of the divine can be imagined easily.
Thus, in his novel he uses the image to establish
60


concretely a link for the boys.
Another ancient, anonymous philosopher connects the
emotion of the moment and memory in Rhetorica Ad
Herennium:
When we see in everyday life things that are
petty, ordinary, and banal, we generally fail
to remember them, because the mind is not being
stirred by anything novel or marvellous. But
if we see or hear something exceptionally base,
dishonourable, extraordinary, great,
unbelievable, or laughable, that we are likely
to remember a long time. Accordingly, things
immediate to our eye or ear we commonly forget;
incidents of our childhood we often remember
best. . Let art, then, imitate nature,
find what she desires, and follow as she
directs. For in invention nature is never
last, education never first; rather the
beginnings of things arise from natural talent,
and the ends are reached by discipline.43
Dostoevsky follows this final credo in his art by
mimicking nature in the book. He uses both the imagery
and the emotion of the moment to create a beginning that
will reach its end through discipline or moral guidance.
Dostoevsky's genius shows in the intricate web of
connections made through memories in all the characters.
Thus, we see Alyosha has developed over the period of the
novel, too. Dostoevsky wants to tell us, in part, of the
importance of passing on moral guidance to others. He
wants men to be connected to one another, not to be
adversaries. Given the scope of animosity and despair in
this novel, for Dostoevsky to present a savior without a
context for the development of a saintly character would
61


seem ludicrous. Thus, we must wait until the end of The
Brothers Karamazov to know that Alyosha's saintliness is
real, that he has absorbed and imprinted on his soul all
his experiences.
To achieve a sense of continuity with the past in
his speech, Alyosha alludes to another childhood. The
image of the gray doves not only attaches the moment to
another icon, it also takes the reader back to Zosima's
story of his brother. The brother, Markel, is another
child-image imbued with the wisdom of the world. In his
conversion of faith, Markel tells his mother, "you must
know that verily each of us is guilty before everyone,
for everyone and everything" (289). This shared guilt is
of the same type as when an older Copperfield looks back
on Steerforth with compassion; he knows the edict against
casting stones.
But the memory of Markel transcends time and space,
just as his love transcends human and divine worship.
Zosima picks up the thread and elaborates:
My young brother asked forgiveness of the
birds: it seems senseless, yet it is right,
for all is like an ocean, all flows and
connects; touch it in one place and it echoes
at the other end of the world. (319)
The birds are the link of memory; Zosima remembers and is
able to practice forgiveness because of them, and he
gives them to Alyosha, along with the wisdom that "no
62


memories are more precious to a man than those of his
earliest childhood in his parental home" (290). He goes
on to admonish Alyosha that "from a very bad family, too,
one can keep precious memories, if only one's soul knows
how to seek out what is precious." This idea is an echo
of Dickens's Copperfield who, as he is leaving
Blunderstone Rookery, attaches positive sentiments to the
memory:
See, how our house and church are lessening in
the distance; how the grave beneath the tree is
blotted out by intervening objects; how the
spire points upward from my old playground no
more, and the sky is empty! (142)
As the moment becomes stored in the past, the
"intervening objects" blot out painful icons while the
vastness of the universe becomes symbolized in the empty
sky. For all the meanness and neglect, Copperfield's
soul knows how to seek out what is precious. Zosima,
too, has sought the precious; next, it is Alyosha's turn;
then Alyosha in turn passes the wisdom on to the boys.
Alyosha's role as mediator between the past and
present carries the weight of wisdom. Before Zosima
dies, a message comes to Alyosha through Father Paissy:
[Zosima] mentioned you. ... He remembered
you with loving concern; do you realize what
has been granted you? But why did he decide
that you should now spend time in the world?
It must mean that he foresees something in your
destiny! (158)
This message starts with a memory, the past, and moves to
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a prophecy, the future. Dostoevsky's selection of Father
Paissy as the messenger demonstrates his ironic wit:
because he represents the Russian present that is
composed of religion that takes on governmental
overtones, materialistic concerns, spiritual barrenness,
he can carry the message without having it imprinted on
his soul. He cannot understand the prophecyhe can only
feel glee at the ultimate human failings. Alyosha, on
the other hand, is able to see the whole, allow such
experiences to pass through him, leaving an impression
without changing his fundamental character. In other
words, rather than objectify the message, decipher it for
its characteristics, he views it as subject, something
distinct from himself yet a part of a greater whole. He
is able to reflect on his experiences, keep them in
context, figure out how they fit in the grand scheme.
Then, this wisdom, this voice of hope will speak to the
future.
The development of Alyosha as a new Christ figure
requires a vast amount of human understanding on
Dostoevsky's part. The role memory plays is no less
significant: it is through memory that Alyosha learns how
to put life into perspective, how to become part of an
ideal. But what is this ideal? We find in The Diary a
clear definition, which is in turn linked to the national
64


question, that we have already noted but is worth
repeating:
But what is this "Slavic idea in its loftiest
sense"? It became clear to everybody what it
is: above alli.e., prior to any historical,
political, etc., interpretationsit is a
sacrifice, even a longing for self-sacrifice in
behalf of one's brethren, a feeling of
voluntary duty on the part of the strongest
among the Slavic tribes to intercede in defense
of the weaker, in order to make him equal in
liberty and political independence to himthe
strongestand thereby, henceforth, to
establish the great all-Slavic communion in the
name of Christ's truth, i.e., for the benefit,
love and service of mankind as a whole, for the
defense of all the weak and oppressed
throughout the world. (424)
Thus, Dostoevsky looks to the individual to reshape
himself into a savior, to act on the behalf of the
weaker. But is this ideal so very different from
Dickens? Or is his indictment of Dickens's ideal as too
simple really just a comment on the different nature of
the problems facing the two nations: Russia's loss of
one part of history in the embracing of another versus
England's strong reliance on traditional values in a time
of changing attitudes. Dostoevsky argues for a higher
ideal, a transcendence of personal or national
fulfillment. In reaching out to save the weak and
suffering, Dostoevsky's hero can prevent Ivan's descent
into despair. In either case, Dostoevsky's ideal is
similar to rather than different from Dickens's.
65


Psychology in Dickens and David Copperfield
Whereas Dostoevsky is the recognized master of the
psychological novel, psychology usually is not the first
characteristic that comes to the reader's mind when
thinking of Dickens. However, the psychology of the
Victorian types reveals a paradox of the need to cling to
traditions in a time of change and yet the need to change
traditions to keep pace with progress. Tradition,
particularly a romanticized version of it, represents a
safe haven, a place to which people can turn for
security. Dickens recognizes and sympathizes with this
need in people. However, his fictionalized autobiography
tries to present a way in which people can look upon the
past realistically, seeing both the pain and pleasure and
allowing the experiences of the past to be put into a
universal context. How the individual chooses to view
his place in history in many ways informs his ability to
cope with the many changes taking place in the country.
Thus, Dickens explores the need to remember the past.
Dickens's interest in memory shows itself most
obviously in David Copperfield, a memoir. But the
significance of memory comes out in other books as well,
particularly in A Tale of Two Cities. From a national
perspective, Dickens shows in A Tale the importance of
remembering as accurately as possible all that has
66


happened before as well as the causes of those events.
The psychological tendency to focus on only one aspect of
the past, be it the positive or negative, is shattered by
the opening sentence:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of
times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age
of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it
was the epoch of incredulity, it was the
season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of
despair, we had everything before us, we had
nothing before us, we were all going direct to
Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-
-in short, the period was so far like the
present period, that some of its noisiest
authorities insisted on its being received, for
good or for evil, in the superlative degree of
comparison only. 4
Although Dickens focuses less on nationalistic concerns
and more on personal ones in David Copperfield, we can
usefully compare the attitudes of the two novels toward
history. In this sentence, Dickens is looking
unblinkingly at the situation. But history has a strange
way of misrepresenting itself.
Carlyle, in The French Revolution, a fictional
history on which most of Dickens's novel is based, tells
us,
. . [let] no man ask History to explain by
cause and effect how the business proceeded
henceforth. . The Mountain [of Gironde]
has left no Memoirs; the Girondins have left no
memoirs, which are too often little other than
long-drawn interjections, of Woe is me, and
Cursed be ye. So soon as History can
philosophically delineate the conflagration of
a kindled Fireship, she may try this other
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task. . The Fireship is old France, the
old French Form of Life; her crew a Generation
of men. . But on the whole, are they not
gone, 0 Reader? . One thing therefore
History will do: pity them all; for it went
hard with them all. Not even the seagreen
Incorruptible but shall have some pity, some
human love, though it takes an effort. And
now, so much once thoroughly attained, the
rest will become easier. To the eye of equal
brotherly pity, innumerable perversions
dissipate themselves; exaggerations and
execrations fall off, of their own accord.
Standing wistfully on the safe shore, we will
look, and see, what is of interest to us, what
is adapted to us.45
Carlyle's attitude in this passage reveals a paradox:
history is history, it happened in the past and no amount
of retelling will ever recreate the actual event, and yet
we must review history, look upon the events that are
similar to our own, in order to put our own events into a
greater perspective.
The retelling of past events may not be valuable as
an accurate history, but the lessons to be learned, the
recognition of similarities as well as differences, unite
us all in universal compassion. Furthermore, narration
has a way of objectifying the story so that it in turn
can be related to the greater picture. Thus, Dickens
retells his own history in David Copperfield, not in the
interest of accuracy but in the hope of precipitating a
reaction of "brotherly pity." As he tells us in the
original preface to the novel,
It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to
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know how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at
the close of a two-years' imaginative task; or
how an Author feels as if he were dismissing
some portion of himself into the shadowy world,
when a crowd of the creatures of his brain are
going from him for ever. (ix)
Like Coleridge's Mariner or Joseph Conrad's Marlow, the
teller links this particular history with a greater
history, that of the "shadowy world" in which all time
and memory is stored.
Dickens uses many psychological approaches to get to
this "shadowy world." His fascination with mesmerism
gives us one clue as to his immense understanding of how
events become embedded in the human psyche. Although
mesmerism was disputed and subsequently rejected by
scientists, during Dickens's day it was a topic of
considerable interest. A principle behind mesmerism, or
animal magnetism, as it is sometimes called, is the power
of the mind over the body, and the power of mental
impressions to change physical actions.46 While Dickens
on occasion implies a mesmerizing experience in one of
his stories, he also sometimes utilizes mesmerizing
techniques in the telling of his tales. Furthermore,
Dickens's interest in the subject was passed along to his
Russian protege, who also employed this technique. Both
were able to use mesmerism to try to affect the memories
of their readers.
In a mesmerizing technique we saw earlier in
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Alyosha's speech by Ilyusha's rock, Dickens makes use of
repeated words, alliteration, rhythm, and images to
impress moments in the reader's mind as well as to create
a hypnotic trance. This trance state is ideal for
Dickens to establish ideas and explain associations. In
one such instance in David Copperfield, Dickens uses
words to conjure up an image for the readers that becomes
as clear for them as it is for him; it is all fixed in
his memory by the senses:
I picture my small self in the dimly-lighted
rooms, sitting with my head upon my hand,
listening to the doleful performance of Mr.
Mell, and conning to-morrow's lessons. I
picture myself with my books shut up, still
listening to the doleful performance of Mr.
Mell, and listening through it to what used to
be at home and to the blowing of the wind on
Yarmouth flats, and feeling very sad and
solitary. I picture myself going up to bed,
among the unused rooms, and sitting on my bed-
side crying for a comfortable word from
Peggotty. I picture myself coming downstairs
in the morning. . (emphasis added, 74)
In this image, the adult Copperfield is recalling through
his senses how he was positioned, what his emotional
state was, what he was listening to and recalling. As
noted, he "pictures" himself four times, linking the
images he recalls to the sound of Mr. Mell's "doleful
performance." As he recalls the moment, he is also using
the senses as a way of fixing in the reader's mind the
scene. The reader "pictures" Dickens picturing.
By using this framework technique of narration,
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Dickens simultaneously distances us from the story and
draws us into the action. Like the audience for Marlow's
narration in Heart of Darkness, at times we are focused
on the action and at other times we are focused on the
narrator telling us the action. Focusing on the action
allows us to learn from the experience; focusing on the
narrator allows us to learn about the narrator and his
experience. There are actually at least two different
story lines occurring in David Copperfield: that of the
child's experience growing up and that of the adult's
attitude towards that growth. The carefully-chosen
wording of Dickens gives us both views.
Dickens also gives us another perspective: that of
Copperfield telling his story to someone else as we
watch. When Agnes is through cautioning Copperfield
against his friendship with Steerforth, with whom
Copperfield had been engaged in debauched activities, he
feels obliged to tell her how the drunken evening came
about:
"And when, Agnes," said I, "will you forgive me
the other night?"
"When I recall it," said Agnes.
She would have dismissed the subject so, but I
was too full of it to allow that, and insisted
on telling her how it happened that I had
disgraced myself. . . (338)
We see Dickens at work with psychology on two different
levels in this short passage. The first is Agnes's
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avowal to forgive Copperfield when she remembers what he
had done. This delay of forgiveness, although possibly
nothing more than a polite demurral of Copperfield's
transgressions, can nevertheless be seen as Agnes's
recognition of the need to objectify experiences in order
to put them in context. Thus, if she remembers, she will
do so with the tempering light of universal love.
Next, we observe Copperfield's urge to tell his
story. Dickens alludes to this urge when he writes to a
Dr. Stone about the doctor's essay on dreams. In his
letter, Dickens relates an anecdote about a recurring
dream which goes away when he writes a letter home about
it.47 Dickens tells Dr. Stone that "Secrecy on the part
of the dreamer, as to these illusions, has a remarkable
tendency to perpetuate them." Once the secret is out,
the cycle of dreams is broken. The psychological
ramification of keeping secrets plays itself out in
characters like Mr. Wickfield, but Copperfield learns
early the power of confession.
Dickens also makes use of the hypnotic or
mesmerizing dream or trance state as a way of associating
various memories. Again, Copperfield is conjuring up
images for the reader, but he puts himself in a half-
sleeping state to recreate the scene:
Here I sit at the desk again, on a drowsy
summer afternoon. A buzz and hum go up around
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me, as if the boys were so many bluebottles. A
cloggy sensation of the lukewarm fat of meat is
upon me (we dined an hour or two ago), and my
head is as heavy as so much lead. I would give
the world to go to sleep. (83)
Here, he combines the drowsy, fly-droning image, which we
as readers can easily imagine for ourselves, with the
mesmerizing effect of the moment. As we sink back in
time, Dickens aligns the magnetic lead commonly used in
mesmerism with the suggestion that we could go to sleep.
Once someone is mesmerized, whether the reader or
Copperfield or Dickens, shaping experiences come to the
surface. Under the influence of mesmerism, Fred Kaplan
argues in Dickens and Mesmerism (1975),
There is the past of one's immediate youth, the
birth and childhood of consciousness and self-
identity, as if by focusing on the
sensibilities of developing children Dickens
could get closer to the formative mysteries
that are hidden from the adult during his
normal functioning.48
We can agree with Kaplan that Dickens presents
mesmerizing moments when delving into the secrets of his
past, and Kaplan is right to acknowledge the Romantic
sense in which Dickens employs memory of his childhood as
a child to get at shaping moments. If an adult is
unaware of the exact moments that impressed ideals into
his or her psyche, remembering what one remembered as a
child, what struck the child as most impressive, might
free those moments. Thus, Dickens is concerned with
73


memory in all its manifestations. Furthermore, he offers
David Copperfield as an exemplum. In reading the book,
the reader can learn how to put memory in perspective.
Dickens uses mesmerism to get at the past, but he also
projects this association off the page and into the
reader's mind. Finally, he tries to find realistic ways
in which his character could recall the past, could find
those shaping memories.
On the surface, Dickens's use of memory seems
simplistic. Speaking to a nation embroiled in social
reform, he tries to find a way in which people may
reshape themselves and their view of life. Many of his
novels are written from the narrative point of view of an
adult recollecting and reflecting on his childhood. As
Dickens tells us in David Copperfield,
. . and if it should appear from anything I
may set down in this narrative that I was a
child of close observation, or that as a man I
have a strong memory of my childhood, I
undoubtedly lay claim to both of these
characteristics. (12)
Dickens seems to be defending himself against the charge
of fictionalizing details. But his point is important in
the theme of his story: childhood memories are deeply
impressed, both by close observation and by strong
memories. The man who is reflecting is an adult who
recognizes the power of impressions, observed or
absorbed.
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In reflection, Dickens tries to point to those
moments in time which have shaped the man. Once he
identifies an objective moment, Copperfield places this
moment in a greater context, juxtaposing the negative
with the positive. Donald Fanger notes one of the
functions of childhood memories in Dostoevsky and
Romantic Realism (1967):
Where the adult observer in Dickens most often
sees in London chaos and alienationand
latterly the unifying action of the inhuman
forces, economic and politicalthe child's eye
opposes to its embroidery of grotesque terrors
the redeeming examples of elementary virtues,
simply exercisedkindness, love, good humor,
fortitudethe family virtues.49
Although Fanger is correct in noting the elementary
nature of virtue in a child's view, one must also note
that it is the adult who is looking back, who is
realizing the importance of remembering those virtues and
keeping them in sight in order to control and counteract
the evil forces in the adult man and society. Even if
the observer is objectifying history, he or she must also
be able to put the whole into perspective. This ability
only comes with maturity. Those who never mature never
learn how to see the greater whole.
If the adult sees horror or despair, as Dickens
frequently did during his childhood and maturity, and as
Dostoevsky's Ivan recalled, he or she must realize what
can be learned from that recollection. Ivan's severe
75


reaction towards humanity will serve no purpose; instead,
one must concentrate on a higher ideal and constantly
seek to attain it. Thus, Copperfield recalls with
despair his state of neglect after his mother's death,
but he tempers the memory with a sense of compassion for
all who have suffered similar fates (138). As a child,
he would not have been able to find this sense, but as an
adult, he can. He has harvested education from the seeds
of his childhood.
Juxtaposing the child's and the adult's view, and
occasionally combining the two, Dickens can transcend the
traditional social problems of lack of contentment in a
progressively changing world, showing the individual how
to reshape him- or herself. As we consider Copperfield's
attitude towards his own life, we learn to "picture" our
own life. Naturally, as we search through the sea of
memories that define our existence, we will find those
that inspire negative and those that inspire positive
responses. But by picturing those moments and
juxtaposing them with our other experiences, we learn to
view those moments subjectively. By appealing to a
higher ideal, as Copperfield does, we temper those
moments with universal love, and we learn compassion,
which in turn extends into our present life.
Beth Herst, in The Dickens Hero (1990), argues that
76


Copperfield is less "social" than "universal."50 In this
sense, we can regard Copperfield's growth as timeless, a
compilation of observations and psychological contours
more common to humanity in general than to the Victorians
specifically. And yet, this very timelessness implies a
complexity Dostoevsky believed to be lacking in Dickens's
work. Rather than present an ideal that offers a
temporary solution to a temporary problem, Dickens
reveals a psychological escape from the suffering of an
age.
Change is not an English distinction, nor does it
have to be dramatic to affect a person. Although
Copperfield undergoes a series of experiences that wring
emotional responses from the reader, these experiences
are not nearly as dramatic as those suffered by, say, Pip
and Magwitch at the hands of the justice system in Great
Expectations or Charles Darriay and Sydney Carton at the
hands of another kind of justice in A Tale of Two Cities.
Rather, the relative ordinariness of Copperfield's
experiences, particularly in light of the relative
magnitude of those experienced by a large segment of the
Victorian population, serves to underscore the design of
this novel. Change is a universal, and so too is
Dickens's ideal. We learn how to cope with progress in
the very act of learning how to change or improve
77


ourselves. But an improvement only comes about through
an awareness of the need to change. Although Steerforth
has a moment or two of serious reflection, for the most
part he fails to reflect honestly enough to become aware
of the need to improve himself. On the other hand,
Copperfield seeks a higher ideal.
On a somewhat more secular plane, Dickens and
Dostoevsky employed similar psychological themes in their
stories. Just as Dostoevsky starts with the memory of a
murder framed by the savior role of the third son, so too
does Dickens start David Copperfield with the memory of a
boy framed by prophecy: he is predicted to have an
unlucky life and to be able to see ghosts and spirits,
the moments from the past. Furthermore, he is placed at
the crux of time: he is born at midnight, the moment that
is neither yesterday nor tomorrow. Dickens's symbolic
placement becomes fact for the Russians, who are truly
poised at a crucial, defining moment. Although we might
be tempted to toss off the attempts by Dickens to
belittle superstition as an example of his supreme comic
and ironic flair, it should be noted that this
positioning will play an important role throughout the
book. Dickens places Copperfield just as Dostoevsky
positions Alyosha, at the apex between the past and the
future. Copperfield's memories of the past will help him
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shape a future.
As with the Karamazov brothers, Copperfield lacks a
parent and soon becomes an orphan. The extreme loss and
sense of rootlessness manifests itself in many characters
in David Copperfield. Miss Betsy "forgets" her husband
by attempting to erase all appearances that she had ever
been married. The Murdstones attempt this same type of
erasure when they move into Blunderstone Rookery.
Interestingly enough, Copperfield keeps his father alive
by speaking of him as though he had been a part of
Copperfield's life: speaking of Miss Betsy, we hear, "My
father had often hinted that she seldom conducted herself
like any ordinary Christian . ." (4). Our perceptions
are confused by the adult speaker telling us what his
father had hinted at: did Copperfield know his father or
not? We can regard this type of talk as indicative of
Copperfield's need to place all his memories,
experiential or second-hand, in the forefront. Moreover,
his father's death creates another kind of forsakenness:
the child's "forgotten" guiding principle, the parents
who are to act as mentors.
Forsaken does not mean just forgotten in Dickens,
however. Revenge based on a misshapen past also plays a
role in his novel. In David Copperfield, we see Uriah
Heep, who projects his misery onto the social caste
79


system that keeps him in his place, preventing him from
finding a legitimate way to succeed:
Father and me was both brought up at a
foundation school for boys; and mother, she was
likewise brought up at a public, sort of
charitable, establishment. They taught us all
a deal of umblenessnot much else that I know
of, from morning to night. We was to be umble
to this person, and umble to that; and to pull
off our caps here, and to make bows there; and
always to know our place, and abase ourselves
before our betters! And we had such a lot of
betters. . "Be umble, Uriah," says father
to me, "and you'll get on." (529-530)
Copperfield notes, "It was the first time it had ever
occurred to me, that this detestable cant of false
humility might have originated out of the Heep family."
When Uriah boasts of having "little power," Copperfield
finally comes into awareness of the situation:
I had never doubted his meanness, his craft and
malice; but I fully comprehended now, for the
first time, what a base, unrelenting, and
revengeful spirit must have been engendered by
this early, and this long, suppression. (530)
Uriah carries the revengeful spirit that causes him to
trample on others in an attempt to gain some type of
dignity.
Psychologically, Heep's "cant of false humility" is
actually a way to manipulate and control situations. He
can mouth words that have meaning to others, particularly
people who place a high value on '"umbleness," but he
does not have to take the words to heart. Just as
Victorian positivists view history from an objective
80


point of view, so too does Heep adopt this attitude of
"'umbleness." The distinction between Heep and Traddles,
who also has an attitude of "'umbleness," is that
Traddles a,lso focuses on a moral ideal. Heep can only
see the object; his desire for revenge obscures his
ability to see beyond the veil of social oppression. He
knows what '"umbleness" means in a public sense, but the
actual psychological ramifications are the feelings of
inferiority and abasement. His attempt to disguise his
real character falls victim to his true psyche, which
reveals itself after many years of repression.
Dickens was infinitely aware of the ways in which
memory works in childhood. Not only does a child feel
strongly a sense of injustice, such as Uriah feels, but
he also feels the lack of love. Dickens is often found
pondering the state of affairs that leaves a child with
no good memories to recall. Dostoevsky, perhaps because
of the nature of Russia's dilemma, focuses on the bad
memories, but memories in Russia are bound up by
religious superstition and mysticism as well as inhumane
treatment. English memories, as Dickens presents them,
reflect a romantic ideology of traditional ideals while
ignoring the harsh realities those ideals created. Here,
Dickens recollects the despair of child tossed away:
The deep remembrance of the sense I had, of
being utterly without hope now; of the shame I
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felt in my position; of the misery it was to my
young heart to believe that day by day what I
had learned, and thought, and delighted in, and
raised my fancy and my emulation up by, would
pass away from me, little by little, never to
be brought back any more; cannot be written.
(143)
Dickens combines his concern with children and memory and
the inescapable conclusion of what might happen to
society if a child's happy memories are erased or never
impressed.
Responsibility for behavior extends beyond a happy
or unhappy upbringing, however. To Dickens, a person
must choose to remember the past correctly and accept
complicity in his or her own achievements and failings in
order to achieve the ideal. We can see from the example
of Steerforth what happens to those who forget or fail to
observe. Steerforth appears as the adult Kolya might
have become had Kolya not met Alyosha. Steerforth has
the same charismatic, adventuresome character as Kolya.
Both boys have doting mothers who live for their sons but
fail to provide any real guidance. Both are worshipped
by younger, more impressionable boys. Just as Kolya
befriends Ilyusha, so too does Steerforth befriend a
young, impressionable Copperfield, who so worships this
hero that he even forgives him for getting Mr. Mell, the
son of a beggar-woman, fired from his teaching position
(92). Notice Copperfield does not forgethe simply
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forgives. In David Copperfield, Steerforth has the same
pivotal role as Kolya, but he is ultimately lost whereas
Kolya is saved.
Like the aristocracy of England, Steerforth can show
surprising warmth and human kindness, but he can be just
as thoughtless and cruel. When he remembers him,
Steerforth tramples Traddles, Copperfield's other true
friend. He cannot be bothered with the trivial in life,
like remembering names"Old what's-his-name's in a bad
way ..." (392)or lives he may have crushed, like Rosa
Dartle's. True to his name, Steerforth cuts a steady
path across all mankind on his way to getting what he
wants. He leaves his mark behind him, whether it is on a
face like Rosa's or by a nickname like "Daisy" or simply
in a memory, but he seems to take no impressions himself.
Although he clearly can be kind, he only does so when it
suits his fancy. His personality is such that he could
go either way, but not for any moral purpose. He lacks
the guidance that shows him how to appreciate and adhere
to a higher principle.
The one time we see Steerforth recognize his
carelessness, the chance to redeem himself, Dickens uses
the instance to explore the way in which the mind
associates through dreams. As Dickens indicates in his
letter to Dr. Stone, he believes that dreams portray
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memories of the past that have not yet been brought to
closure. Dostoevsky will echo this idea when Ivan is
visited by the devil during a nightmare. The first words
the demon speaks are a reminder: "'Listen, . forgive
me, it's just a reminder: didn't you go to Smerdyakov to
find out about Katerina Ivanovna? Yet you left without
finding out anything about her, you must have forgotten
. . ." (636). Although the immediacy of this memory
belies Dickens's contention that dreams present the
remote past, the devil is actually an incarnation of
Ivan's culminated beliefs. His ideology becomes mixed
together into this one character. Dickens also often
portrays people or events that would or could be pivotal
as ghosts from the past, so we find Steerforth rebuking
Copperfield: "You came upon me," he said, almost
angrily, "like a reproachful ghost!" (295). In this
scene, Steerforth has been contemplating the images in
the fireplace. Steerforth reflects that he has been
incapable of guiding himself because he was only a child,
but he has had no other guidance, either.
The confusion between childhood memories and the
need for a moral conscience is seen in this passage:
At odd dull times, nursery tales come up into
the memory, unrecognized for what they are. I
believe I have been confounding myself with the
bad boy who 'didn't care,' and became food for
lionsa grander kind of going to the dogs, I
suppose. What old women call the horrors, have
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been creeping over me from head to foot. I
have been afraid of myself. (296)
He recalls the romantic fairy tales his mother and
Copperfield have told him, and, like Ivan with his ideas
incarnated in the devil, Steerforth melds them with his
present, the reality of his careless life.
This truth is hard to acknowledge, and Steerforth
does so only for a moment. In Victorian social
structures, the truth that the past may be a bit
idealized is also difficult to acknowledge, but when the
past is coupled with the present condition, the truth
reveals itself. Thus, for Dickens all fictional and
fallacious ideals are exposed eventually. Dickens
represents his belief that the past is like a repressed
memory: it cannot help but surface at some point or
another.
As Steerforth reflects on this glimpse of truth, he
comes to recognize the power and importance of judgment.
He begins to imagine a parade of people from his past,
acting as a kind of moral leveler. He imagines them
passing judgment on his actions and finding him wanting.
Steerforth notes, "'I wish with all my soul I had been
better guided!' ... 'I wish with all my soul I could
guide myself better"' (296)! Not all of Dickens's
characters show this kind of self-reflectionUriah
recalls but does not reflect on meaning, for examplebut
85


we see it in enough characters in this book to realize it
has significance. We see a similar awareness of the need
for guidance in Kolya in Brothers Karamazov. When he has
talked with Alyosha about his philosophical beliefs (a
thirteen-year old with philosophy!) and Alyosha has
gently retrained his thinking, Kolya says, "Oh, how I've
yearned for you, Karamazov, how long I've been seeking to
meet you" (558)! Kolya has the education and the
objective ideas, but he has had no way to direct his
thinking towards a greater conviction. The same lack of
guidance occurs with Steerforth, who lives by his own
principles, based on a selfish, spoiled upbringing. The
sad lament that he wishes he could guide himself better
opens the door for Copperfield to think about guiding
himself, too.
For Copperfield, this moment also allows him to
realize the kinds of masks people can wear. This
knowledge will be important later in life when he needs
to know who is living a lie and who is truthful.
Although it may be stretching the point a bit,
Copperfield's bemused observation, "He was more unlike
himself than I could have supposed possible," leads the
reader, if not Copperfield himself, to the realization
that those who wear masks often never know who they
really are, let alone allow others to know their true
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character. However, Dickens argues for a truth that
cannot stay repressed for too long. On the other hand,
for Steerforth, it is a moment of self-revelation, but
one he cannot maintain for too long or look at too
closely: '"So much for that!' he said, making as if he
tossed something light into the air, with his hand"
(297). Instead of reflecting the philosophical interest
seen in Kolya, Steerforth displays the aristocratic,
"devil-may-care" attitude. So he dashes headlong into
life and drowns.
The drowning of Steerforth suggests an attitude by
Dickens towards the aristocracy that cannot bear too much
scrutiny in this study. Rather than target a particular
class in these novels, both Dickens and Dostoevsky
explore social fragmentation, the idea that a society
torn away from its place in the infinite will suffer
division and defeat at the hand of a baser principle.
Both men feel sorrow and rage at the treatment of
children. However, they also must give hope, be a
spiritual guide to their readers. In Dostoevsky, that
hope comes in the form of a savior who creates many
saviors; in Dickens, good and bad memories recalled by
the individual help steer him or her towards a universal
ideal. Although he points accusing fingers at it,
Dickens is not trying to show society how it can reform
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itself; rather, he shows the individual how to overcome a
society that will do wrong, how to shape a strong
character despite malevolent social experiences. The
person who will succeed is the one who can remember
everything, good and bad, and learn from the experience
by aligning the objective moment with the subject, the
ideal.
Although Copperfield is able to use memory of
childhood friends to create feelings of compassion and
sentimental longing, almost always those friends are dead
or thought so: in David Copperfield, after Steerforth
runs off with Emily, Copperfield thinks of him as "a
cherished friend, who was dead" (419), and Dora, his
child-wife, is later refracted through the lens of
sentimentality and wisdom. What is interesting about
Dickens and his sentimental view is the way in which his
narrator or hero uses those memories as a touchstone for
good. The adult hero knows the shortcomings of each of
the deceased characters; he simply chooses to temper his
knowledge with the recognition of human failings. This
seemingly sentimental way of remembering may seem like
the way in which the Victorians viewed symbols like the
Crystal Palace, but it is important that we remember that
this symbol has been placed in a greater context for
Dickens. He sees a distinction between viewing a symbol
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as a discrete object with only a limited amount of
associations and viewing the symbol in its whole context.
In Dickens's England, part of the problem lay in the
fact that the past was viewed with an idealistic glow.
In David Copperfield, Mr. Murdstone and his sister become
icons for the Victorian middle class, which attempts to
recreate itself by abolishing the negative past. Through
the Murdstone siblings, Dickens reveals the self-
righteous hypocrisy of creating ideals based on
conceptions rather than experience. Murdstone considers
himself better than Copperfield's mother and thus
attempts to raise her up to his level by erasing her
past. However, Murdstone maintains his own shady past by
keeping in contact with his old cronies like Mr. Quinion.
Murdstone and his sister believe in the aristocratic
ideal for the chosen, but they neglect to reflect on what
their own experience might have to say about their
character. Going to "the school of hard knocks" can be
an ideal that will build moral character and fiber;
however, as we see when Murdstone beats young
Copperfield, just as he himself had been beaten as a boy,
the experience of Murdstone and the change in his
character is reflected in David's reaction. Copperfield
says, "How well I remember, when my smart and passion
began to cool, how wicked I began to feel!" (53).
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The difference between Copperfield's and Murdstone's
experience is such that, while Murdstone believes he
received only an education in "firmness," Copperfield
escapes to expand his education through Peggotty, Miss
Betsy, Agnes, and a whole host of memory-making
experiences. The middle class, represented in part by
the Murdstones, sets goals based on aristocratic ideals,
just as the Russians create goals based on the European
ideal, but neither Dostoevsky's Russians nor Dickens's
English consider the human potential that gets wasted
when it is trampled beneath the drive for prosperity.
The idealized past leads to a future based on the broken
lives of individuals.
In Dickensian England, the past should be recalled
on the human level in realistic terms, not only in a
sentimental haze. Murdstone thinks of his "ideal" that
came out of his past without thinking of his own feelings
while undergoing his conversion to "idealism."
Copperfield shows the reader the importance of recalling
all experience as a way of maintaining human integrity
and interaction. He recognizes his own complicity in the
failing of his marriage; he sees the shortcomings in his
idols; he can see the humanity in the most evil of
creatures. Although the novel may have a sentimental
glow in that it fails to note that not all humans are
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capable of the kind of reflection Copperfield is, like
Dostoevsky, Dickens tries to reflect a positive influence
on his readership. The difference between Dostoevsky and
Dickens is that Dickens recognizes the individual
experience as capable of shaping in a positive way; each
person can be responsible for creating and remembering
his own web of education, his own life. Dostoevsky
insists on a mentoring aspect that involves leaders;
Dickens allows experience and a universal ideal to be a
mentor in and of itself.
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CHAPTER 4
CONCLUSION
When we began this study, we were considering
Dostoevsky's belief that Dickens's ideal was too
simplistic for Russia's problem. We might now ask, "What
is Dickens's ideal?" But we would probably still find
the answer elusive. Ideals tend to be enigmatic and
chimeric. They are most often defined by the effect they
produce. In England, the Victorian age seen through the
eyes of Dickens seems to be defined by its materialistic,
aristocratic, and rationalistic ideals. Perhaps we could
better define Dickens's ideal by what is missing during
his time: an adherence to a loftier moral principle.
This principle supplies that which is missing from the
other three ideals: a sense of charity; a sense of human
compassion; a connection to a transcendent, infinite
whole. In Dickens's children, we find all three traits.
Dostoevsky is in search of an ideal that can satisfy
the problem in Russia, but he too recognizes that good
ideals tend to satisfy universal needs first. The
national ideals follow in turn. As Dickens had implied,
being able to recall the past with a sense of compassion
and brotherly love, which comes from recognizing the
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larger context, the infinite, universal whole, allows
people to view the present with the same sense.
Dostoevsky stresses the role of a mentor in this process
more strongly, but I do not believe that Dickens
considers a mentor less important than Dostoevsky
believed the role to be. Rather, I believe he considers
the world to be made up of many perspectives, all of
which coalesce into a universal. Dostoevsky's ideal
seems more that each individual is responsible for
creating a web of universal love by acting as a link.
Thus, Dickens sees an ideal as preexisting; Dostoevsky
sees the ideal as created.
Both authors recognize the importance of the past.
The sentimental glow of Copperfield1s past is meant to
create an atmosphere that makes remembering more
tempting, more accessible, for the reader as well as the
character. In a nation that prefers to maintain its
"stiff upper-lip," Dickens shows how to look at the past
realistically in order to create a more positive future.
Russia's past is more complicated than England's.
The memory of war and its atrocities and betrayal of
ideals was still fresh in the nation's consciousness.
The government had let the people down, and yet it was a
government to be followed. The ties with the Russian
church were strong and more tenacious. To break with
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tradition would be to break with nationality.
Dostoevsky shows this dilemma in the psyches of his
confused and questing characters. For those like Dmitri,
the web of experience has not connected them with a
greater perspective. Thus, his psyche and his actions in
turn reflect his feeling of rootlessness, the very same
rootlessness that led the aristocracy of Russia to search
for philosophical ideals. The need to be linked to the
infinite is, for Dostoevsky, a basic human ideal. The
rend in the fabric of the universe is not one that can be
repaired easily, nor is it one that can be repaired by
oneself. But we each have within us the capability of
helping to repair the tear.
However, Dostoevsky's ideal is a paradox: in order
to instill a sense of connectedness, we must first be
aware of the ways in which we have become unconnected.
This awareness means that we must first have a greater
vision, a sense of the infinite. But if we are
unconnected, we start to focus on objective ideals, like
the Westernizers, the Slavophiles, and the positivists
did. Once our vision is obscured from the subjective
view, how do we know we need to clear it, or that we are
missing a bigger picture?
Dickens's sense that there is a greater subject to
which all objective ideals must yield seems more
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