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“The Child’s Story” by Charles Dickens (thoughts)

January 26, 2009

shotsofshortNote: I actually read this story awhile ago now, but I typed up this review right after I’d read it. ;) -Eva
I just read Charles Dickens’ “The Child’s Story” as part of the 100 Shots of Short Story Challenge. Dickens and I have a rocky relationship…the only book of his I’ve really, truly loved is A Tale of Two Cities (I dressed up as Lucy for a seventh grade book report on that one, and I made a model guillotine). Sure, I’ve read others (Hard Times, Great Expectations, A Christmas Story, half of Pickwick Papers), but somehow he doesn’t make my heart race like my favourite authors, and I would never turn to him in a reading slump.

But I’ve never tried his short stories, so I thought it was about time! “The Child’s Story” is a charming little allegory about the stages of a man’s life, obviously meant to be read aloud (and I’ve heard that Dickens was wonderful at that). It begins:

Once upon a time, a good many years ago, there was a traveller, and he set out upon a journey. It was a magic journey, and was to seem very long when he began it, and very short when he got half way through.

It quickly becomes apparent that the journey is life, and Dickens conjures up the magic of the various early stages with a deft hand. My favourite was when the traveller plays with a child:

So, he played with that child, the whole day long, and they were very merry. The sky was so blue, the sun was so bright, the water was so sparkling, the leaves were so green, the flowers were so lovely, and they heard such singing-birds and saw so many butteries, that everything was beautiful. This was in fine weather. When it rained, they loved to watch the falling drops, and to smell the fresh scents. When it blew, it was delightful to listen to the wind, and fancy what it said, as it came rushing from its home– where was that, they wondered!–whistling and howling, driving the clouds before it, bending the trees, rumbling in the chimneys, shaking the house, and making the sea roar in fury. But, when it snowed, that was best of all; for, they liked nothing so well as to look up at the white flakes falling fast and thick, like down from the breasts of millions of white birds; and to see how smooth and deep the drift was; and to listen to the hush upon the paths and roads.

It rather reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ description of Narnia in The Magician’s Nephew, one of my favourites of the series.  It just had that perfect note of childhood.

In between childhood and adulthood, the traveller meets a boy and a youth as well, who each have their particular tasks.

That being said, Dickens doesn’t seem to find much magic in adulthood, which was a bit depressing. According to him, it’s just work, work, work and goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. Still, this was a short little sketch that charmed me, and I’m glad that I read it.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2009 8:05 am

    I haven’t read any of Dickens’ short stories either. This sounds like a great place to start! Glad you enjoyed it. Oh, and A Tale of Two Cities is one of my two favorite Dickens novels. Great Expectations is up there among the faves too.

  2. January 26, 2009 10:00 am

    You read A Tale of Two Cities for seventh grade? Wow! We had to read it in10th, but I never actually did. Of all the books I’ve ever had to read for school, the only ones I skipped altogether were A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Letter.

  3. January 26, 2009 12:38 pm

    Well this one sounds really good! I’ll have to read it. I read a Tale of Two Cities in 8th grade and it still remains one of my favorite books! Just love it!

  4. January 26, 2009 2:08 pm

    Haven’t read any of his short stories either… I just wanted to say thanks for the link to the Classic Reader. What a great source!

  5. January 26, 2009 3:11 pm

    Quit it! Now I’m going to have to read Dickens again too. You’re such a bad influence, Eva! My favs are David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Bleak House.

    Did you find his short stories online?

  6. January 26, 2009 5:24 pm

    We read “A Christmas Carol” in grade 7, but that’s been it for me and Dickens. I really should remedy that. A short story might be just the place to start.

  7. January 27, 2009 2:26 am

    I love this, Eva. Will have to look for this short story.. I love Dickens, esp. Great Expectations. :)

  8. fleurfisher permalink
    January 27, 2009 9:51 am

    This looks good! I do find that Dickens works best in short stories or installments.

  9. January 27, 2009 8:22 pm

    Eva, have you ever watched any of the BBC adaptations of Dickens? We own a set of them and they are great. It might be a good place for you to gain an appreciation of his storytelling. But be warned, they are long (6 hours!) and they have tons of characters. Our Mutual Friend and Bleak House are both wonderfully done. You should try them.

  10. January 27, 2009 10:50 pm

    Andi, lurve Tale of Two Cities. I wish I loved Great Expectations, since I had to read it twice for school (I moved between ninth and tenth grade…also read “Romeo and Juliet” twice). But Pip annoys me too badly.

    Sarah, I didn’t read it for class-I read it on my own. We had to do two book reports a semester, but they could be on any book. :) I really enjoyed The Scarlet Letter too!

    Chris, I totally wanted to be Lucy. And I still kind of do. ;)

    Iliana, isn’t Classic reader cool?!

    Chartroose, I haven’t read David Copperfield or Bleak House. And yep I found the story online-it’s linked in the post!

    John, you didn’t have to read Great Expectatoins?! Yay for Canada-every American I know had to read that one for school. :)

    Claire, it’s linked in the post!

    Fleurfisher, I think I need to read Pickwick Papers over an entire year, in serial installments like how it was published. Because I really enjoy it, but I can’t seem to just get through it.

    Petunia, I haven’t watched any BBC adaptations. I do appreciate his story telling…I just don’t mesh with him very well! ;)

  11. January 28, 2009 9:20 am

    Some (many?) of Dickens´ books seem a bit longwinded to modern readers. I ´had to´ read a few for a seminar at the university. I did not mind, but the one I really love and have read at least twice is “Our Mutual Friend”. It has crime fiction in it (but not the gory kind), plus some great love stories.

  12. January 28, 2009 9:32 am

    I haven’t read any short stories by Dickens, either. This one sounds quite good. Thanks for the review. I confess I did like Great Expectations a lot.

  13. January 28, 2009 11:02 am

    Автору респект! Написано красиво!

  14. January 28, 2009 5:34 pm

    I L-O-V-E Dickens!

  15. January 28, 2009 10:31 pm

    Dorte, it’s not the longwindedness that’s the problem-I mean, I love Tolstoy and Hugo. I don’t know why Dickens and I don’t get along!

    Lisa, it’s good and short, which is extra nice!

    Maxart, I’m glad you like Dickens. :) I respect him too, even though he isn’t my favourite.

    Jessica, good for you-I wish I did!

  16. tin permalink
    February 20, 2011 6:15 am

    what is the theme here is this story?

  17. Sora permalink
    March 19, 2012 10:11 pm

    this story, to me, was kind of confusing,but then after i went through it again i got it Tin the theme is life the traveler went through his life with himself.

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