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Friday, May 1, 2009

The innocence of Nell

One thing that becomes clear in TOCS is that Nell attracts men to her. In fact, all but one of the characters that Nell interacts with for an extended period are men, that being Mrs. Jarley, an owner of traveling wax-work. For Quilp, the attraction is of a strange, sexual nature. Not only does he enjoy sleeping in her bed when he occupies the titular shop but also he even asks her to be Mrs. Quilp when his wife perishes. He calls her "charmingly pretty" (chapter 6) and even goes so far as to describe her as "Such a fresh, blooming, modest little bud, neighbour" continuing his description with "such a chubby, rosy, cosy, little Nell" (chapter 9). The evil Quilp sees the good in Nell and seeks possession of her in order to corrupt her. Nell herself is terrified by the unnerving presence of the dwarf.

For the Grandfather, his attraction to Nell is based on his feeling of obligation to provide a fortune for Nell once he dies. This urge causes him to develop a gambling habit in which he loses all of the money he borrowed from and is not able to repay to Quilp, from whom he and Nell are forced to flee. When Nell is able to earn money while working for Mrs. Jarley, he again pursues the game of cards until he steals money from Nell. Nell eventually removes him from that environment to prevent the same temptation in the future.

The poor schoolmaster, later named Mr. Marton, is attracted to Nell's innocence because he meets her right before the death of his "little scholar." In Nell, he sees another pupil of sorts who could replace the last in terms of temperament. Like that scholar, Nell, though young, is mature and intelligent beyond her years. Her imaginative perspective draws others to her. She too is able to sit at his feet and learn, though the schoolmaster eventually loses her too.

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