A passage from Little Dorrit that particularly struck me is in chapter 2. (LD is public domain, so we can quote as much as we like. Ima quote a lot.)
The Meagles adopted a girl from the “foundling home” in Coram’s Fields in London, to be a maid for their beloved pampered daughter. (There’s a very funny but touching section where Mr Meagle narrates the story to Arthur, and he keeps saying, “as practical people, we” etcetera – it’s his story about them that they’re immensely practical – and then going on to describe compassionate generous behavior that’s not at all practical.) The daughter and maid are grown now, just barely.
A character named Miss Wade goes upstairs in the hotel where this set of characters have happened to meet each other.
Now, there were many stairs and passages that she had to traverse
in passing from that part of the spacious house to the chamber she
had secured for her own occupation. When she had almost completed
the journey, and was passing along the gallery in which her room
was, she heard an angry sound of muttering and sobbing. A door
stood open, and within she saw the attendant upon the girl she had
just left; the maid with the curious name.
She stood still, to look at this maid. A sullen, passionate girl!
Her rich black hair was all about her face, her face was flushed
and hot, and as she sobbed and raged, she plucked at her lips with
an unsparing hand.
‘Selfish brutes!’ said the girl, sobbing and heaving between
whiles. ‘Not caring what becomes of me! Leaving me here hungry
and thirsty and tired, to starve, for anything they care! Beasts!
‘My poor girl, what is the matter?’
She looked up suddenly, with reddened eyes, and with her hands
suspended, in the act of pinching her neck, freshly disfigured with
great scarlet blots. ‘It’s nothing to you what’s the matter. It
don’t signify to any one.’
‘O yes it does; I am sorry to see you so.’
‘You are not sorry,’ said the girl. ‘You are glad. You know you
are glad. I never was like this but twice over in the quarantine
yonder; and both times you found me. I am afraid of you.’
‘Afraid of me?’
‘Yes. You seem to come like my own anger, my own malice, my own–
whatever it is–I don’t know what it is. But I am ill-used, I am
ill-used, I am ill-used!’ Here the sobs and the tears, and the
tearing hand, which had all been suspended together since the first
surprise, went on together anew.
The visitor stood looking at her with a strange attentive smile.
It was wonderful to see the fury of the contest in the girl, and
the bodily struggle she made as if she were rent by the Demons of
‘I am younger than she is by two or three years, and yet it’s me
that looks after her, as if I was old, and it’s she that’s always
petted and called Baby! I detest the name. I hate her! They make
a fool of her, they spoil her. She thinks of nothing but herself,
she thinks no more of me than if I was a stock and a stone!’ So
the girl went on.
‘You must have patience.’
‘I WON’T have patience!’
‘If they take much care of themselves, and little or none of you,
you must not mind it.’
I WILL mind it.’
‘Hush! Be more prudent. You forget your dependent position.’
‘I don’t care for that. I’ll run away. I’ll do some mischief. I
won’t bear it; I can’t bear it; I shall die if I try to bear it!’
The observer stood with her hand upon her own bosom, looking at the
girl, as one afflicted with a diseased part might curiously watch
the dissection and exposition of an analogous case.
The girl raged and battled with all the force of her youth and
fulness of life, until by little and little her passionate
exclamations trailed off into broken murmurs as if she were in
pain. By corresponding degrees she sank into a chair, then upon
her knees, then upon the ground beside the bed, drawing the
coverlet with her, half to hide her shamed head and wet hair in it,
and half, as it seemed, to embrace it, rather than have nothing to
take to her repentant breast.
‘Go away from me, go away from me! When my temper comes upon me,
I am mad. I know I might keep it off if I only tried hard enough,
and sometimes I do try hard enough, and at other times I don’t and
won’t. What have I said! I knew when I said it, it was all lies.
They think I am being taken care of somewhere, and have all I want.
They are nothing but good to me. I love them dearly; no people
could ever be kinder to a thankless creature than they always are
to me. Do, do go away, for I am afraid of you. I am afraid of
myself when I feel my temper coming, and I am as much afraid of
you. Go away from me, and let me pray and cry myself better!’
And then the chapter ends. Dickens was quite a psychologist, along with his other talents.
(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)