This past Sunday, in communicating the idea that God is not the Author of evil, I contemplated the fact that when Charles Dickens wrote his stories, he included characters that were villains and were extremely evil, yet Dickens himself, although creator of these characters and their subsequent affairs, was not evil. Well that just got me thinking…
Who are some of the worst Characters in Dickens’ stories?
Is it Fagin, the criminal who corrupts and uses young boys to “pick a pocket or two” from the middle and upper-class of society in Oliver Twist?
“…standing over them, with a toasting-fork in his hand, was a very old shrivelled Jew, whose villanous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair. He was dressed in a greasy flannel gown, with his throat bare…” Oliver Twist, Chapter 8
Well, he would certainly be in my top five.
Could it be the sinister yet insincere Uriah Heep who serves as a lawyer in the classic David Copperfield? He is described as being tall, lank and pale with lashless eyes and is prone to jerking and wriggling. Of course, like so many villains, his motivation is greed, but at the end of the story his scheming and manipulation are uncovered and he is sent in chains on a boat bound for Australia. So, yes, he is right up there in the top five when it come to bad and scary guys.
But honestly, at present I will have to say that the most evil of characters that I have come to know must be from Dickens fourth novel, The Old Curiosity Shop — Mr. Daniel Quilp.
Now, the story is a sad one, presenting the never-ending plague of gambling (the grandfather in the story and owner of the shop) and its’ peripheral damage done to the innocent, who, in this case is his granddaugter Nell Trent. But into this tragic spiraling scenario Dickens skillfully introduces evil personified and Daniel Quilp, a high-interest loan shark loan shark begins to squeeze his grip on the grandfather with an eye on both the Old Curiosity Shop and Nell. He just makes shivers go up and down my spine, and the PBS Masterpiece Theater version, although not totally accurate to the book, enlists the very effective services of Toby Jones to play Mr. Quilp in all his evil ugliness.
Amazingly, you can watch the whole story on the internet at the PBS – Masterpeice Theater web site.
As aweful as he is, Dickens gives the reader some gratification when Mr. Quilp is discovered for his vile manipulation and deception and while attempting to elude the police and an angry mob falls into the Thames River and drowns. However, in this tale Dickens chooses to leave the ugliness and lingering effects of gambling uncomfortably before its readers. I won’t tell you why. You will just have to read the book or watch the movie.
I truly enjoy the Masterpiece Theater genre as the stories usually have a moral substance to them and the characters are clearly defined. Rarely are you left wondering, for example, if Batman is a good guy or a dark character.
So, if you have not seen “The Old Curiosity Shop” let me encourage you to watch it…but be ready to have shivers go up and down your spine. Every movement of Quilp only intensifies his character…be very, very careful!!!