Montreal Dickens Fellowship Study Questions: “Dombey and Son”
Westmount Public Library
October 2, 2018 1:00-3:00
Chapters 1 - 10
- Discuss the opening paragraph of Chapter One in which we are introduced to Mr. Dombey and his baby son. Were you hooked right away? Do you care enough about these characters to want to read on? Why?
- Dickens’s description of Miss Tox is so detailed that it is easy to picture her. Do you think Dickens used people he knew to model his characters on? Comment on how his wit and humor augmented his descriptions and how physical appearance was used to describe character traits.
- A recurring subject in the novel is Mr. Dombey’s relationship with women. Comment on his relationship with his sister, Mrs. Chick.
- Mrs. Dombey’s death is associated with the image of water. Water, in many forms, is a predominant image throughout the book and can be said to play a unifying role in the novel’s structure. Look for this theme as you read on.
- Is Mr. Dombey’s resentment of Polly (Richards) reasonable?
- Compare and contrast the appearances of Mr. Dombey and Mr.Toodles. What do they tell us about their personalities?
- Do you think that Mr. Dombey’s discomfort around Florence stems from guilt of his neglect of her? Does she remind him that his character is flawed by stubborn pride? Do you think it makes him resent her and shun her even more instead of having to acknowledge his flaw?
- Comment on the continuation of the “sea” theme in the description of the nautical instruments shop.
- Why is Miss Tox allowed to be little Paul’s godmother?
- Discuss Dickens’s description of the “Earthquake” that hit Stagg’s Gardens. How did he view the railway?
- What do you make of Florence’s adventure in London? What would happen to a lost little girl of her age in today’s society?
- Comment on Dickens’s device of comparing the Dombeys (father and son) as they sit before the fire.
- Discuss the fairytale qualities of characters like Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Pipchin, Sol Gills and Walter and of the settings like the Dombey’s house, Mrs. Brown’s hovel or the Midshipman.
- Comment on Dickens’s use of foreshadowing as he describes the “unearthliness” of little Paul at the seaside in Brighton.
- How does Dickens endear Captain Cuttle to the reader?
- Why does Mr. Dombey, who seems to be a self-absorbed loner with poor social skills, take up the friendship of Joey Bagstock? Is he gullible because his ego is stroked? Is Bagstock too clever for him?