Montreal Dickens Fellowship Study Questions: “Nicholas Nickleby”
Westmount Public Library
October 7, 2014 1:00-3:00
Chapters 9 - 16
- What do you make of Nicholas’s behavior at the tea party at Dotheboy’s Hall? Do you think his “jovial” participation led Fanny Squeers on?
- Why is Kate so adamant about not taking money from Uncle Ralph as Miss La Creevy suggests?
- Dickens is a master of dialogue. Comment on the four-way discussion between Kate, Ralph Nickleby and Mr. and Mrs. Mantellini. How does it reveal each one of their characters?
- Why was being a milliner considered an unhealthy occupation? (Consider the “madness” of the Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland”)
- What do you think of the living accommodations provided by Uncle Ralph for Mrs. Nickleby and Kate?
- Flattery is one of the major themes of the novel. Comment on how it relates to Mrs. Nickleby, Miss LaCreevy, Miss Squeers, Mrs. Mantellini and Mr. Lillivik.
- Why didn’t Nicholas be sure to take Smike with him when he left?
- Dickens had a real understanding of the everyday life of working class people. Comment on his description of the Kenwig’s family and their foibles. He even humanized the dreaded taxman. Comment.
- In poking fun at the aristocracy, working class, servants, etc., Dickens showed that he was an “equal opportunity humorist” Discuss.
- Having been a parliamentary reporter, Dickens was very critical of politics. Comment on his cleverness in using Nicholas’s job interview with Mr. Gregsbury as a platform for his social commentary on politicians’ false promises, nepotism, cowardice, incompetence, blatant disrespect for constituents and for the press and even on parliament’s handling of copyright laws (or lack thereof!).
- What does Nicholas’s refusal of the job and the 15 shillings a week say about his character? He tells Newman Noggs that he refused because he has too much pride and self-respect to work for an immoral, dishonest employer. What message is this giving Newman Noggs who works for Ralph Nickleby?
- Who do you think Dickens is referring to when he says he knows of young men of “high spirits” who choose to remain slothful and unemployed because they feel that certain jobs are beneath them. Could he be referring to his own brothers? Fred? Augustus?
- What is your impression of the novel so far? How does it compare with “Pickwick” and “Oliver Twist” in terms of humor, pathos, characters, plot, etc..