Summary of the story
The Old Curiosity Shop starts with a man, who walked slowly down the street by night. There he met a pretty little girl and he started talking with her. She was afraid, because she was lost. He said he would take her home. When they arrived at the house they knocked on the door. An old man with grey hair opened it. The old man seemed to be the grandfather of the child (Nelly), because he kissed her. He begged the man to come in. The house was very strange; you could see all kinds of old and curious things. It was a place where one could buy second hand goods. The old man was very glad to see Nelly again and therefor he thanked the man for taking the girl back home. When they were talking, a funny-faced boy suddenly opened the door. His name is Kit and he's the servant. Near midnight Kit left the house again, because he had to work early the next morning. When he had gone and Nelly was occupied in clearing the table, the old man thanked the man again. When the man wanted to leave, he was surprised to hear that the old man also would leave. He thought that it was very strange to leave a young girl alone in the night. The old man said that he would be home early in the morning. Then the two men left the house and the walked a while together. Suddenly the old man stopped. He said that their ways were widely different and he hurried away.
Nearly a week later the man revisited the place again. The old man and another person were together in the back part of the shop and there seemed to have been high words between them. The other person is called Fred and he's the grandson of the old man and the brother of Nelly. He was very angry with the old man, because he wanted to see Nelly. There was also a friend of Fred waiting outside and the old man called him in.
His name is Dick Swiveller. The old man and Fred were still disagreeing. Then the neighbour of the old man came in with Nelly. Fred asked Nelly if she was going to hate him, but she reacted positive. After that Fred told the old man, that he wanted to see his sister as often as he liked. The neighbour of the old man was called Daniel Quilp. He is a very unpleasant-looking dwarf and he tyrannised over his wife and her mother. His wife is very obedient to him. Kit is the son of Mrs. Quilp and he is also afraid of Daniel. Kit took good care of his mother and he is a faithful servant.
Fred believed that the old man was very rich and he thought he had a good plan. He asked his friend Dick Swiveller to marry Nelly. On this way they could get some money of the old man. But Dick was not so sure about a marriage, because the girl is nearly fourteen years old. Then Fred told him that he could also marry her in four or five years, but Dick was still negative about a marriage with Nelly.
The old man wasn't as rich as his grandson Fred thought. He hoped to win a fortune for Nelly and so he had been gambling. In this unfortunate situation the grandfather borrowed money from Daniel Quilp, until he was deep in debt.
One night the old man said that he would not leave home, because he had been weak and ill all day long. The old man told Nelly that he had ruined her life and he was afraid that they would be beggars. But Nelly was optimistic about that; she said that they should leave the sad place and they could beg their way from door to door. Suddenly Daniel Quilp came in and he asked Nelly to leave them, so he could talk alone with the old man. When Nelly had left the room Quilp told him that he knew about his secret nightlife. He knew that the old man was gambling every night to become a fortune for Nelly. The old man wanted to who had told this information to Quilp. It was Kit, he played the spy and Quilp had tampered with him.
Then Nelly went to Kit and his mother. She told them that the old man was very weak and ill. She said that Kit should never come near them anymore. The next morning the old man was in a raging fever. The house was also no longer theirs anymore, because Quilp had taken possession of the shop.
He had done this with the help of a disreputable lawyer, called Sampson Brass. Quilp sold the stuff in the house and Nelly and her grandfather had to leave the next day. The next morning they left London in secret. Quilp noticed that they were gone, but he thought that they would return soon.
They wandered through the countryside all day and they met two men riding on horses. The first one was called Tommy Codlin. The other was a little man, whose real name was Harris. But he was called “Short” or “Trotters”. The two men were the owners of a Punch and Judy shop. But after a while they noticed that the old man and Nelly had left their house in London secretly, so Nelly decided that they would leave as soon as possible. Late in the day they fled. They made a path through lots of people and they never once stopped to look behind.
Meanwhile their former servant Kit is worried about the disappearance of Nelly. His mother was also worried. Kit had met Mr. and Mrs. Garland. They made a deal; Kit would be their servant instead of the servant of Quilp. Then Kit would earn six pounds a year. After they had made a deal the old lady instructed the little servant girl Barbara to take Kit through the house and to give him something to eat and to drink.
Nelly and her grandfather were save, but very tired. After a long way they finally saw a house. There was an old man in the little garden before his cottage. He was a schoolmaster, because he had written 'School' up over his window. He was a pale, simple-looking man. Nelly and her grandfather could come in and eat with him. They could also stay that night. The next morning they thanked the schoolmaster and they left. On the road they arrived by a caravan. Mrs. Jarley was engaged with George and the lived together in that caravan. Nelly explained that they were travelling to the next town on that road. But the lady said that the next town was eight miles off, so she invited Nelly and her grandfather to travel with them. They also worked a few days for Mrs. Jarley who ran an exhibition of wax-works.
One evening Nelly and the old man were going for a walk. They arrived at a public house where some men were playing cards. The old man wanted to play too. So the passion for the game had accidentally revived, but after a few games he had lost al his money and they left. They had to flee again to escape of Mrs. Jarley and they found a quiet country village.
Meanwhile friends and enemies were trying to find them. Quilp was looking for them, because he wanted his money that the old man had borrowed from him. Kit is also worried and he and his mother were also trying to find them. Quilp thought about a plan to accuse Kit. He plotted with Sampson Brass and his sister Sally. They wanted to have Kit falsely accused of stealing a five-pound note. Kit was tried and found guilty. However the plot was discovered by Dick Swiveller. Quilp heard about this and he was trying to escape arrest, but he was drowned.
At last Nelly and her grandfather were found in the village. Kit and Mrs. Garland hurried to the village, but they arrived too late. Weakened by her sufferings, Nelly had just died. Her grandfather died soon afterwards.
About the author
Charles John Huffman Dickens was born in Portsmouth to a clerk who worked in the office responsible for navy salaries. His first, and happiest, years were spent at Chatham. However, his father was imprisoned in the Marshalsea prison for debtors and at age twelve he began working in a blacking warehouse. It was a miserable time for the young Dickens, and its themes recur frequently in his novels, where the Marshalsea itself features, and the mistreatment of children and child labour are common subjects. Subsequently, he worked as an office boy, then studied shorthand and reported House of Commons debates for the Morning Chronicle.
Dickens's first literary works emerged in the Monthly Magazine and Evening Chronicle in the early to mid- 1830s and were later published as Sketches by 'Boz' (1836-7). These aroused interest from Chapman and Hall who published Dickens's first novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club in twenty monthly parts between April 1836 and 1837. Pickwick gradually began to sell extremely well and Dickens - aged only twenty-five - was looking at a life of great success with his wife Catherine Hogarth. Dickens was extremely fond of Catherine's sister Mary and even requested (unsuccessfully) to be buried next to her when he died, after she passed away a year after she had moved in with the young couple in 1836.
Dickens became the first editor of Bentley's Magazine in 1837 and began to publish Oliver Twist and then Nicholas Nickleby in its pages, again in monthly numbers. A new Dickens weekly, Master Humphrey's Clock was introduced in 1840 where Dickens intended to publish not only novels but also brief sketches. However, after the success of Master Humphrey novels The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1) and Barnaby Rudge (1841), the linking idea was scrapped. 1842 saw Dickens visit America where he was well received, but his American Notes (1842) was considered offensive by Americans, and Martin Chuzzlewit's stereotyping of the American character did nothing to improve their low opinion of the writer.
The relative lack of success experienced by Martin Chuzzlewit did not last long, however, since sales were considerable for A Christmas Carol (1843, the first of his Christmas series that included The Chimes and The Haunted Man). A trip to Italy in 1844 was followed by another to Switzerland in 1846 where he began work on Dombey and Son (1848) that signally the start of the greatest period in his writing. In the next decade he wrote David Copperfield (1849-50), Bleak House (1852-3), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1855-7) and A Tale of Two Cities (1859). During this period, Dickens separated from his wife and had to quell rumours about his relationship with his sister-in-law Georgina. Ignoring the scandal and protesting his innocence, he took to passionate and popular dramatic appearances reading selections from his books where he would sometimes get become so excited that he would faint.
His final novels, Great Expectations (1860-1) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-5) kept up the extraordinarily high standard of but marked a slowing down of his prolific muse, and he did not publish another novel in his lifetime (The Mystery of Edwin Drood was unfinished at his death). One reason for this decline may have been the shocking train ride in 1864 where the train carrying Dickens and his half-finished Our Mutual Friend manuscript derailed, throwing half its carriages off a bridge. After this event, he is said to have been more agitated when writing. He made a final visit to America in the late 1860s for further readings but after his return died suddenly in 1870. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.
Nelly Trent: she’s a pretty, good-looking girl and nearly fourteen years old. She loves her grandfather and therefor she takes good care of him. If she can live happily together with his grandfather, she doesn’t mind to be poor. Through all her sufferings she never complains, but at the end she is too weak and she dies.
The old man: he’s the grandfather of Nelly. He is the owner of the old curiosity shop. He is very poor and he hopes to win a fortune by gambling. He borrows money from Quilp and finally he loses his shop and gets ill. When he is recovered he decides with Nelly to run away. At last he dies after he had lost Nelly.
Daniel Quilp: he’s the neighbour of Nelly and her grandfather. He’s a very ugly dwarf. He tyrannises over his wife and her mother and servant Kit. At the end he's plotting with the Brass's to have Kit falsely accused of stealing a five-pound note. Kit is found guilty, but Dick Swiveller discovered the plot, so Quilp has to escape the arrest, but he's drowned.
Mrs. Quilp: she’s very obedient to her man and she takes good care of Kit.
Kit: he’s the servant of Daniel and Mrs. Quilp. He’s very faithful and a good son to his mother. At last he is an easy prey to the schemes of Quilp.
Fred Trent: he’s the grandson of the old man and the brother of Nelly. He thinks that the old man is rich, so he asks his friend Dick Swiveller to marry Nelly. On this way they could get some money of the old man.
Dick Swiveller: he’s a friend of Fred. He talks in a strange way and he drinks too much. But he is not bad at heart; he feels sympathy for Kit, when he's falsely accused of stealing.
Mr. and Mrs. Garland: Kit is going to work for this couple and he earns six pounds a year.
Sampson Brass: he’s a disreputable lawyer. He helps Quilp to get the shop of the old man. He really hates Quilp, but he's very nice to him, because Quilp is an important client.
Mrs. Jarley and George: they are engaged and life in a caravan. They run an exhibition of wax-works. They travel together with Nelly and her grandfather.
Suffering is very important theme in this story. Nelly and her grandfather suffer, because they lose their shop and other things, so eventually they are very poor. Kit and Mrs. Quilp are also suffering, because Daniel Quilp tyrannizes over them.
I think death is also a very important theme in the story. The old man doesn't want to die, because he wants to life with Nelly and he wants to make her happy. But finally he dies after Nelly had died.
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