I woke up thinking about Charles Dickens today, and one character in particular. When I was younger, I read Dickens’ books avidly. I loved the characters, and his descriptions of life in all social classes during the Victorian Era in England. Many similar characters still exist in today’s world, albeit watching wide screen televisions, talking on mobile phones, and checking in with Facebook. But the basic characteristics of human nature, outlined so perceptively by Dickens, have hardly changed since 1850, at least in this country.
I am sure we have all met someone like Ebeneezer Scrooge, ‘careful’ with money to the extreme. And who doesn’t recall encountering an oily character like Uriah Heep, at one time during their life? And have you come across a violent person who was just like Bill Sykes, the aggressive drunk and wife-beater, even cruel to his loyal dog, Bullseye? I have. Yes, all human life is there in the pages of his marvellous books. They may seem dated now. Well, we have cars of course, and the Internet. No Hansom Cabs, few outside toilets, and everyone over eighteen can vote. But more than just a reflection of those times, they have many parallels in the twenty-first century.
Wilkins Micawber is undoubtedly still with us, if not in his old-fashioned name. He features in ‘David Copperfield’, working as a clerk for the awful Uriah Heep. His life is debt-ridden, but he refuses to let it get him down. Micawber is the eternal optimist, and his literary catchphrase is “Something will turn up”. In the book, he has some good quotes, including his now famous ‘recipe for happiness’.
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
Always cheerful, and refusing to crumble in the face of adversity, his is the very epitome of a positive outlook on life. In a world where the small man can only get by with having to incur debts, he does his best for his family, and stands by his desire to do good by others he meets. In many respects, he embodies the ‘Keep calm and drink tea’ spirit that saw this country through the Blitz.
Some of the Micawbers of 2018 have their debts on credit cards, mortgages, and car loans. Others owe money to loan sharks, Payday loan companies with huge interest rates, or have monthly payments for furniture and household goods to find. Families in many areas struggle on minimum wage salaries or unemployment benefit, and sell their meagre possessions at boot fairs, or on Internet auction sites. They play the lotteries with money they can’t really spare, and eat basic food that is all they can afford to buy. But they all have one thing in common with Wilkins.
They are certain that ‘something will turn up’.