Move On! What I’ve Been Reading
I did not think I would ever find a novel that I would consider my favorite. I am close to bestowing that honor on Bleak House. There are countless works of fiction that I like, perhaps even love, love enough to own the book, but I never could narrow it down to a best. Bleak House is simply superb. Maybe not in the story or the plot, but in the writing, in the ride, in the exploration of each character and how Dickens ties it all together, not to mention how there are so many universal conditions that can be extracted and used to analyse people and circumstances. Just today while driving home I noticed a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart. She was just about at the same spot at the same time yesterday, but it is not an area one could stop or bunker down. She was definitely going somewhere. Sort of like she takes the same route every day all for the purpose of just moving on, but not really going anywhere. A passage illustrating just this type of moving on is in Bleak House when Jo (a poor and homeless crossing sweeper) is confronted by a police constable and taken to Mr. Snagsby for identity confirmation:
Mr. Snagsby descends and finds the two ‘prentices intently contemplating a police constable, who holds a ragged boy by the arm.
“Why, bless my heart,” says Mr. Snagsby, “what’s the matter!”
“This boy,” says the constable, “although he’s repeatedly told to, won’t move on—”
“I’m always a–moving on, sar, cries the boy, wiping away his grimy tears with his arm. “I’ve always been a–moving and a–moving on, ever since I was born. Where can I possibly move to, sir, more nor I do move!”
“He won’t move on,” says the constable calmly, with a slight professional hitch of his neck involving its better settlement in his stiff stock, “although he has been repeatedly cautioned, and therefore I am obliged to take him into custody. He’s as obstinate a young gonoph as I know. He WON’T move on.”
“Oh, my eye! Where can I move to!” cries the boy, clutching quite desperately at his hair and beating his bare feet upon the floor of Mr. Snagsby’s passage.
“Don’t you come none of that or I shall make blessed short work of you!” says the constable, giving him a passionless shake. “My instructions are that you are to move on. I have told you so five hundred times.”
“But where?” cries the boy.
“Well! Really, constable, you know,” says Mr. Snagsby wistfully, and coughing behind his hand his cough of great perplexity and doubt, “really, that does seem a question. Where, you know?”
“My instructions don’t go to that,” replies the constable. “My instructions are that this boy is to move on.”
Do you hear, Jo? It is nothing to you or to any one else that the great lights of the parliamentary sky have failed for some few years in this business to set you the example of moving on. The one grand recipe remains for you—the profound philosophical prescription—the be–all and the end–all of your strange existence upon earth. Move on! You are by no means to move off, Jo, for the great lights can’t at all agree about that. Move on!
Don’t you just love the narrator’s sarcasm in the last paragraph?