December 09, 2006

Disney & Dickens

In later years, according to Gabler, “[Disney] talked of how the [paper] route and its demands—the unyielding routine, the snow, the fatigue, the lost papers—traumatized and haunted him.” One thinks instantly of Dickens, and of his toils in the blacking factory. In each case, what scarred them was not pain—a job is a job, after all, and there were children everywhere subsisting in more brutal conditions—but sameness, without the prospect of relief. A thin-skinned, fanciful child will remember as torment what tougher spirits would regard as routine. Both Dickens and Disney came to believe, with a kind of humiliated pride, that their sufferings placed them in good stead with the travails of ordinary folk, who would henceforth be diverted by entertainments that would never lack for incident—that would, whatever their other qualities, swarm with animation. As G. K. Chesterton wrote, irrefutably, “Dickens did not write what the people wanted. Dickens wanted what the people wanted.”

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