I am rereading Nicholas Nickleby, and I think that it is very close to being my favorite of all Dicken’s books. Tale of Two cities and The Pickwick Papers are at about the same level all jostling for top place. It’s because Nicholas is so assertive, clever, fast, kind, and sometimes truly wild. He’s a sort of action hero, written by a master. Several blog posts ago I wrote about re-reading Great Expectations and finding to my astonishment that I didn’t really like it any more. Well, I didn’t like Pip, and realized that in my first reading I had merely tolerated him for the sake of the great minor characters
When assaulted or those he loves are assaulted NN replies in kind, In any way he can, as fast as he can, as long as he can. So with the arrangements of a very good plot NN becomes a fast rocket through the entanglements of money and injustice and cruelty to the helpless. This makes him a hero figure. Therefore he is good to read about, and also, therefore, he is intelligent.
I wish I could find the article about Stupid Plots. At any rate, the upshot of it was, a Stupid Plot requires really stupid characters that could have solved the whole problem in a day if they hadn’t been so stupid. A moderately intelligent person could have figured their way out of the entanglements of a Stupid Plot in even less than a day. Hours.
So writers who are poor at plots must necessarily have really dense characters and we tire of reading about really dense characters. Idiot, just get in the car and go to your friend’s house and hide in the bushes and find out what’s really happening. But nooooooo. Stupidman has to stare stupidly at a text message, call up somebody else, cry out, ‘Can there really be a killer on the loose near Tom’s house?’ And then call up the police and when the police brush him off, then check the FBI wanted files on line and then call up Susan and say ‘Susan, do you think Tom is having a psychotic episode?’ and on and on.
NN constantly surprises us with this assertiveness, his rightness. When he is with an actor’s troupe, and another actor, a bully, threatens NN and his friend the poor retarded little Smike, NN walks up to the bully and knocks him down. So that took care of that. On to other problems.
so I am enjoying it very much.