- “The fire of his eyes, the expression of his features, the very voice in which he spoke, were all subdued and quenched, as if the spirit within him lay in ashes” is a quotation from Dombey and Son (Chapter 6).
- Dombey and Son was Charles Dickens’s seventh novel, published between October 1846 and April 1848. The story follows the fortunes of a shipping firm, whose owner is frustrated at not having a son to follow him in the job, and initially rejects his daughter’s love, eventually becoming reconciled with her before his death.
In this part of Chapter 6 of Dombey and Son, John Carker is passing Walter Gay and Florence Dombey near a loading dock. Carker, who from the description is a dispirited figure, doesn’t appear to want to stop to talk to them. Gay recognises Carker and calls out to him to help Florence, who has been robbed of her clothes and needs to get back to her father. Carker says he doesn’t want to help, and carries on.
Character Profile: John Carker.
John Carker is the older brother of James Carker, the devious and manipulative manager of the firm of Dombey and Son. He also has a sister, the generous and kind Harriet Carker. John is employed at the Dombey firm despite having been caught stealing there a few years earlier. Now a quiet and disgraced individual, John works hard at the firm keeping his head down in an attempt to redeem his actions.
As they stood deliberating in the street, a man passed them, who glanced quickly at Walter as he went by, as if he recognised him; but seeming to correct that first impression, he passed on without stopping.
‘Why, I think it’s Mr Carker,’ said Walter. ‘Carker in our House. Not Carker our Manager, Miss Dombey—the other Carker; the Junior—Halloa! Mr Carker!’
‘Is that Walter Gay?’ said the other, stopping and returning. ‘I couldn’t believe it, with such a strange companion.’
As he stood near a lamp, listening with surprise to Walter’s hurried explanation, he presented a remarkable contrast to the two youthful figures arm-in-arm before him. He was not old, but his hair was white; his body was bent, or bowed as if by the weight of some great trouble: and there were deep lines in his worn and melancholy face. The fire of his eyes, the expression of his features, the very voice in which he spoke, were all subdued and quenched, as if the spirit within him lay in ashes. He was respectably, though very plainly dressed, in black; but his clothes, moulded to the general character of his figure, seemed to shrink and abase themselves upon him, and to join in the sorrowful solicitation which the whole man from head to foot expressed, to be left unnoticed, and alone in his humility.
And yet his interest in youth and hopefulness was not extinguished with the other embers of his soul, for he watched the boy’s earnest countenance as he spoke with unusual sympathy, though with an inexplicable show of trouble and compassion, which escaped into his looks, however hard he strove to hold it prisoner. When Walter, in conclusion, put to him the question he had put to Florence, he still stood glancing at him with the same expression, as if he had read some fate upon his face, mournfully at variance with its present brightness.
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