He has no idea, poor wretch, of the spiritual destitution of a coral reef in the Pacific or what it costs to look up the precious souls among the coco-nuts and bread-fruit.

Background.

Bleak House

itemHe has no idea, poor wretch, of the spiritual destitution of a coral reef in the Pacific or what it costs to look up the precious souls among the coco-nuts and bread-fruit.” is a quotation from Bleak House (Chapter 16).

item Bleak House was the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, intended to illustrate the evils caused by long, drawn-out legal cases in the Court of Chancery.

 

Context.

item Taken from the following passage in Chapter 16 of Bleak House:

Jo comes out of Tom-all-Alone’s, meeting the tardy morning which is always late in getting down there, and munches his dirty bit of bread as he comes along. His way lying through many streets, and the houses not yet being open, he sits down to breakfast on the door-step of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and gives it a brush when he has finished as an acknowledgment of the accommodation. He admires the size of the edifice and wonders what it’s all about. He has no idea, poor wretch, of the spiritual destitution of a coral reef in the Pacific or what it costs to look up the precious souls among the coco-nuts and bread-fruit.

item This quote is attacking foreign aid whilst more needy causes are closer to home. Dickens used Bleak House to attack this, which he termed ‘telescopic philanthropy‘ (and also the title of Chapter 4 of the novel). In this quote, the starving boy Jo is emeging from the slum he lives in, pausing to eat some dirty bread on the steps of a Church that is devoted to spreading its cause abroad.

 

 

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