We are Little Dorrit

I hope there isn’t any one left out there who thinks that art is useless, because I have a prime example of the Uses of Literature, and it concerns the state of the economy.

The papers are full of the news of the latest Government borrowing figures and further indications that George Osborne’s insistence on repaying debt above all other considerations is not working. Many of us are not surprised. Current policy is failing to enable us (and by ‘us’ I mean the people and the Government) to earn our own living.

The thought flashed through my mind that the economy is being held in a debtors’ prison – like Charles Dickens’s Mr Dorrit in the Marshalsea. In those days, when you could be imprisoned for failing to honour a debt, you could be locked away until you paid up. It was perfectly possible for your family to join you in prison, or to visit you frequently to bring you food and look after you, but you of course could not go out. It was also possible to incur even further debt by being forced to borrow money to keep yourself going.

Of course the flaw in this system was that the only way of getting out of the prison was to get someone else to pay off the debt for you – your family or your friends. It was impossible to work in order to earn money to pay your debt. In Dickens’s book, Little Dorrit has to work to earn money just to keep the family, while Mr Dorrit tries to pretend away the shame of his existence by assuming the title of ‘the Father of the Marshalsea’. It is not until the discovery of a legacy that the family is saved. Even then, Mr Dorrit is too far gone and fails to survive the transition back to prosperity.

Well, folks, it seems to me that our economy is Mr Dorrit, and we are Little Dorrit, trying to keep going from day to day but ultimately cut off from a realistic means of making our living. Such parallels are never exact, but there is a  feeling that, like Little Dorrit, we are all working as hard as we can even to maintain the status quo, without hope of release and eventual improvement in our lot. The Government needs to unshackle our Mr Dorrit economy from its absurd ideological straitjacket, and find a way out of recession.

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Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 09:52  Comments (1)  

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  1. I think this is a very good analogy – unfortunately. When I studied science with the OU I was slightly surprised to find that analogy is a much-used tool to explain systems and processes in scientific study. Perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it does show what a good education in English can do!


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