Dombey and Son

Dombey and Son at Sea

He maketh the deep to boil like a pot:

he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.

Job (ch. XLI, v. 31)

Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail, and for Export by Charles Dickens is a novel largely about motion and change. A good place to begin the analysis is at the continuous reference to the ocean that occurs at key points in the narrative. The first Mrs. Dombey's death is described as drifting "out upon the dark and unknown sea that rolls round all the world" (Oxford University Press, 1987 p. 10). Such a description implies the wantonness of change and death, which money can not control, and begins the recurrent associations the Dombey children express with the sea.

For young Paul Dombey, the frail son and heir of the enterprise of Dombey and Son, the sea whispers endlessly (and presciently, it turns out in his case) of death, and of the "beyond." The fact that "sea air" is prescribed to aid little Paul Dombey's ailing health is ironic since from the beginning of the novel the reader is led to associate the sea with death and unpredictability. Little Paul, who is deemed "old fashioned" by some, seems to experience a very strong affinity for the ocean. Upon early acquaintance with the...

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