Dickens uses the intervention of preternatural forces into the life of Gabriel Grub to accomplish the primary purpose of all of the interpolated tales, that being to highlight some of the world's dangers and, like a religious tract, to teach a moral lesson, according to Dickens's own ideas concerning ideal human behavior. Thus, the tale of Gabriel Grub focuses on several of the primary themes of the novel, one of which being the importance of man's unspoken duties to his fellow man. Dickens uses the goblin to criticize the sexton's behavior. The goblin reprimands Gabriel for not only lacking benevolence in his treatment of his fellow man, but for his audacious behavior toward the children, revealing "the envious malice of his heart." Moreover, the most disdainful aspect of the sexton's behavior according to Dickens is the specific time in which it occurs: on Christmas Eve. Dickens reveals in the previous chapter his idealization of the holiday. For him, Christmas is the most important time to show goodwill to all and to partake in merry fellowship with loved ones. Gabriel Grub completely disregards Christmas etiquette not only his malicious treatment of others, but also in his blasphemous act of drinking alone on such a communal holiday. Here, Dickens presents Gabriel as the direct opposite of the truest philanthropist in the novel, Mr. Pickwick. Another theme that Dickens presents in the tale overlaps with the passage from "Morte d'Arthur." Both Dickens and Tennyson stress the importance of seeing things beyond their physical realm. The goblin, or the being whose purpose is to enlighten Gabriel about his erroneous ways, presents the sexton with a familial scene in which the family is materially deficient but spiritually rich in love. Gabriel, still preoccupied with the physical, visual world, reacts by noting that the scene was "pretty." Only later does he grasp the true meaning of the scene. In "Morte d'Arthur," Sir Bedivere, like Gabriel, sees the mystery of the Holy Grail with his eyes rather than his soul. For Sir Bedivere, "the jewels, the fine work- all purely physical- are more miraculous" (George P. Landow, "Passing the Test: Bedivere Keeps Faith with Arthur," Victorian Web). Also like Gabriel, Bedivere is finally able to relinquish his earthly, rational side so that he may truly believe in Arthur's mystic origin just as Gabriel can truly believe in the spirit of human love.


Victorian Overview Pickwick Papers Idylls of the King

Last modified 1996