The Duchess and the Jeweller by Virginia Woolf

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What is Oliver's attitude toward his past in "The Duchess and the Jeweler"?

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Oliver Bacon, the protagonist of Virginia Woolf’s story, has an ambivalent attitude toward his past. He is amused when he remembers the enterprises in which he engaged to begin his path toward prosperity. Thinking about his younger self, a “wily astute boy” who sold stolen dogs, for example, he “chuckles.” He is keenly aware of the distance he has come from the “filthy little alley” where he grew up. This ambivalence is summed up in Woolf’s phrase, “he dismantled himself.” Oliver is proud, even arrogant, when he considers the distance he has traveled; he frequently pauses to admire his attributes and accessories, such as his “shapely” legs, pants, and boots. His constant harking back to the past borders on obsession.

Countering the pride is a suppressed shame, as he also remembers his mother’s reproachful tone when she commented on his illegal activities. He projects that disapproval onto his colleagues, imagining that he hears them “murmur” about him....

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