The Old Curiosity Shop Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Why does Dick Swiveller call the small servant the Marchioness?

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The small servant is a girl without an identity. She does not know her name. She is unaware even of how old she is. As a result, Dick Swiveller calls her the Marchioness. He gives her this name when the two of them are playing a game. She is reluctant, so he says that by giving her a name, this will make the game more "real and pleasant" between the two of them.

Of course, the name is ironic, as it is not a proper given name at all, but a title for nobility. A marchioness is the proper title given to the wife of a marquess. A noble knows who his or her family is, as this is where they get their power from. The Marchioness is quite the opposite.

It must be noted that it is hinted that the Marchioness is the illegitimate child of the wicked Miss Brass and the downright evil Quilp (hence, her small stature), so unlike a genuine noblewoman, her family line is not reputable or admirable. However, Dick comes to love the Marchioness, valuing her as a person and eventually making her his wife. To Dick, the Marchioness is just as good as anyone of noble heritage or legitimate birth.

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