*London. Capital and leading city of Great Britain. After his father dies, Nicholas takes his mother and sister to London to seek assistance from his uncle Ralph. A misanthropic miser, Ralph arranges for the Nicklebys to leave their pleasant lodgings and take up squalid ones, while Nicholas goes to Yorkshire to teach at Dotheboys Hall. The novel presents London initially as a heartless place of illusion and deprivation, which underscores Ralph’s deceptions and machinations.
Dickens’s gloomy depictions of such London locations as Snow Hill and the Manchester Buildings—the residence of corrupt politicians—serve to deepen the atmosphere of despair and mistrust that smothers the hapless Nicklebys. Despite his wealth, Ralph Nickleby resides in the shabby and ironically named Golden Square. In contrast, the offices of the Cheeryble Brothers and the cottage they provide for the Nicklebys underscore their warmth, compassion, and belief in the essential goodness of the human spirit. It is through this tangled web of misery and hope that Nicholas must hack a way for his family and himself, indeed to save their very souls from the darkness that threatens to engulf them.
Dotheboys Hall. Yorkshire boarding school at which Nicholas teaches under the supervision of the vicious schoolmaster, Wackford Squeers. The northern England county of Yorkshire was notorious for its unpleasant boarding...
(The entire section is 473 words.)