The Duchess and the Jeweller
The Duchess and the Jeweller is a short-story written by Virginia Woolf in 1938. In this story the author experiments the stream of consciousness, showing the feelings and thoughts of Oliver Bacon, a greedy jeweller. It's a third person narrative where we have access to Oliver's inner monologue. First, we are going to see the socialand economical ascension of Oliver Bacon, and then we are going to study the place of women in Oliver's life.
Oliver Bacon has spectacularly climb the social ladder. He began his life in a poor and dark street in Whitechapel (l.17 ). He soon has started to have very high ambitions. As a boy, and against his mother's wish, he started to do a quite inglorious job: sell stolen dogs to rich women.Growing up, he worked into a shop selling cheap watches. It's the beginning of a long social ascension.
He found three diamonds which he sold in Amsterdam. He started to have a passion for jewellery, and bet with his mother that he will be the richest jeweller in England. He worked as a jeweller in a little shop in Hatton Garden where he has soon proved his talent. When he passed through the otherjewellers, they used to stop themselves in their conversations and look at him murmuring. l.39 . As the text says, the gestures of the jewellers has meant a lot of encouraging words to Oliver and he is still remembering that murmur among the jewellers.
His social ascension is associated to an economical ascension. As he became more famous and richer, he bought more and more expensive things.First he bought a hansom cab, which is a kind of horse-drawn carriage, then a car, then a luxurious villa with servants (l.10, l.44). We also see his ascension because he started to go to the opera, which is an aristocratic hobby. He went to the dress circle, then into the stalls, which suggest once again his ascension: he had a better place in the society, so he had a better seat.
His way todress has changed too (l.41 ). He his now very elegant, he is dressed perfectly, with perfectly shaped clothes. (l. 20 ; l.60, , ).
Oliver Bacon seems to have now won his bet: he has become the richest jeweller in England, he has become someone very respected and seems to have exactly the life he wanted. But the jeweller is dissatisfied still, he is compared to a camel dissatisfied with his lot,which wants a better life. He feels prisoned in his almost-perfect life like the camel in the zoo. Like a hog, he wants l.56. In fact, he feels very alone and needs a feminine presence in his life.
Women play an important role in this story, and in Oliver's life. First, Oliver's mother seems to have a very important role in her son's life. When Oliver was a child, she used to disagree the wayhis son earned his money, she was worrying about his ambitions. She disagreed with his behaviour, and was ashamed of him. She seems to have never encouraged him. Today, he has neither wife or children but we understand that her mother is dead when he talks to her portrait. He have a portrait of her in his flat and another in his private room, in the shop. She is always with him. She has probablybeen dictating him all her life long and is even now after her death dictating him, she stands for his conscience. He is always remembering his mother in all his choice makings in his life. He remembers his mother reprimanding him when he stole dogs as a child and, when he buys the fake pearls from the duchess at the end of the story, he asks the forgiveness of the old woman in the picture and againfeels like a little boy.
The omnipresence of his mother during his childhood seems to make him feel the need of a woman's presence in his life. For a while, it is Mademoiselle, one of his servants, who stands for this presence. But she has gone, and left him lonelier than before ( l.86 )
At the visit of the Duchess to Oliver's shop, the very colorful descriptions of the author of the...