Once again, I am distraught by one of Dickens’ characters, Charley Hexam to be exact. When Charley marched up to Bradley Headstone with condemnation and distaste for Headstone upon his lips, I was so happy… I thought that sweet, wonderful boy we saw in the opening scenes of OMF was back. It was getting toward the end of the novel, and Dickens has done a great job of redemption with characters like Sydney… so I thought maybe Charley was on his way back. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.
Charley escapes a perfectly constructed opportunity for redemption. My moment of hope for him is destroyed when Dickens reveals that Charley is not disturbed by the fact that his mentor has committed cold-blooded murder. He is not disturbed by the fact that he almost sacrificed his sister to a man capable of committing cold-blooded murder. He is bent out of shape due to the suggestion that Bradley Headstone’s committing cold-blooded murder in his deranged love for his sister might reflect poorly upon him! I was totally disgusted that Charley’s only concern was that Headstone’s actions might corrupt his standing and attempts to rise in society. I was furious when Charley ranted about refusing to be “dragged down by others.” I want to take his scrawny shoulders and shake him. He is worried about his sister dragging him down… REALLY! This is the same sister who scraped together every cent she could find for him. This is the same sister who ensured that he was educated to start with. This is the same sister who endured the wrath of their drunken, abusive father when Gaffer became infuriated with Charley’s attempts to better himself. Wait… maybe Gaffer had a point. Charley’s attempts to better himself have turned him into the worst sort of man. Is really “better” for his education and the improvement of his station? I think not. It turns out that Charley is exactly the same sort as his father – selfish, egotistical, abusive, small-minded, and a failure as a man. No matter how I hoped, Dickens refuses to let this apple fall far from the tree.