Half-baked Theories: Charles Dickens, Cauls, and Stephen King

First I must admit that I do not know whether Charles Dickens, like his fictional (semi-fictional? Semi-autobiographical? Not-real?) alter-ego, David Copperfield, was born with a caul. But I'm here to tell you that I think he was.

I recently read both David Copperfield AND The Shining AND Doctor Sleep, and it was just caul after caul after caul. Caul city, as it were. I have come to some conclusions:

1) Cauls do, in fact, indicate (or cause?) second sight. Why? Because it's cool. Duh.

2) But David Copperfield says, in particular, that though the "sage women" of the neighborhood said he was going to be able to ghosts and spirits due to the day and hour of his birth, he has never come into that part of his inheritance, and is happy never to do so. How to make sense of it all?

3) It makes sense because Dickens—and David Copperfield—has the gift of sight, but he can see the past and not the future. Dickens (apparently) often said that as he wrote he saw the people in front of him, speaking and moving. And David Copperfield says, "As plainly as I behold what happened, I will try to write it down. I do not recall it, but see it done; for it happens again before me." It is not memory he's talking about, but sight. Or "At this minute I see him turn round in the garden, and give us a last look with his ill-omened black eyes, before the door was shut."

I think Dickens had this too—the ability not to remember but to see. It's quite a powerful gift, I think: the ability to see, really see, the past. The people. Things as they were. Imagine how amazing that would be.

There you go, a half-baked theory if I ever had one. I must admit that I believe it with all my heart. But maybe that is my special gift: I like to believe everything.


7 thoughts on “Half-baked Theories: Charles Dickens, Cauls, and Stephen King

  1. Amen to what Elizabeth wrote. I’m so glad for your half-baked theories. This one, as usual, made sense to me!
    Did you like Doctor Sleep, by the way? I’m unsure on whether to read it.


  2. I found it moving, personally. Imperfect, of course, as are all things I guess, but he’s doing some serious work, a lot about alcoholism and addiction and — yeah, I really liked it.
    Though there was a weird moment where it made me unaccountably sad, but that might have just been me.


  3. Confession: I have never read Stephen King. I am the kind of person who can get scared out of my skin from something I read or watch–and I am not talking about a pleasantly thrilling scare, either.
    Still, I know that you are a SK fan and that makes me feel like I am missing out somehow. Can you recommend some SK that will not totally creep me out–or would that be missing the point entirely?


  4. Well, his subject is fear, so there’s that. But they’re not all ghosts and goblins exactly. I mean, his book about writing (On Writing) is really wonderful. And I really like The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which is scary but not haunted house scary. More girl-surviving-in-the-a-little-bit-haunted-wilderness type scary. I will try to think of something more right if I can.


  5. Thanks for the reply. Perhaps I will give it a shot. He should have something to say on that subject matter, given his personal history.I used to read all of his books, but not for the last ten years or so. On Writing is a marvellous book!


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