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Literature / The Battle Of Life

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The Battle of Life is a novella by Charles Dickens first published in 1846. It is considered one of his "Christmas books" even though it's connection to the holiday can be considered rather minimal.
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A doctor named Jeddler lives in a small village with his two daughters; the elder Grace and younger Marion. They also have a ward named Alfred Heathfield who is about to travel away to continue his schooling. Dr Jeddler has a special morning meal prepared as well as calling his attorneys to prepare the official transfer of his bond before he sets off. According to everyone involved Marion and Alfred are betrothed to one another although Marion seems to be acting a bit mum on the subject. Before Alfred leaves he asks Grace to protect Marion until he can return to be properly wed which Grace agrees. As Alfred leaves Marion cries into her sister's shoulder.

Some time later, the same attorneys (Snitchey and Craggs) are trying to handle a client who is in serious financial trouble. This libertine named Michael Warden really needs to exit the area to nurse his financial well-being back together but he tells them before he does he thinks he has a chance to win the hand of Marion Jeddler as he had been taken to the house and met her after a horse riding accident. When news reaches Jeddler's house Alfred will be arriving home everyone gets excited to welcome him. However just as he arrives at the house, everyone comes rushing out to tell him Marion has run away.

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There is another Time Skip to six years after the event where we learn the Alfred had married Grace and it turns out that is exactly what Marion wanted. So we get to slowly reveal who knew what and when (and given this is Dickens you'd better just read the whole thing instead of needing any more summary here)

Tropes present in this story:

  • Catchphrase: Snitchey tends to talk a lot and when he feels he is speaking on behalf of both he and his partner he tends to phrase it as "Self and Craggs". After the Time Skip where Craggs is dead he amends it to "Self and Craggs- Deceased".
  • Contrived Coincidence: As a Dickens story obviously several things happen just because certain characters happened to have run into each other. Dr Jeddler learns Marion's real purpose by being upset and visiting his sister, whom was hiding Marion. Alfred learns it by just plain running into her by accident. Michael Warden goes to try and find information from one of his old properties that now just happened to be rented by Jeddler's old help.
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  • Dead Guy Junior: While Marion wasn't dead yet Alfred and Grace name their daughter after Marion at the time assuming they may never see her again.
  • Hammerspace: Clemency can fit so many things into her dress pockets that not only seem impossible but the Lemony Narrator even tells us she can bend her arms in ways that seem to defy physics to dig deep inside of them.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Snitchey and Craggs are this so much their wives seem to resent them for it.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Marion just wants her sister to marry the guy who wants to marry her.
  • Lemony Narrator: Mostly held back until the very end where we get a Maybe Ever After just because the author isn't quite sure if it that's what really happened.
  • Love Triangle: Oh boy this is a complicated one. Grace and Marion are sisters. Alfred and Grace are really close friends and Alfred wants to marry Marion. Grace wants to act like a mother figure and has been cheering on Alfred and Marion's wedding. Marion however thinks Alfred and Grace are a better fit for one another and thinks if she disappears they will naturally realize how well they fit with each other.
    • On a secondary level Michael Warden sought to become one between Marion and Alfred even though Marion was already try and find her way out of that Love Triangle, not to start another one.
  • Married to the Job: Both Snitchey and Craggs are actually married despite their long hours away at their law practice. Ironically both of their wives try to complain about this trope and that clearly the other one must be up to something.
  • Maybe Ever After: Warden apologizes to everyone at the very end and states he intends to leave. The last paragraph mentions that he ended up getting his affairs together and married Marion. Except than the narrator tells us he's not sure that really happened and questions the authority of those reports.
  • Oddball in the Series: Oddly given this book is considered in a series of tales with explicit supernatural plots there is no traceable Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. We start the story with a very long description of a battle that happened on the land where the story is set but this never plays a supernatural level on the events. If Dickens intended there to be something subliminal or symbolic it has passed over everyone's heads for over a century. The most you get is characters a few times comparing life to a battle.
  • Runaway Bride: Everyone thinks Marion ran away to marry Warden before Alfred could get back to officially propose to marry her. Of course as already stated Marion was running away for different reasons.
  • Settle for Sibling: An odd case where the one sister launches a whole dramatic plot to trigger this trope.
  • Those Two Guys: Snitchey and Craggs as mentioned above. Once Craggs is dead, Snitchey gives several issues of his catchphrase "Self and Craggs" but ammends it to "Self and Craggs- Deceased).
  • Time Skip: Each chapter of this story has a time skip between them. The break between one and two isn't specified but is likely a little less than one year. The skip between two and three is specifically six years.
  • Undisclosed Funds: We don't know much in debt Warden is, but is certainly is enough he can't stay in town for over six years.

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