The Root of All Evil: Money and Upheaval in ‘Little Dorrit’

The story of the BBC miniseries Little Dorrit is about many things, but one of its main themes is money (more specifically, how the love of money truly is the root of all evil). The two parts of the massive original novel are titled “Poverty” and “Riches.” Throughout the story, we see the harm money can do—a lack of it, yes, but also an excess of it. We feel the evil of loving money most keenly when it affects the life of the sympathetic, titular heroine Amy ‘Little’ Dorrit.

Amy is the type of person who, if she lived in 2020, would be near perfectly content to stay at home with her family (and a few cohort persons), busying herself with sewing, cooking, and making sure everyone was happy and well-looked-after. The first episode of the miniseries shows her bravely sallying forth to find work at the home of an elderly woman, but she seems most in her element while quietly employed either at home or at her employer/benefactress’s home.

The only thing that shakes Amy’s quiet world, in the beginning, is meeting kind, gentle Arthur Clennam. She falls in love with him and, suddenly, finds herself frustrated with her family and filled with a heartsickness she thinks can never be appeased. However, her acquaintance with Arthur doesn’t just disrupt her heart… it also, through a series of events, disrupts her entire world. Amy’s father got imprisoned for debt before the miniseries even starts. Believing this in the wrong, Arthur feels determined to see him released. But when Arthur finally (and, so he assumes, happily) secures Mr. Dorrit’s freedom, everything slides downhill for Amy and her family. Mr. Dorrit hasn’t just been freed, but he’s also been found to be the heir to a fortune. Suddenly, the family is fabulously wealthy.

Many would think these newfound riches would be a great blessing for the Dorrits. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Money can’t purchase good manners and decency for Amy’s brother Tip. Money can’t purchase true love and affection for Amy’s sister Fanny. Money can’t purchase peace of mind and tranquility for Mr. Dorrit as his thoughts start to slip further and further into darkness. And money can’t bring back the only life and people and joy Amy ever knew, or the world she misses.

Eventually, the money is all swept away, thanks to the financial mistakes of yet another character. But by that time, it’s too late. Amy’s father and uncle have both died. Nothing is right. Even the reappearance of the man she loves does nothing to bring peace to Amy’s soul. “I was happy as I was,” she tells him. Before the love of money corrupted those she cared for. Her innocent, happy life is gone and nothing will ever be the same again.

But maybe she can still have a good life. A different life, but a good life. One not affected by the love of money. Little Dorrit has a happy ending. It just has a roundabout way of getting there. And it’s worthwhile pointing out that this happy ending has nothing to do with riches. In fact, the main characters have not a penny to their names when they get married. But that doesn’t matter to them. It is love for each other, and not money, that brings them their utmost happiness.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eva-Joy Schonhaar is an aspiring author who has written several novels and hopes to be published some day soon. She’s a Christian fangirl who drinks insane amounts of coffee, thinks that chocolate chip cookies solve pretty much everything, and always uses the Oxford Comma. In her spare time she can be found geeking out over superheroes and reading The Hunger Games for the millionth time.

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