View Full Version : Smallweed's Affliction ... Anyone?

12-09-2005, 10:00 PM
I've been hooked on the BBC adaption from ep.1, and I particularly admire Phil Davis' venom-spitting Smallweed.

BUT... what so afflicts him that he cannot walk and has to keep demanding of his poor grandaughter, "Shake me up, Judy!" :confused:

A cursory web-search hasn't enlightened me. Can anyone who has read the book throw any light on what ails Smallweed so?

Thanks in advance for your time and attention.

03-01-2006, 03:15 PM

Just finished the adaptation on my PBS in America. Wonderful! I was wondering about your question as well, and physically thought it might just be arthritis due to his 'getting older' age and something along the lines of popping your knuckles makes your fingers feel looser.

Feel Dickens meant more than that. Bought the book 2 days ago so yet to read, though I have read the foggy opening and as I love fog - loved it. However, meant to set the scene about how lost most of the characters are, I believe. So Smallweed might operate well in fog as you don't directly see him coming until he's there - to represent unexpected trouble looming up around every corner. Perhaps all the racket he makes on entering would be a signal if you were alert?

His name seems important as though he may be small in the overall evils of Dicken's society portrayal, like a weed will spring up and eventually ruin all that is prized and cultivated if not sharply removed as it springs up. Moneylenders in general? His disability also could suggest that while not threatening physically, his words and threats (all he ever really used) were as vicious as an assault.

Also didn't quite get what he called evil-in-training Judy towards the end. A 'poll parrot'? If that, then she sees herself as vital to him, in business together almost as she smirks and looks smug when he is manuveuring, but implies he only sees her as a sort of pet. Not sure what he said.

03-02-2006, 10:25 AM
I don’t think that the “affliction” is actually named, but I’d assumed that Smallweed was suffering from something like gout (which I think is a type of arthritis? Seems to be a very Victorian way of classifying the disease?).

In any case, I think the point about Smallweed is that his physical condition is supposed to reflect his moral decay. He’s become small and weedy because he’s consumed with greed and cruelty – it’s almost as if his moral corruption has eaten away at him so that Dickens describes him as sunken into a heap of clothes and cushions, confined to his chair. There’s a huge contrast with George who is physically healthy and strong. Isn't Smallweed supposed to represent the corruption of Victorian material values? – I think he’s a great character. He may be physically immobile, but he holds all the material power. George on the other hand has physical prowess but is socially paralyzed because of his debts.

Aollynn, I agree with you about the fog in the first chapter of the book. The start of Bleak House is one of my all time favourite opening chapters – it’s brilliant.

08-28-2006, 09:01 AM
"Can anyone....throw any light on what ails Smallweed so?"

Anyone have any ideas ?

02-23-2011, 10:13 PM
I really enjoy the Smallweed characters---the whole family of them! Another example of the great humour Dickens employs thoughout his writings ! I especially enjoy the chapter of George's visit where the family is introduced and they are likened to 'monkeys' !! Also how the 'old woman' only wakens when she thinks money is being mentioned and starts babbling numbers & sums, until Mr. Smallweed grabs a pillow to throw at her ! As far as the type of affliction he has; I agree with the arthritis & gout explanations ; although it doesn't really matter. Crippled & disfigured characters are used extensively in literature without much explinantion; their purpose is often to evoke sympathy or fear in the reader.

12-08-2011, 05:47 PM
I was immediately in tune with Smallweed! He is a grumpy, mean man. I believe he is suffering from an injury to his lumbar spine. Arthritis, degenerative disc, spinal stenosis, or some past trauma. I have stenosis and disc disease and benefit greatly from unweighting my spine after sitting a while. Leg pain and inability to walk along with the constant back pain make for a perfect picture of Mr. Smallwood. I sometimes have my wife Joy "shake me up" in a very similar way!

08-20-2013, 09:51 PM
I've been re-viewing and greatly enjoying Bleak House on DVD recently (I read it once, but many years ago). I also wondered what Mr Smallweed's ailment is. My speculation (without medical training or special knowledge) is that he's got rheumatoid arthritis of long standing, with periods of remission. I'm not sure, however, whether being shaken up would relieve any symptoms of RA.

Of course, so much can go wrong in a human body that my guess may be all wet.