Dickens' ultimate attack is not on the Chancery Court. The workings (or misworkings) of Chancery do, as Dickens makes perfectly clear, constitute a major evil; Dickens savagely condemns that particular institution. But a larger issue is involved. Chancery itself — in fact, the whole system of Law — is also a symbol. Similarly, the fog is a symbol of Chancery and also of all similar institutions and operations; in other words, both Chancery and the fog symbolize the "dead hand" of the past — of custom and tradition.The dead hand of the past is a hand that continues to kill in the present. The point has never been better made than by Edgar Johnson in Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph (1952), which remains the greatest of all biographies of Dickens: "both law and fog are fundamentally symbols of all the ponderous and murky forces that suffocate the creative energies of mankind. They prefigure
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