“The earth was made for Dombey and Son to trade in, and the sun and the moon were made to give them light. Rivers and seas were formed to float their ships…stars and planets circled in their orbits, to preserve inviolate a system of which they were the centre” [Dickens, 1848/2002: 12, Penguin Classics]. Dombey and Son is one of Dickens’s greatest novels and I think its main characters illustrate well the twelve star signs of the zodiac and thus the story can be told through the workings of the heavenly belt. Below is my interpretation and one caveat is possible spoilers and another is that there are obviously many more characters in the story and not just those presented below.
Mr. Paul Dombey – Leo (July 23 – August 22)
Mr. Paul Dombey is the main character. He is a cold and calculating businessman who longs to have an heir to his business and when Master Paul Dombey is born, his father has very high expectations regarding his son. Mr. Dombey is undoubtedly a Leo, proud of himself and his family (or at least proud of himself, his business and his son). Leos are the Kings of the Zodiac and Mr. Dombey likes being the centre of attention, commanding effortlessly everyone in his sight. He also likes the idea of others being dependant on him and he dislikes criticism.
Miss Florence Dombey – Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
Florence Dombey is the only daughter of Mr. Paul Dombey. Her father hardly pays attention to her, though she longs for his care and love throughout the book. Florence is beautiful and kind, and displays many characteristics of a Pisces girl. She is sensitive, soft and highly intuitive. Like many people born under the sign of Pisces, Florence is a compassionate soul who is even able to feel sympathy for one person displaying obvious hatred towards her (her father). Though she may appear idealistic, inwardly Florence is very wise and possesses much inner strength.
Master Paul Dombey – Libra (September 23 – October 22)
Master Paul Dombey is a thoughtful, always-sick child of Mr. Paul Dombey. The Libra people are known as being the diplomats of the zodiac and Master Paul Dombey is the most diplomatic person in the story. He is so peace and harmony-loving that he is even interested in keeping on good terms with his somewhat despotic first teacher Mrs. Pipchin. Everybody loves Paul and no wonder because, like all charming Libras, he seeks cooperation with others above everything else and possesses an innate sense of justice.
Mrs. Louisa Dombey Chick – Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
This character is the sister of Mr. Paul Dombey and may be a true Capricorn because, as that sign, she seems ambitious, goal-oriented, organised, practical, materialistic and determined. Louisa Dombey Chick is described as exerting “more influence over [Mr Dombey] than anybody else” and surely only a rather strong, practical and hard-working person is capable of achieving this.
Walter Gay – Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
Walter Gay, an orphaned nephew of Solomon Gills, is a Cancer boy. He is quite charming, but also loyal, intuitive and protective of the ones he loves. He is definitely aware of the needs of others in the book. Perhaps he gets along so well with Florence, a Pisces girl, the moment he sees her because the two, being Water signs, understand each other so well and can even communicate without words.
Mr. Solomon Gills – Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
Solomon Gills is the uncle of Walter Gay and the owner of the shop Wooden Midshipman that sells a variety of nautical instruments. Solomon is descried as a “slow” and “thoughtful” man who likes his routine. The Taurus people are also known for their love of conservatism and old habits, preferring “earthy and homely” comforts, and probably secretly longing for material possessions and financial security. That may explain why the near-financial ruin of the shop causes its owner so much distress in the story.
Miss Susan Nipper – Virgo (August 23 – September 22)
Miss Susan Nipper is Florence’s loyal nursemaid and who can she be if not a Virgo? She displays all the characteristics: conservatism, devotion, discipline, meticulousness, organisation, keeping everyone in check. Virgo’s criticism can be as sharp as a knife and Susan definitely shows the full power of that talent of Virgos in the novel.
Mr. Toots – Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)
Mr. Toots is an interesting young man and once a pupil in the same school that Master Paul Dombey also attended. Like every Sagittarius, he is far from being indifferent to higher concepts of philosophy and may come across as a man who likes to teach others. Sagittarius also likes spontaneity and freedom, and Mr. Toots is probably the most spontaneous (a bit tactless) man in the novel who pursues Florence Dombey with such a religious zeal than only another Sagittarius man can understand.
Mr. James Carker and Mrs. Edith Skewton Granger – Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)
The worst and the best of the Scorpio sign is represented by these two unforgettable characters. Mr. Carker is the Manager of Mr. Dombey’s business who seems loyal to his master. Scorpios may scare others with their intensity and Mr. Carker is playing this villainy role willingly, “snarling like a cat”, manipulating others behind the scenes. Mrs. Edith Granger, the future wife of Mr. Dombey, is also a distinctive Scorpio, appearing very aloof at times, but also having deep emotional needs that have to be satisfied somehow.
It is often said that the meeting of Leo and Scorpio is like the meeting of the King with the Emperor and that is exactly what happens in Dombey and Son when proud Mr. Paul Dombey finally meets his match when he encounters equally proud Mrs. Edith Skewton Granger, who is a far more complex character than first assumed. Being also a Scorpio, Mr. Carker understands Edith without words and seems to know intuitively everything that she goes through in her marriage to Mr. Dombey.
Captain Edward Cuttle – Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
It only makes sense that Captain Edward Cuttle, a retired sea captain whose every other entrance in the book is accompanied by some marine terminology, should represent the sign of a water bearer – Aquarius. This sign is often described as being free-spirited, eccentric and freedom-loving, and Captain Cuttle is probably the most eccentric and freedom-loving character in the whole book. He exemplifies Aquarius so well, being friendly and kind, but also enjoying engaging in some “revolutionary” thinking (Captain Cuttle does quite a bit of “serious thinking” in the story).
Major Joseph Bagstock – Gemini (February 19 – March 20)
If Major Joseph Bagstock is not a Gemini, I do not know who is. Geminis are extroverted talkers of the zodiac, as well as “social butterflies” who generally like variety and change. Gemini’s mind is always examining different sides of a situation and these are also the traits of Major Bagstock who can jump from one topic to another with ease, and whose mind analyses things at the speed of light.
Miss Lucretia Tox – Aries (March 21 – April 19)
Aries is always self-confident and energetic, and Miss Lucretia Tox, a big admirer of Mr. Paul Dombey and a friend of Mrs. Louisa Dombey Chick, appears just so. In the book, she is described as having a “habit of making the most of everything” and any Lady Aries can recognise this trait. Miss Tox is quick to look into the needs of little Paul Dombey when he is born (even if she minds her own self-interest in the task) and it is possible that her inexhaustible energy supply and the trait of tackling any problem in a combative spirit gain the admiration of Major Joseph Bagstock, a retired army officer.