Barnaby Rudge owes its unique status in Dickens's oeuvre to its elaborate handling of the theme of identity and disguise. Almost all characters in the novel are caught in inconsistencies between how one sees oneself and how one is seen by others: some deliberately conceal their true self by pretense or deception; others suffer false definition of their personalities imposed from outside by libel or malicious plot; there is also a group of people whose madness or blind vanity prevent them from seeing themselves as they really are. Even the main concern of the novel, the Gordon Riots, suffers from the same issue of identity discordance in the sense that its true nature is obfuscated by its outward religious pretext. From the opening murder mystery to the concluding paragraph about Grip, the problem of identity ambiguity and confusion pervades every corner of the novel, giving it both thematic and structural unification, and combining plots and characters otherwise quite disconnected.

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