Charles Dickens (1812-1870) Charles
Dickens was born in Landport, near Portsmouth in 1812 into a lower middle class family which had to face great financial difficulties. His father,
Engraved portrait of Charles Dickens, after the 1834 drawing in chalk by Samuel Laurence
Promo poster for the film adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby (2002), directed by Douglas McGrath.
always improvident and often in debt, was a cleark in the Navy Pay Office in Portsmouth, but in 1814 he moved to London for a better job. During his childhood Charles’s imagination was fired with fantastic tales by his nursemaid and his passion for reading and love of knowledge were awakened by his mother who educated her children at home. In 1822, to help his parents, Charles was employed in a blacking factory. After a short time his father was imprisoned for debts at Marshalsea debtors’ prison where, as was usual at that time, he was joined by all his family. However, the boy did not stay with his parents because he had to maintain his job. This episode strongly marked Dickens’s life because he could never forgive his mother for compelling him to renounce the affection of the family in order to earn some money. Moreover he suffered greatly from his experience in the factory, where children were exploited and ill-treated. However, the vicissitudes of this period helped him to become mature and develop a keen sense of observation, which was very useful when he started to write. After three months in prison, Dickens’s father was released thanks to a legacy and the boy, now twelve, was sent to school, where he did well. When he was fifteen, he became a legal clerk and learnt shorthand in his free time later becoming a freelance reporter in the Court of Doctors’ Commons and then in the House of Commons. Dickens soon revealed his exceptional qualities as a journalist working for some newspapers. In 1836 he published his first work, Sketches by Boz, ‘Boz’ being his pen name, a collection of sketches of London life, which had started to appear in The Monthly Magazine three years bejore. Thanks to the good reviews which followed, the publishers Chapman and Hall commissioned him to write the texts to accompany the drawings of the popular artist Seymour. These texts gave origin to The Pickwick Papers (1836-37), which was a great success. The novel is comic and episodic in structure and deals with a club of amateur sportsmen whose founder and chairman, the naïve Mr Pickwick, goes on a stage-coach tour with some friends to observe men and manners and visits the last places of England still unspoilt by the Industrial Revolution. In the same year in which he became famous, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth. A few years before he had deeply fallen in love with Marie Beaduell, but the affair had not had a happy ending because Maria’s parents considered him socially inferior. After his marriage, dissatisfied with his wife, he became emotionally involved with her younger sister Mary, who lived with them. She died in 1837, leaving him with a deep sorrow. Dicken’s relationships with women were always conflictual and painful: his mother’s faults, his wife’s limits, Maria’s rejection and Mary’s early departure affected his interest in women, and, as a result, his female characters are often unattractive and dull. Dickens’s next novel was Oliver Twist (1837-39), the story of a foundling who passes through different painful adventures. This work, like the Pickwick Papers, appeared in instalments; in fact publication in serial form before the final volume version became a characteristic of all Dickens’s works. Oppressed by financial problems, he published incessantly, so Oliver Twist was immediately followed by Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39), an attack against public schools, by The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41), on the ill treatment of children in industrial towns, and by Barnaby Rudge (1841), a historical novel about the Gordon Riots of 1780 written in the manner of Walter Scott. The only other historical novel was A Tale of Two Cities (1859), set in London and Paris at the time of the French revolution. These two works did not have the approval of the reading public because Dickens was not so effective in describing past events, since he was really interested in his present society.
The wrapper of
Our Mutual Friend No7, published in November 1864.
In 1842 he began to travel and visited, among other places, America (1841), Italy (1844-45), Switzerland (1846), America again (1867-68). After his first visit to America, he wrote Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44), a satire on the vulgarity and materialism of American life. In 1843 Dickens started his series of annual Christmas books, the best known of which is A Christmas Carol (1843). Three years later, in 1846, he published Impressions from Italy (1846), an account of his stay in Genoa and of his visits to other Italian cities. In the same year he started Dombey and Son (1846-48), a strong attack against the hypocrisy of the Victorian Age and its greed for money, and moved to Paris, where he periodically went for refuge from his engagements during the 1850s. In 1846 he began to publish his most widely read work, David Copperfield (1849-50). The author himself wrote: “Of all my books I like this the best; like many fond parents I have a favourite child and his name is David Copperfield”. It is the most autobiographical of Dickens’s novels, especially in the first part, and evidence of this can be found in the resemblance of the initials: C.D. and D.C. However, Dickens used his own experience only as a source to present an imaginative picture of growth from childhood to manhood in Victorian society. Deeply involved in philanthropic activities, Dickens was now taking part in the running of a home for ex-prostitutes and later he took to public readings and amateur theatricals, also to raise money for charities. He believed that private charity was the best solution to soothe social evils. The readings were very dramatic because he accurately chose the most striking episodes from his books, acting them with the skill of a professional actor. The audience, emotionally involved, took part in the performance showing its alternationg feelings of joy and sorrow. Bleak House, against the delays of the law, came out in 1852-53 and was followed by Hard Times (1854), a severe denunciation of industrialization, and by Little Dorrit (1857-58), focused on real and symbolic imprisonment. In 1857 Dickens met Ellen Ternan, an eighteen-year-old actress, and fell in love with her. After a year he separated from his wife and moved to a country house in Kent, where he stayed with Ellen and nine of his ten children. Nevertheless, it was not a happy period because his Victorian conscience could not accept his relationship with a woman other than his wife. Moreover his intense activity as a novelist and a journalist as well as his energy-consuming readings were affecting his health. In 1860-61 Dickens published Great Expectations, by some considered his best work. It is about a boy who becomes a young man attracted by money and town life with wrong values, but at last he returns to his native village. It was followed by Our Mutual Friend (1846-65), a denunciation of the injustice of the Poor Laws, and by The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which remained unfinished. Considered the best and most successful writer of the time, Dickens, now exhausted and in poor health, died of a stroke in 1870 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Illustration to Our Mutual Friend by Marcus Stone
Oliver Twist Oliver is a child of unknown parents, born in a workhouse, where he leads a miserable existence under the tyrany of Bumble, a beadle, that is a parish council officer. Actually all the boys are ill-treated and poorly fed. The passage below describes a moment of their life, meal time.
TEXT A copper: big bowl. ladled: served the food with a large spoon. gruel: liquid food made of oats and boiled in milk or water. porringer: portion. rejoicing: celebration stray… thereon: little bits of gruel left that might have been thrown on their fingers. hinted darkly: suggested secretly. basin: bowl were cast: could be chosen. it… Twist: Oliver Twist was chosen. pauper: poor. grace: prayer. short commons: small portions. winked: made a sign with one eye. nudged him: pushed him with their elbows. reckless with: not thinking of the danger because of. clung: held firmly. aimed: directed. ladled: large spoon. pinioned: held strongly. shrieked aloud: shouted loudly. beadle: minor officer in workhouses. Mr. Bumble: the beadle. allotted: given as allowed portion. confinement: imprisonment. pasted on: stuck on. calling: occupation.
The room in which the boys were fed was a large stone hall, with a copper at the end; out of which the master, dressed in an apron for the purpose, and assisted by one or two women, ladled the gruel at meal-times. Of this festive composition each boy had one porringer, and no more-except on occasions of great public rejoicing, when he had two ounces and a quarter of bread besides. The bowls never wanted washing. The boys polished them with their spoons till they shone again; and when they had performed this operation (which never took very long, the spoons being nearly as large as the bowls), they would sit staring at the copper, with such eager eyes, as if they could have devoured the very bricks of which it was composed; employing themselves, meanwhile, in sucking their fingers most assiduously, with the view of catching up any stray splashes of gruel that might have been cast thereon. Boys have generally excellent appetites. Oliver Twist and his companions suffered the tortures of slow starvation for three months. At last they got so voracious and wild with hunger, that one boy who was tall for his age, and hadn't been used to that sort of thing (for his father had kept a small cook's shop) hinted darkly to his companions, that unless he had another basin of gruel per diem, he was afraid he might some night happen to eat the boy who slept next him , who happened to be a weakly youth of tender age. He had a wild, hungry eye; and they implicitly believed him. A council was held; losts were cast who should walk up to the master after supper that evenign and ask for more; and it fell to Oliver Twist. The evening arrived, the boys took their places. The master, in his cook’s uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out; and a long grace was said over the short commons. The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered to each other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said, somewhat alarmed at his own temerity,“Please, sir”, “I want some more”. The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds; and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralyzed with wonder, the boys with fear. “What!” said the master at length, in a faint voice. “Please, sir”, replied Oliver, “I want some more”. The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle, pinioned him in his arms, and shrieked aloud for the beadle. The board were sitting in solemn conclave, when Mr.Buble rushed into the room in great excitement, and addressing the gentleman in the high chair, said, “Mr.Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver Twist has asked for more”. There was a general start. Horror was depicted on every countenance. “For more!” said Mr.Limbkins. “Compose yourself, Bumble, and answer me distinctly. Do I understand that he asked for more, after he had eaten the supper allotted by the dietary?” “He did, sir”, replied Bumble. “That boy will be hung”, said the gentleman in the white waistcoat. “I know that boy will be hung”. Nobody controverted the prophetic gentleman’s opinion. An animated discussion took place. Oliver was ordered into instant confinement, and a bill was next morning pasted on the outside of the gate, offering a reward of five pounds to anybody who would take Oliver Twist off the hands of the parish. In other words, five pounds and Oliver Twist were offered to any man or woman who wanted an apprentice to any trade, business, or calling.
mar: spoil. “I never was more convinced of anything in my life”, said the gentleman in the white waistcoat, as he knocked at the gate and read the bill next morning – “I never was more convinced on anything in my life, than I am that that boy will come to be hung”. As I purpose to show in the sequel whether the white waistcoated gentleman was right or not, I should perhaps mar the interest of this narrative (supposing it to possess any at all), if I ventured to hint, just yet, whether the life of Oliver Twist had this violent termination or no. (from Chapter 2)
Focus on lines 1-32 (from the beginning to “Please, sir”, replied Oliver, “I want some more”) and establish the following:
daily routine at meal time:
new event taking place after three months:
Now focus on the following lines and fill in the chart. Reactions to the climactic event
The master The assistants The boys Mr Bumble The Gentleman of the Board
The reactions to the climactic event are exaggerated because Dickents wants to point out that the people who ran the workhouse did not want to make the boys happy Oliver was considered to be criminal because he spoke up against authority. the gruel was too expensive Oliver was not loved by his mates
Read up to the end and justify the gentleman’s prediction of Oliver’s future.
The gentlemen of the Board took two decisions:
5. becoming: appropriate. sage: wise. hook: curved piece of wire. feat: enterprise. namely: precisely. decided: definite. paupers: poor people. dismal: frightening. crouching: leaning the body bending the knees. ever and anon: now and then. tingling: stinging. frame: body. cane: stick. flogged: beaten with a stick. clause: sentence. entreated: prayed.
Decide what type of narrator Dickens uses and in which part of the text his presence is more evident. What is his main function?
The passage below tells of the ill treatment Oliver undergoes after his rebellion against authority.
TEXT B For a week after the commission of the impious and profane offence of asking for more, Oliver remained a close prisoner in the dark and solitary room to which he had been consigned by the wisdom and mercy of the board. It appears at first sight not unreasonable to suppose that, if he had entertained a becoming feeling of respect for the prediction of the gentleman in the white waistcoat, he would have established that sage individual’s prophetic character, once and for ever, by tying one end of his pocket-handkerchief to a hook in the wall, and attaching himself to the other. To the performance of this feat, however, there was one obstacle: namely, that pocket-handkerchiefs, being decided articles of luxury, had been, for all future times and ages, removed from the noses of paupers by the express order of the board, in council assembled, solemnly given and pronounced under their hands and seals. There was a still greater obstacle in Oliver’s youth and childishness. He only cried bitterly all day; and when the long dismal night came on, he spread his little hands before his eyes to shut out the darkness, and crouching in the corner, tried to sleep; ever and anon waking with a start and tremble, and drawing himself closer and closer to the wall, as if to feel even its cold hard surface were a protection in the gloom and loneliness which surrounded him. Let it not be supposed by the enemies of the”system”, that during the period of his solitary incarceration, Oliver was denied the benefit of exercise, the pleasure of society, or the advantages of religious consolation. As for exercise, it was nice cold weather, and he was allowed to perform his ablutions every morning under the pump, in a stone yard, in the presence of Mr. Bumble, who prevented his catching cold, and caused a tingling sensation to pervade his frame, by repeated applications of the cane. As for society, he was carried every other day into the hall where the boys dined, and there sociably flogged as a public warning and example. And so far from being denied the advantages of religious consolation, he was kicked into the same apartment every evening at prayer-time, and there permitted to listen to, and console his mind with, a general supplication of the boys, containing a special clause, therein inserted by authority of the board, in which they entreated to be made good, virtuous, contented, and obedient, and to be guarded from the sins and vices of Oliver twist: whom the supplication distinctly set forth to be under the exclusive patronage and protection of the powers of wickedness, and an article direct from the manufactory of the very Devil himself. (from Chapter 3)
1. The first paragraph is about Oliver’s confinement in a “dark and solitary room”. Underline his actions and decide which feelings they imply.
2. Dickens uses an ironic tone, which sometimes becomes even comic; the result
is a very striking picture of Oliver’s dramatic situation but the write also provides some relief from the gloomy atmosphere of the workhouse. Find the piece with the most comic, nearly grotesque, effect.
3. The second paragraph is about the tortures inflicted on Oliver during “his solitary incarceration”. As a matter of fact “he was denied the benefit of exercise, the pleasure of society, or the advantages of religious consolation”. Complete the chart with your own words. Oliver’s tortures
no benefits of exercise
no pleasure of society
no advantages of religious consolation
4. In pairs predict how the story develops and discuss your ideas with the class. Oliver is sold to an undertaker for five pounds and becomes his apprentice but, because of his miserable condition, he runs away and goes to London, where he meets a boy dressed as a man, the ‘Artful Dodger’. He introduces Oliver to the old Jew Fagin, a well trained thief who teaches boys the art of theft. So Oliver becomes mixed up in the gang led by Fagin and including the brutal burglar Bill Sikes, Nancy and young Artful Dodger. The passage below is about Oliver’s initiation into pickpocketing.
guard chain: chain used to prevent a watch being stolen. mock: false. trotted: walked might: power. so nimbly: with such ability. trod: walked. stumbled up: almost fell. called: came. wore: had. stout: well-built. hearty: friendly. Spirits: alcoholic drinks. to pad the hoof: to start working.
fire-shovel: tool used to put coal into the fire. hearth: fireplace. bid: command. take pattern by: take example from.
sharper lad: more intelligent boy. a shilling: 12 pence. marks: initials of names.
When the breakfast was cleared away, the merry old gentleman and the two boys played at a very curious and uncommon game, which was performed in this way. The merry olf gentleman, placing a snuff-box in one pocket of his trousers, a notecase in the other, and a watch in his waistcoat pocket, with a guard chain round his neck, and sticking a mock diamond pin in his shirt, buttoned his coat tight round him, and putting his spectacle-case and handkerchief in his pockets, trotted up and down the room with a stick, in imitation of the manner in which old gentlemen walk about the streets any hour of the day. Sometimes he stopped at the fireplace, and sometimes at the door, making believe that he was staring with all his might into shop windows.At such times he would look constantly round him, for fear of thieves, and keep slapping all his pockets in turn, to see that he hadn’t lost anything, in such a very funny and natural manner that Oliver laughed till the tears ran down his face. All this time the two boys followed him closely about; getting out of his sight so nimbly, every time he turned round, that it was impossible to follow their motions. At last the Dodger trod upon his toes, or ran upon his boot accidentally, while Charles Bates stumbled up against him behind; and in that one moment they took from him, with the most extraordinary rapidity, snuff-box, note-case, watch-guard, chain, shirt-pin, pocket-handkerchief –even the spectacle-case. If the old gentleman felt a hand in any one of his pockets, he cried out where it was; and then the game began all over again. When this game had been played a great many times, a couple of young ladies called to see the young gentlemen; one of whom was named Bet, and the other Nancy. They wore a good deal of hair, not very neatly turned up behind, and were rather untidy about the shoes and stockings.They were not exactly pretty, perhaps; but they had a great deal of colour in their faces, and looked quite stout and hearty. Being remarkably free and agreeable in their manners, Oliver thought them very nice girls indeed. As there is no doubt they were. These visitors stopped a long time. Spirits were produced, in consequence of one of the young ladies complaining of a coldness in her inside; and the conversation took a very convivial and improving turn. At length Charley Bates expressed his opinion that it was time to pad the hoof. This, it occurred to Oliver, must be French for going out; for directly afterwards, the Dodger, and Charley, and the two young ladies, went away together, having been kindly furnished by the amiable old Jew with money to spend. “There, mu dear”, said Fagin “that’s a pleasant life, isn’t it? They have gone out for the day”. “Have they done work, sir?” inquired Oliver. “Yes”, said the Jew; “that is, unless they should unexpectedly come across any when they are out; and they won’t neglect it, if they do, my dear- depend upon it. “Make’ em your models, my dear, -make’em your models”, said the Jew, tapping the fire-shovel on the hearth to add force to his words; “do everything they bid you, and take their advice in all matters –especially the Dodger’s, my dear. He’ll be a great man himself, and will make you one too, if you take pattern by him. –Is my handkerchief hanging out of my pocket, my dear?” said the Jew, stopping short. “Yes, sir”, said Oliver. “See if you can take it out without my feeling it, as you saw them do when we were at play this morning”. Oliver held up the bottom of the pocket with one hand, as he had seen the Dodger hold it, and drew the handkerchief lightly out of it with the other. “Is it gone?” cried the Jew. “Here it is, sir”, said Oliver, showing it in his hand. “You’re a clever boy, my dear”, said the playful old gentleman, patting Oliver on the head approvingly. “I never saw a sharper lad. Here’s a shilling for you. If you go on in this way, you’ll be the greatest man of the time. And now comes here, and I’ll show you how to take the marks out of the handkerchiefs”. Oliver wondered what picking the old gentleman’s pocket in play had to do with his chances of being a great man. But, thinking that the Jew, being so much his senior, muist know best, he followed him quietly to the table, and was soon deeply involved in his new study. (from Chapter 9)
In pairs, divide the passage into time sequences. Write down the lines and explain the events each sequence corresponds to. Time sequence
Dickens defines the Dodger and Charles Bates ‘young gentlemen’, Bet and Nancy ‘young ladies’ The Dodger and Charley Bates: ………………………………..…………………… Bet and Nancy: ………………………….…………………………………………………
3. Justify the reason why Dickens uses the words ‘gentlemen’ and ‘ladies’.
The passage is based on the contrast between Oliver’s innocence and the other characters’ low cunning. Find out the points where Oliver’s innocence particularly comes out.
5. The passage you have read presents one of Dicken’s social targets. State what the social target is. Now choose the theme/s that emerge/s in the passage you have read. children’s education difficulty in relationship between adults and children man’s inhumanity to children relationship between children children’s dishonesty
Think of a poet of the previous age who exalted, like Dickens, children’s innocence in contrast with adults’ behaviour. Which other feature do the writers have in common?
This is how the story develops.
Your parents probably know this popular Spanish edition of the novel.
The first time Oliver is sent out to steal, he is arrested by the police, but he is eventually acquitted. He is temporarily rescued by the benevolent Mr Brownlow, who welcomes him to his house. However, a mysterious character called Monks, who has an interest in keeping Oliver’s parentage a secret, induces Fagin’s gang to kidnap him. The Jew keeps Oliver a prisoner until he decides to send him to burgle a house together with Bill Sikes. It happens that the boy is shot, but he is rescued by the people living in the house, Mrs Maylie and Rose, her niece. In the meantime, Mr Brownlow is looking for information about Oliver and gets in touch with Mr Bumble, who also comes across the mysterious Monks. Nancy, who knows that Oliver’s life is threatened by Monks and Fagin, decides to contact Rose Maylie, who asks for Mr Brownlow’s help. Thanks to Nancy, Oliver is safe, but the girl is discovered and brutally murdered by Sikes, who is finally killed by the police while Fagin himself is arrested, tried and put to death. Mr Brownlow compels Monks to tell the truth: he turns to be Oliver’s half-brother, the son of a former friend of Mr Brownlow’s, who had a relationship with Oliver’s mother, Rose Maylie’s eleder sister, but abandoned her. Monks tried to hide the boy’s existence to have all his father’s inheritance. Eventually Mr Brownlow decides to adopt Oliver, who starts a new life with him.
CRITICAL NOTES Charles Dickens, unquestionably the greatest ‘entertainer’ of his time, is the symbol of the deep contradictions typical of the Victorian Age and embodies what was both positive and negative in it. On one hand he openly condemned the rigidity of the Victorian morality but, on the other hand, he was deeply imbued with it and, while he severely denounced the evils of his society, he was not able to propose radical solutions of them. In his novel the characters who refuse to accept what is not part of their stiff moral schemes are depicted as bad ones and are often objects of mockery; however, in his life Dickens himself was haunted by the inflexible Victorian modal code. His writings qre steeped in a critical spirit against the sins and the wrongs of the Englsih world, yet he never suggests a revolutionary change in the structure of society. His solutions are not economic and politic but paternalistic and moral. Actually Dickens firmly maintains that it is the rich who are to help those who suffer from poverty thanks to their privileged condition, but he completely ignores that not to be miserable is a right. Besides, he identifies the origin of social evils in man’s hypocrisy, lack of love, greed for money and want of charity: he is convinced that the only solution is a moral change and a deeper sensitivity to human sufferance. This insistence on the Victorian moral code is also due to the fact that all Dicken’s novels were published in serial form and editors imposed a subtle censorship on the writers who used instalments. Thy type of publication became very popular in the 1830s because it provided the opportunity to buy fiction at a very low price. As a consequence the reading public increased, including the low middle class, and some novelists became immensely popular in a short time. This was the case with Dickens, who enjoyed the success brought about by the serial form, but suffered from the faults this type of publication implied. In order to meet the demand of the readers, his novels were often pervaded by too much sentimentalism, sensationalism and melodrama to make the audiences either laugh or cry because they identified themselves with situations and characters. The secret of success was to give life to characters that met the favour of the public who, month after month, wanted to follow their destiny. If any of them did not satisfy the needs of the people who bought the instalments, Dickens very skillfully dropped
them and introduced new ones. In fact he was a keen observer and interpreter of his readers’ wishes and reactions and rarely made mistakes. However, the restrictions imposed by popular tastes and exigencies resulted in a lack of balance in the plots of many of his novels, in which some parts are too long and detailed while others are interrupted abruptly. Like modern soap operas Dickens’ novels are also characterized by an episodic structure , because every instalment had to follow a line of development, with a beginning and an end, which, moreover, had to leave the public in suspense and eager to get the next instalment. In addition to that, impropable coincidences and exaggerations made the waiting between two subsequent publications more exciting. These exaggerations and improbable coincidences seem to contradict the definition of realism which is often associated with Dickensl In point of fact he did not paint reality as it was, but as the reading public wanted it to be. They wanted to enjoy a form of escape from the real miseries and worries of life. This does not mean that Dickens denounced imaginary evils of his society, but he wanted to reassure the reader that in the end, good and justice would triumph. His idea of justice was idealized as the virtuous were always rewarded and the wicked were always punished, something that rarely happens in real life. In fact he pictured a variety of characters who always fall in two categories: the virtuous and the wicked, who, especially in his earlier novels, do not have any shades and never change. Even if they are not merely types, but individuals, they do not evolve psychologically, nor are they marked by depth of insight. Dickens portrays them from the outside, with a journalistic eye and the precision of an acute watcher of mankind. He created an extremely wide range of characters, coming from all classes except the aristocracy, even from the underworld, and a great variety of situations, endowed as he was with a fertility of imagination. The world he presents is powerfully animated, his descriptions are lively and original. Inanimate objects are so rich in vitality and meaning that often balance the lack of realism in some of his characters. The most striking figures in his novels are the children, who symbolize society’s guilt in their loneliness and misery. Their integration into society does not take place through its acceptance of them, but rather through their own growth and adjustment to a hostile structure. Partly owing to his childhood expreriences, Dickens regard children as real creatures who suffer, fight, hate and love. The narrator follows their lives as if he truly took part in them. In fact, the narrator is usually third person, omniscient and intrusive and tends to establish a close relationship with the readers through accurate descriptions, anticipations, commnets and witty observations. However, the focus is not only on the narrator’s point of view; it shifts, and it is from the children’s viewpoint that the environment and the people are often seen and even deformed by their naïve perceptions of them. Dickens’s style is clear, vivid, effective, in a word, journalistic. It is not accurate and polished and reminds us that he was essentially a self-taught man, but it is able to involve the readers and to bring characters and situations to life, making some of them memorable. What the writer lacks in elegance is compensated by his acuteness, humanity and creativity. Of great success during his life, Dickens was attacked by many critics of the early 20th century but has been revalued by contemporary reviewers. As Robert Barnard wrote: “he was the complete artist: the poet and craftsman, the miniature painter and the social prophet, the showman and the statesman. He created no school, essentially had no successors: it is no more possible to be Dickensian than it is to be Shakesperian. Perhaps his contemporaries sensed this when they attached to his name the adjective inimitable”.*
Think of the character Oliver Twist and detect what makes him a typical Dickensian figure.
2. Dickens wrote Oliver Twist to criticize the Poor Law of 1834. In the conviction that people had to learn to stand on their own feet, the government decided that parishes were to be combined into unions, and workhouses built, offering very hard conditions and separating, men, women and children in different building, with the idea that people would make an effort to look after themselves. From what you have read say which devices the author uses to make this denunciation effective.
Justify Dicken’s enormous success in the Victorian Age. Up to what extent do you think that Dicken’s stories are still appealing nowadays?