The shortest of Dickens's novels, set in a northern industrial town, this champions imagination, fun and experience against the fact-based, stern and bookish philosophies of the time, as epitomised in the outlook of Thomas Gradgrind, one of the principal characters. Faced with the effects of his rigid attitudes on the lives of his son and daughter, he comes to accept the emptiness of his pet … [Read more...]
Dickens as a Fiction Writer
Charles Dickens completed 14 novels and started another. None of them has so far vanished into obscurity. One or two are considered to be among the greatest novels of all time. Dickens wrote numerous shorter works of fiction, including five Christmas books, among which A Christmas Carol stands out as a masterpiece, regularly read and interpreted to this day. Below are some short introductions to the novels and to A Christmas Carol, in the order in which they were written.
Here Dickens plays on the theme of imprisonment, drawing on his own experience as a boy of visiting his father in a debtors' prison. William Dorrit is locked up for years in that prison, attended daily by his daughter, Little Dorrit. Her unappreciated self-sacrifice comes to the attention of Arthur Clennam, recently returned from China, who helps bring about her father's release but is himself … [Read more...]
This, the second of Dickens's two historical novels, relates to the French Revolution, the two cities being London and Paris. French-born Charles Darnay, settled in London, returns to Paris to help save the life of his agent, but is eventually himself condemned to death. He is saved by the self-sacrifice of Sydney Carton, who takes his place, having previously led a debauched and wasteful life. … [Read more...]
Like David Copperfield, this story is narrated in the first person. The narrator, Philip Pirrip, known as Pip, looks back over his life, from his rural boyhood, under the care of a ferocious sister and her mild husband, a blacksmith, to living the life of a gentleman in London, funded by a mysterious benefactor. The mystery solved, his pretentiousness was destroyed, and he then had to cope with … [Read more...]
The basis of this carefully plotted story is the desire of John Harmon, an heir to the fortune of a refuse contractor, to disguise his identity till he has formed an opinion of Bella Wilfer, the woman he is supposed to marry under the terms of his father's will. From the time he finds himself assumed dead, complications abound, but all turns out well in the end. Opinions differ widely as to the … [Read more...]
Dickens had completed nearly half of this story when he died. Speculation about how it would have ended has since tended to attract greater interest than any assessment of the work as it stands. The central mystery of the story arises from the disappearance of Edwin Drood. It seems likely that he has been murdered. There is evidence to suppose that this is what Dickens had had in mind, but the … [Read more...]