Untitled Essay, Research Paper
Something about Charles Dickens and his ability to take his reader to
unbelievable places with his imaginative powers allows him the honor of being
the most popular English novelist of the 19th century. Dickens has thrilled
his readers for many years with his down-to-earth stories about real people
forced into real situations. Charles Dickens has the ability to tell his
stories from personal experiences. He fine-tuned his ability to tell his
own story through the life of another character or cast of characters.
Born on the evening of February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens was the second child
of his parents, John and Elizabeth Dickens. His parents lived in Portsmouth,
which is located on England’s southern coast. The family was in the lower
division of the middle class. Charles Dickens’ father, John, was a clerk
at the Navy Pay Office in Portsmouth. Dickens’s mother was very affectionate
and rather foolish in practical matters. John was a vivacious and generous
man, but often lived outside the boundaries of his tight pocketbook. Later
in life Dickens used his father as the basis for his fictional character,
Mr. Micawber and his mother as Mrs. Nickleby in the Brothers Cheeryble (Constable
In 1814 John Dickens was transferred from the post in Portsworth to one in
London. Three years later the family moved to Chatham to be closer to their
father who was working steadily at the post. Charles Dickens’s mother taught
him to read when he was barely five and for the next few years Dickens lived
wonderfully, reading every book he could get his hands on. He quickly read
through his father’s collection of Shakespeare, Cervantes, Defoe, Smollett,
Fielding, and Goldsmith. Every one of these authors left a mark on the young
mind of Charles Dickens which is easy to see in his style and attitude throughout
writings (Carey 6).
During this time Dickens started attending school where he excelled and pleased
his father greatly. Although he was a solitary child, Dickens was observant
and good natured and often participated in different comical routines for
the class. Looking back on this period of his life, Dickens thought of it
as the golden age (Carey 6). In the first novel that he wrote, The Pickwick
Papers, Dickens tries to bring back the good old times as he remembers them
with their picturesque nature. Gary Carey believes that this novel displays
the happiness of innocence and the playful spirit of the youth during the
time of Dickens’s youthful days (7).
Overtaken by financial difficulties, the Dickens family was forced to move
into a shabby suburb of Camden Town. This move must have shown the family
how good they had it back in Chatham. There Dickens was removed from school
and forced to work degrading menial jobs in an effort to help his struggling
father put food on the table. Dickens was put to work in a blackening factory
among many rough and cruel employees, probably the worst job in town. Shortly
after Dickens started working in the factory his father was thrown into jail
for failure to pay his debts, only to be released three months later. This
period of time affected Dickens greatly as he went into a period of depression.
He felt abandoned and destroyed by this evil roller-coaster ride of life
he was on. From this time period come many of the major themes of his more
popular novels. Perhaps the most popular of these novels is David Copperfield.
In this novel Dickens depicts a young man who grows up in a very similar
way to that of his own (Al
Dickens’ sympathy for the victimized, his fascination with prisons and money,
the desire to vindicate his heroes’ status as gentlemen, and the idea of
London as an awesome, lively, and rather threatening environment all reflect
the experiences he had during his time on his own. On his own at the age
of twelve, Dickens learned many necessary life skills which also developed
in him a driving ambition and a boundless energy that transferred into every
thing that he did (28).
It would be a mistake to think of Charles Dickens as an uneducated man just
because he had little formal schooling. Dickens did what everyone should
do, learn from life. His entire writing career was a continuing process of
development and experimentation. Many of his themes keep repeating themselves
throughout his pieces and those themes most certainly stem from his early
life. From his early Pickwick Papers to his one of his last pieces The Mystery
of Edwin Drood Dickens never ceased to develop his writing abilities and
skill, establishing himself as the major and primary Victorian novelist (Bloom
The journey from boyhood into manhood is a momentous one, and definitely
something that has a lasting effect on one’s person. Charles Dickens in his
novel David Copperfield describes the journey into manhood by telling a story
similar to his own life through the life of “David Copperfield.” There isn’t
one underlining theme in this novel there are many. The journey is one that
along with “David’s” is longing for what is lost in the past and the humiliation
he feels from being an orphan. Dickens has written an excellent novel describing
the troubles of growing up and the benefits of having a rough childhood.
Through the rough experiences that he had, Dickens was able to look back
on his early life and write world-famous stories about them. Calvin Brown
feel that these experiences also helped shape the man the Dickens became,
as do all experiences in life for everyone (Brown 144)
The structure of Dickens’s Copperfield has the freeness and the unity of
a wonderful journey. As the scene moves from place to place in the story
each move also represents a critical step in David’s spiritual journey to
manhood. Dickens uses the pattern of changing scenes to provide both variety
and contrast of mood. The atmosphere changes as the story moves along from
the Salem House to Blunderstone, giving the story diversity. Dickens constantly
shows how the life of David would have been much easier had he had a decent
father figure in his home while he was growing up.
David is constantly searching for what he has lost in the past. He recalls
the beautiful world of the Peggottys when he says, “It seems to me at this
hour that I have never seen such sunlight as on those bright April afternoons,
that I have never seen such a sunny little figure as I used to see, sitting
in the doorway of the old boat…”(Copperfield 7) This writing of Dickens
binds the reader to the story. David remembers the “olden” days and thinks
of them as the “golden” days (Allen 28).
As the beginning of the story describes, David Copperfield has many hard
childhood experiences, such as Dickens’s own humiliating days spent working
in the blackening factory in London. The despair and humiliation that he
suffered there and the rejection of his parents and the loss of all his hopes
of self-fulfillment are relived through David in this book. Dickens tells
his own story well through the life of David Copperfield. He isn’t looking
for the readers’ sympathy. He simply wants the reader to understand that
just because he had a rough life doesn’t mean it was a bad one.
A journey into adulthood, something that everyone must go through, although
it may be easier for some than others. Charles Dickens, in David Copperfield,
describes this journey as he makes the reader a vital part of David Copperfield’s
life. This journey is a theme in this novel as well as “David’s” longing
for what is lost in the past and the humiliation he feels from being an orphan.
Dickens has developed his character, David, into a hero much like he wanted
to be remembered as (Andreola 3). Many critics today think he achieved that
Charles Dickens also wrote many other books throughout his creative writing
career. In his book A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens causes the reader to ask
what the novel is really about, just what the driving theme is. Although
each reader will come up with a different answer to this question, most of
the answers fall into one of three categories.
Some readers will say that this novel is about the different personalities
of the many different and well-described characters throughout his novel.
The story portrays a French physician, Dr. Manette, who has been wrongly
put into prison in the Bastille for nearly eighteen years before the story
even begins (Constable 24). Because he witnessed the aftermath of a crime
that was committed by two other fellows, the doctor was thrown into prison.
The entire prison experience is something that he can never fully shake free
from. In moments of stress throughout the novel Dr. Manette often goes insane,
a result of his time in prison. The story also concerns a man by the name
of Jarvis Lorry, who, in the beginning of the book, is on his way to retrieve
the doctor from the prison (Constable 13).
Another group of readers will believe that this book is about the French
Revolution. Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities starts out in 1775 while the
Revolution was still in its underground preliminary stages. The book covers
eighteen years ending with one of the bloodiest battles, the Reign of Terror
in 1973. Although most of the major revolution events take place off stage
in the novel, they do have a major effect on the lives of the characters
in the story. It would certainly be no error to say the events of the French
Revolution, which make up so much of the setting in this novel, is what the
theme of the novel really is (Carey 11).
The third category of readers will say the novel’s theme is beyond the fictional
characters and historical events and is more of a symbol. These readers will
see that the actions relate to Dickens’s vision of life and the reason for
it. This group will say that the book presents a picture of human life using
the dramatic language of characters and their actions (Carey 12).
Anyway that a reader approaches A Tale of Two Cities, it is a hard book to
read although it does become interesting at times and in the end brings the
reader into an understanding of personal life trials during the time of the
French Revolution. Whether the reader believes that the novel is about its
characters, historical events or symbolism, it doesn’t matter. Charles Dickens
wanted the readers of enjoy this novel not fight over what the meaning behind
it is (Carey 12).
Sadly, many of the greatest books that have strengthened and shaped Western
civilization are drifting out of modern life and thought. But it doesn’t
have to be this way. Someone must responsibly keep the literary lights such
as Charles Dickens burning brightly for the benefit of younger generations.
It is time to rescue Dickens from the attic and let him stir the hearts of
people today. Dickens can challenge, motivate, and entertain in ways the
Hardy Boys never could. Dickens became famous writing stories that highlighted
the difference between right and wrong in his own time. His stories invite
readers to form an opinion and make decisions about a character’s right or
As only an artist could. Dickens paints a moral picture of life. To paint
the moral for children is more effective than to “point” it. Here lays the
help the younger generation of today needs to develop a “moral
When reading episodes from Dickens’s stories it is easy to get to know his
characters more intimately than neighbors. The experience of life along with
his characters is something that the readers feel. Feelings arouse for them
as the characters struggle in difficult situations (Andreola 2).
In Terry W. Glaspey’s Great Books of the Christian Tradition, he says, “Dickens
could sometimes be faulted for being overlong and sentimental, but his novels
seem to lodge in the memory long after they are read. His ability to create
a multitude of memorable characters gave us the adjective ‘Dickensian.’ His
staunch Victorian morality is a pleasant contrast to our modern sense of
moral drift.” And what wonderful characters they are! His heroes are people
of everyday life who supply readers with a vision of goodness (Andreola 3)
Clearly without the writing of Charles Dickens the literary world of today
would be suffering a great loss. Dickens thought his many years of life
experiences was able to use his talents as a writer to express to the everyday
reader what the true meaning of life is. Charles Dickens did for the literary
world what stories like that of small town basketball sensation, Larry Bird,
did for small town athletes around the United States. Dickens helped readers
understand themselves, those who are the common folk. Middle to lower class.