Essays Written By Charles Dickens

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His books clamor with people from all different walks of life, Irishmen, Scotsmen, Englishmen … The monstrosities that he created are still remembered as monstrosities, in spite of getting mixed up in would-be probable melodramas.

Their first impact is so vivid that nothing that comes afterwards effaces it.

He wrote about bourgeois people: shopkeepers, bar owners, lawyers, innkeepers, servants: These are middle-class people, albeit with a grotesque edge.

Dickens obviously had a social critique in his work, but unlike more proselytizing writers, he did not offer solutions, so much as present the problem. By one of those coincidental plot-points that operates so often in Dickens, where he is removed from the squalor of the streets into the glory of a wealthy neighborhood.

This is written by a man who sees the issues but doesn’t really propose what we all should DO about them (besides notice that there are issues and sometimes the mere act of noticing is the most important step).

Additionally, if you look closely at Dickens, as Orwell points out, “there is no clear sign that he wants the existing order overthrown, or that he believes it would make much difference if it were overthrown.” So why were socialists trying to claim him then? But the system itself is not really called into question, at least not in any way that proposes a solution.

Wealth was supposed to change hands, collectively, from the wealthy to the peasant class. Dickens understood that element of the French Revolution, and also understood the fearsome underbelly of revolutions which produce terrifying personages such as Robespierre. ” Dickens is pretty contemptuous, overall, about the English education system. Schoolmasters and teachers were ridiculous figures to him, pompous, cruel, unfair, and worthy of parody. This may not be as easily seen today, or it may not be seen as very important, because questions of nationalism are not as paramount as they were in the 30s and 40s, when nations were behaving like a bunch of lunatics. But the time in which Orwell was writing, as well as his socialist Marxist background, informs his analysis in a way that is quite interesting.

Once the purges begin, they are nearly impossible to stop: at one point does a whole culture say, “Okay. Once you cut off the heads of your own monarchs in a public square, all bets are off. Dickens’ book, especially with the inclusion of Madame Defarge, really gets that. Schools suck, in Dickens’ world, which was probably an accurate reflection of what was going on (and something Orwell would clearly relate to, as we saw in his essay about his experience in an English boarding school). It’s hard to find a good example of a teacher in Dickens’ work, which speaks volumes. Orwell finds Dickens’ lack of patriotism refreshing.

Dickens pointed out the ills in English society, in the same way that William Blake did.

And yet he did so in a way that somehow maintained the status quo at the same time.


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