Life and Works:
v Charles had to go work early ; Why was this? What had happened to his family?
Charles was born into a lower middle class family 121f55b which had to face great financial difficulties. His father was always in debt, he was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office in Portsmouth, the place where Charles and his family lived, but in 1814 he moved to London because he wanted to have a better job. In 1822 Charles worked in a blacking factory but after a short time his father was imprisoned for debts at Marshalsea debtor's prison, where he was joined by all his family. The boy did not stay with his family because he had to main his job that was not good because in this factory worked mainly children. After a short period Charles's father was released and the boy was sent to a school where he did well in fact when he was fifteen he worked for some newspapers, but this was not good for him because he couldn't stay with his mother.
v What effect was his early working life to have on Dickens?
He suffered a lot from his experience in the factory because here children were exploited and ill-treated. He suffered a lot also because he couldn't see his family, in particular his mother. During this period he became mature and develop a keen sense of observation, which was very useful when he started to write.
v Describe his first writing experiences. How successful were they?
In 1836 Dickens published his first work: "Sketches by Boz", "Boz" being his pen name, which are a collection of sketches of London life, which appeared in "The Monthly Magazine" three years before. They had a great success during his period.
v What did Dickens choose as a topic for The Pickwick Papers?
This is a comic a novel which deals with a club of amateur sportsmen whose founder and chairman, the naive 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.
v How did Dickens' relationships with women affect the women characters in his novels? Why was this?
He always had conflictual relationships with women; in fact he married Catherine Hogarth but a few years before he had deeply fallen in love with Maria Baduell but her parents considered him socially inferior and so this relation had not a happy end. He feel not satisfied with his wife and he became emotionally involved with her younger sister Mary, who lived with them. Unfortunately she died in 1837 and Dickens suffered a lot because of this fact. So the relationships with women were always painful: his mother's faults, his wife's limits, Maria's rejection and Mary's early departure affected his interest in women and so his female characters are boring and unattractive.
v How were his novels published? What effect do you think this had on his reading public?
Most of Dickens' works were published in serial form. This way of publishing let the public increase, because people could buy and read fiction at low price. Then I think the public liked the serial form, because it created a sense of suspense in the reader, which wanted to know how the story finishes.
v When was Dickens at his best?
Dickens must publish works incessantly because of his debts. He wrote a great number of works including "David Copperfield" that was his most important work and the author himself liked it more than the others. So we must say that with "David Copperfield" Dickens is at his best.
v How autobiographical was David Copperfield ?
This novel is autobiographical, especially in the first part. Also the title can be seen as autobiographical, because the initials of Charles Dickens (CD) are the same of David Copperfield (DC), but inverted. Nevertheless, Dickens' life is used to inspire the story of David, a boy who grows from childhood to manhood in Victorian society
v What did Dickens criticise in his later books?
In 1839, when he published "Nichlas Nickleby", Charles attacked the public schools and then, in "The Old Curiosity", criticised the injurious treatment of children in industrial towns. Later he continues to criticise the delays and the ineffectiveness of the law, in "Bleak House". He denounces the industrialisation again in "Hard Times" and focuses his attention on real and symbolic imprisonment in "Little Dorrit". He denounces the injustice of the Poor Laws in "Our Mutual Friend".
v Describe his family life. In what way could this be seen as hypocritical?
In 1858 he separated from his wife and he went to live in Kent with Ellen Ternan and nine of his ten children. She was an actress. This was seen as hypocritical, because the Victorian conventions couldn't accept this relationship with a woman, that wasn't a wife. Because of this was an unhappy period of Dickens' life.
v How was Dickens a victim of Victorian morality?
He condemned the intolerance and the rigidity of the Victorian Age but he was permeated with them and, although he condemned the society of his time, he hasn't got practical solutions for these problems.
v He believed that change was necessary, but how did he think this change was to be achieved?
Dickens thought that changes were necessary, but he didn't propose revolutionary changes in the society. He was convinced that the right solutions were paternalistic and moral, not economic and political: only the moral change and the sensitivity can relieve human sufferance. He tried to mount up money to help the poor people.
v What effect did the Victorian moral code have on writers?
The Victorian moral code had a bad effect on writers, in fact the try to write in serial forms. However the editors impose an artful censorship on those, who used the instalments.
v Describe the shortcomings of writing in serial form. How did this affect Dickens' literary output?
The shortcoming of writing in serial form was that the writings had to meet the agreement in the reader and had always to create suspense. To please the public, Dickens write novels, which were often pervaded by too much sensationalism, sentimentalism and melodrama.
v In what ways was Dickens' portrait of reality conditioned by his reading public?
Because the writers tried to satisfy the demands of the readers, they have to describe characters, which the readers could identify with. The novels, for this reason, aren't good balanced in the plots, being some parts long and detailed and others roughly interrupted because Dickens sometimes changed the characters of his personages because the readers doesn't like them. We must say that he described the reality as the public wanted and at the end, good and justice will triumph on the evils of the society.
v Examine Dickens' characters' positive and negative characteristics.
Charles' characters, who come from all social classes except the aristocracy, can be divided in two categories: the good or virtuous and the vicious. They are fixed characters, because they don't have the possibility to evolve psychologically and they are marked by depth of insight. He described them in a journalistic way.
v What role do children play in Dickens' novels?
They have an important role in his novels, because they represent the symbol of the society's guilt in their loneliness and misery. The society never accepts them in fact to be accepted they have to grow and modify themselves to a hostile structure. Dickens thought that children are persons, who suffer, hate and love.
v Describe Dickens' style. What, fundamentally, makes it inimitable?
His style is effective and clear. His ability is to involve the readers in the story, describing memorable characters and situations. Some critics noticed a lack of elegance. In his novels the narrators are intrusive and omniscient, who have a relationship with the readers.
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