One of the most important novelist of Victorian age is Charles Dickens. He was born in 1812 and he died in 1874. His literary production was enormous. He mainly wrote novels that were published in serial forms in magazines and newspapers. It is for this reason that each chapter can be considered a complete episode. His family belong to the middle class. His novels can be divided in different categories:
• Humorous novels;
• Historical novels;
• Sentimental novels;
• Social novels;
Of course in his humours novels Dickens uses the typical English humour, especially in the description of his characters. He described the wickless. The most important novel of this type is the “Pickwick papers” (where he talks about the adventures of club sport man). Another important novel is “Martin Chuzzlewit” who is also the protagonist of the novel. Dickens wrote this novel after his visit to the United States and he remained deeply impressioned by American people vulgarity. Especially one of novel by Dickens is important: “A tale of two cities” which is set at the time of French revolution, in France and in London.
Sentimental novels were the best known of Dickens. They were called sentimental because Dickens wants to convey a message that refers to feelings. The most important sentimental novels are:
• “A Christmas Carol”: a ghost story but which wants to convey a moral to the end;
• “David Copperfield”: a novel that talks about a child, David Copperfield. This novel is full of autobiographical elements.
The social novels are called social because Dickens was a great critic of the society of his time. He attacked in his social novels especially the hypocrisy of the people that ruled the country. He wants to denounce the exploitation of children and the most important novels of this type are “Oliver Twist” (that is not only a social novel but it is also a sentimental novel) is the story of an orphan boy who is grown up in a workhouse. At the age of 9/10 he is sold to an undertaker who is so cruel with Oliver that he runs away and he goes to London where he falls prey of a band of pickpockets (they were only children). However after a series of difficulties, he is helped by a gentleman and at the end a middle class family adopts him. The most part of the story take place in London and we can see the life of poor people that lived there. There were three different social classes:
• The criminals who are insensible to desperation;
• The middle class who don’t want to change a thing;
• The upper middle class who had a deep interest in the destiny of poor people.
Another important social novels are “The old curiosity shop” and “Hard times”. “Great expectation” is masterpiece. It is a novel in which he talks about the life experiences of a young boy.
Characteristics of Dickens novels:
• Use of humour which is always present;
• Use of irony and satire;
• Pathos: a combination of humour and pathos;
• His social involvement because he wanted to use his novels to denounced the hypocrisy of Victorian period.
In all of his novels Dickens has a particular interest in the modest part of society. Dickens reputed industrial progress as the most important cause of the corruption of society.