Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Dickens is the greatest novelist of the English history.

Life and his life in his works:

He was born in Portsmouth in 1812.

Dickens had an unhappy childhood, he was forced to start to work in a factory when his father went to prison for debts, and then, when his father went out, he found an employment as office boy that allowed him to study at night.

Is possible to find reflections of this disadvantaged childhood in all his novels. (child labour, poverty, the presentation of the women like grotesque figures).

By 1824 he became a successful reporter of Parliamentary debates starting to write in a newspaper where, since 1833 he started to write stories.


Dickens moved the social frontiers of the novel changing the subject of the stories: before him, all subjects belonged to high-classes, with him they belong to whole the society, speaking also of poor and of their world (as other realistic novelists did in other countries) often in a London unknown for bourgeois readers.


Children are often the most important characters in Dickens novels, they represent moral teachers (as in Wordsworth).

Way of telling:

Also the way of telling changed: he wrote novels as he would writes an article pretending that literature was journalism and fiction was history.


His novels were influenced by the Bible, fairy tales, fables, 18th-century novelists and by Gothic novels.


His main novels are:

Oliver Twist;

A Christmas Carol;

David Copperfield;

Hard Times;

Great Expectations.

Oliver Twist (1838)

It first appeared in instalments and was later published as a book.

The plot:

Speak about the story of a child of unknown parents, Oliver, that lives in a workhouse in bad conditions. He is later sold to a family that uses him as a servant. Then he runs away to London where he fell in the hands of a band of pickpockets that tries to make a thief of him. He is helped by an old gentleman. Oliver is eventually kidnapped by the gang. Finally he the boss of the gang was arrested and Oliver comes to live to the home of the gentleman and he found that he has noble origins.

The world of the workhouse:

Dickens attacked the social evils of his times such as poor houses. The idea that make this poverty in the workhouses is that if people see bad conditions in poverty, they will fight to became not poor.

London's life:

Dickens shows three different images of London:

workhouses world


Victorian's middle-class world

Hard times (1854)

The plot:

The story is set in an imaginary industrial town, Coketown. The protagonist is a family of Victorian owner-class, Gradgrind family, with the father, Thomas, that thinks only 'in facts' and oppress his children, Louisa and Tom. This story is linked to the story of an worker of the Gradgrind's factory, Stephen Blackpool. After some events that upset the static situation (as the foll in poverty of the family) Thomas understands that exists some else out of facts and Stephen solves his economic problems.

Social criticism:

Hard Times is a social critic of Victorian society, Dickens focuses this in:

critic of the difference between poor and rich

critic of the Utilitarianism, based on money, that brings to

the vision of people as machines

critic of the ugliness of industrial citiesm

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