Charles Dickens

.. utions, evinced most powerfully in Bleak House but reappearing consistently throughout his work, is based on the first-hand knowledge of them that he gained at the outset of his career. The world of Pickwick Papers, is not simply the world of Dingley Dell and Eatanswill, neither is its total effect as disjointed, as its loosely constructed technique would perhaps imply. The novel is given shape both by a subtle development in the character of Pickwick himself and by the way in which its thematic concerns, most notably in the sequence of events involving Pickwick and the law, have the common element of an attack on inhumanity and selfishness. As Pickwick becomes more deeply involved with the legal process, described as an instrument for the torture and torment of his majestys liege subjects and the comfort and emolument of its practitioners, there is an increasingly serious edge to the comedy.

The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge, cab be considered as a pair in that they appeared in quick succession in a periodical of his own devising, as distinct from the other early novels, they involved a more hectic process of composition, appearing in weekly instead of monthly instalments. The very factor that was responsible for The Old Curiosity Shops compulsive effect on Dickenss contemporaries, his treatment of the life and death of the heroine Little Nell, has led to its notoriety with succeeding generations. Edward FitzGerald copied out all the parts of the book that involved Little Nell herself. In 1842, Dickens visited America as a literary celebrity. The visit began auspiciously enough, but despite his appreciation of the lavish hospitality of his host Dickens could not resist the opportunity to refer repeatedly in his public pronouncements to the vexed issue of international copyright, and in particular to the pirating of English works by American publishers.

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While undoubtedly in the right, as ever he lacked discretion and the result was a series of attacks on him in American newspapers for which he, in return, exacted revenge, at first mildly in his American Notes, published in 1842, and then more vehemently in the American sections of his novel, Martin Chuzzlewit. This novel is not only memorable for its comedy, but in its variety of scene it achieves considerable atmospheric complexity and in its London scenes in particular it suggests that sense of the density of urban experience that was to become the hallmark of the later novels. When Pecksniff brings his daughters up to town be brings them to an exciting new world of ..steeples, towers belfries, shining vanes and masts of ships: a very forest. Gables, house-tops, garret-windows, wilderness upon wilderness. Smoke and noise enough for all the world at once.

To the onlooker, however, the scene becomes one of menace: The tumult, swelled into a roar; the host of objects seemed to thicken and expand a hundredfold; and after gazing round him, quite scared, he turned into Todgerss again, much more rapidly than he came out..(ch. 9) And when Mercy Pecksniff is inveigled into marriage with Jonas Cuzzlewit, who during the course of the novel becomes wife beater, murderer and suicide, the threat becomes reality. Dickenss concept of character is similarly uncomplicated: hence the optimism which they imply, which in itself is made more acceptable by the way in which they are distanced in time. He locates his action in the immediately contemporary world, most empathetically perhaps in Dombey and Son itself, with its constant reference to the railway. To emphasize the extent of his social preoccupations in Bleak House Dickens deliberately contrived a dual-narrative in which the life-story of his heroine is interwoven with an extensive range of imaginative social documentation provided by the author himself.

The effect is a subtle one-the novel gains stability from the progressive unraveling of esters story, while leaving Dickens free to expatiate on various examples of social abuse in the manner of his earlier picaresque method. The evils, which he attacks, are indeed related to the main plot, but the fact that the novel is deliberately compartmentalized in this way allows Dickens to extend his social criticism without limitation. There is a further effect of the narrative method that is vital to an understanding of Bleak House. If *censored*ens supplies his analysis in what might loosely be called the picaresque section of the novel, his remedy is contained in the linear narrative of Esthers life story, and in particular in its account of her relationship with Jarndyce, the father-figure of the novel, who know the ways of Chancery and constantly asserts the futility of opposition. The unrealistic nature of Jarndyces role in Bleak House is an expression of pessimism about the prospects of social change a intense as any expressed by the social analysis itself; in that Esters narrative is ostensibly, the dual-narrative method can be seen as enabling Dickens to put toward solutions to the problems outlined n the novel which he could scarcely have endorsed in rational terms.

The reservations expressed by some of the reviewers about the social stance adopted by Dickens in his later novels seem not to have been reflected in his general popularity. He was elected to be able to claim that Edwin Drood was meeting with more success than any of its predecessors. His death, like that of Tennyson, the other great Victorian writer to become an institution in his won time was an occasion for national mourning; a special train conveyed his coffin from Gads Hill to London for its interment in Westminster Abbey. Like Shakespeare, *censored*ens worked in a popular medium at a time when it was becoming the predominant literary form and like Shakespeare, he enriched it through the fertility of his imagination and the extent of his vision. In that vision, in even the darkest of the novels, remained fundamentally comic, I suspect that, where criticism has found him wanting, it is often because comedy, of its nature, presents particular problems for the moral certitude which criticism tends to embody.

This in itself is a measure of Dickenss greatness: like all great artists he forces us to reconsider the attitudes which we bring to art. American History Essays.