Dickens Thesis

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The Powerful Pen
Childhood memories should be warm and loving, but for Charles Dickens they were filled with fear and shame. His was a life of instability and fleeting moments of happiness, filled with embarrassing scenes of debt collectors, jail house visits and appalling working conditions. All of these episodes were set against the background of the filthy streets and somber reality of England during the Industrial Revolution. Charles Dickens was aware of the poverty surrounding him and the lack of concern the world seemed to have for the needy. He later wrote of his poverty, “no one had compassion enough on me”. (Mankowitz 21) As he wandered though the grimy streets of London, disturbed by what he witnessed, he believed one day he would make a difference. What he did not realize was that he would improve the lives of many others while on his path to success. The unsettling childhood of Charles Dickens, recalled in his famous works The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, exposed social injustices though his broad readership while bringing awareness to the neglected, impoverished population of Victorian England. Life in the Dickens home in the early 1800’s was not going well, and a heavy cloud of debt hung over the family like a dreary London afternoon. Charles, who was born in 1812, had a father who made a habit of living beyond his means, and spent money foolishly. 1 Eventually his father’s carefree attitude towards to the family finances caught up with him and the Dickens’ were forced to sell their home2. 1 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 8-9. 2 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 12. 3 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 19.

1 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 8-9. 2 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 12. 3 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 19.

Everything Charles had known until the age of 11 was then ripped out from under him, his cherished books had to be sold3, his education was discontinued and life became much darker. As he was being driven away from Chatham he recalled “...it rained hard all the way, and I thought that life was sloppier than I expected to find it.” (Mankowitz 14) Quickly, life did get much sloppier, creditors banged on doors4 and harassed the family, and demands for money were constant. Finally, the Dickens family would have to call a debtors prison5 home and a job at a filthy boot-blacking factory was where Charles found employment. 6 All of these traumas embarrassed Charles7, causing him to feel neglected and insignificant. As his descent into poverty continued, Charles experienced life though his lowered status. Though somewhere mixed in with his feelings of shame, was a belief that he would never be like his father, and that he would succeed. He was described at this time of his life as having “deadly determination” (Mankowitz 24) 4 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 17.

5 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 21

7 Mankowitz, Wolf. Dickens of London. New York: Macmillan, 1977. 24

6 Mankowitz, Wolf. Dickens of London. New York: Macmillan, 1977. 20.

8 Pearson, Hesketh. Dickens, His Character, Comedy, and Career. New York: Harper & Bros., 1949. 60.

9 Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography. New York: Morrow, 1988. 53.

4 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 17.

5 Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: [a Life Defined by Writing]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 21

7 Mankowitz, Wolf. Dickens of London. New York: Macmillan, 1977. 24

6 Mankowitz, Wolf. Dickens of London. New York:...
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