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Open Access Dissertations and Theses

Open Dissertations and Theses

1-1-1971

The Social Criticism of Charles Dickens: A Point of
View
V. Christine McCarthy

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McCarthy, V. Christine, "The Social Criticism of Charles Dickens: A Point of View" (1971). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4952.

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THE SOCIAL CRITICISM
OF
CHARLES DICKENS:
A POINT OF VIEW

THE SOCIAL CRITICISM
OF
CHARLES DICKENS:
A POINT OF VIEW

BY
V. CHRISTINE MCCARTHY

A Thesis
Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies
in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements
for the Degree
Master of Arts
McMaster University
September 1971

MASTER OF ARTS
(English)

MCMASTER UNIVERSITY
Hamilton, Ontario.

TITLE:

The Social Criticism of Charles Dickens: A Point of View

AUTHOR:

Va Christine McCarthy, B.A o

SUPERVISOR:

(McMaster University)

Dr. M.L. Ross

NUMBER OF PAGES:

v, 76

SCOPE AND CONTENTS:

This thesis deals with Dickens' social
criticism in Oliver Twist (1838), Dombey
and Son (1846), Hard Times (1854) and
Little Dorrit (1855). The major considerationis the discrepancy betto1een Dickens' stated intentions and his achievement as
a social critic. The analysis of the four
novels revolves around an examination of
the characterization, the explicit and
implicit levels of meaning, and the escapist tendencies in the fiction.

ii

ACKNOl>1LEDGEMENT

I would like to thank Dr. M.L. Ross and Dr. J. Ferns whose
interest and attention were invaluable throughout the writing of this thesis.

iii

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

1

CHAPTER ONE: OLIVER TWIST

8

CHAPTER TWO: DOMBEY AND SON

22

CHAPTER THREE: HARD TIMES

36

CHAPTER FOUR: LITTLE DORRIT

52

CONCLUSION

66

NOTES

68

BIBLIOGRAPHY

75

iv

TEXTUAL NOTES AND ABBREVIATIONS

Frequent reference will be made to the following works:
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Introduction by 'Ka:t:hle,en Tillotson!d)Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966 (first published
as a book in 1840).

2.

-------. Dombey and Son. Introduction by H.W. Garrod.
London: Oxford University Press, 1966 (first published
as a book in 1848).

3.

-------. Hard Times. Introduction by Dingle Foot. London.
Oxford University Press, 1966 (first published as a book
in 1854).

4.

-------. Little Dorrit. Introduction by Lionel Trilling.
London: Oxford University Press, 1966 (first published
as a book in 1857).

All further reference to these works will appear in the following abbreviated forms:

1.

Oliver Twist.

2.

Dombey and Son.

3.

Hard Times.

4.

Little Dorrit.

v

INTRODUCTION
In his survey of English fiction, W.J. Dawson writes that
Charles Dickens is "the spokesman of the masses; he writes for them and lives by their praise; he is understood of the common people, and delights in kinship with them; he may thus claim to have been 1

the creator of the democratic novel".

Later critics like G.B. Shaw

and Ernest A. Baker also find in Dickens

a strong support of the
2

working class and a vehement criticism of the governing classes. One must assume that these critics are basing their judgments exelusively on the passages of explicit condemnation of the social order, for a close reading of the texts reveals contradictions in Dickens' social attitudes.

This thesis is an attempt to clarify

Dickens' social attitudes and reappraise his criticism of Victorian...
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