Did Charles Dickens portray the social problems of his time accurately in his fiction?
February 7, 2012
Charles Dickens was one of the greatest writers of all time. His passion for writing was one of a kind. Many people are not too fond of Charles Dickens maybe because he wrote over a hundred years ago. Dickens wrote about the hard times his country faced and the reality of the time period. The Victorian Time Period was the hardest obstacle to hit England and Dickens put that in his writing to express and show others the effects of it. Every novel that was ever wrote from Charles Dickens is connected to the Victorian era in some form.
He is living proof of childhood corruption and portrays himself as his young, mischievous, and perplexed characters Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. He proves that he is a product of the Victorian era as he brings attention to the childhood cruelty, the less fortunate in an English society, and the un-wealthy dysfunctional families of the early Victorian time period. Charles Dickens reflects these and other issues as he brings to life the realism of writing. While others were writing about the way things should be, rather than the way things were, Dickens was challenging these ideas, and argued that paupers and criminals were not evil at birth. This was an act of rebellion, for he in fact was showing the Victorian middle class generation how things felt from a different point of view.
The Victorian era reflected more than just a change in the lack of economic development, but it marked on young children that endured the child cruelty and labor, such as Dickens, and many other writers of this time. Dickens, having been a poor boy, worked in a factory where he was treated with no respect, and many, such as him, had to work in cruel and dangerous conditions. This comes out in his writing, as Oliver Twist works in a factory so that he would get a meal, and a place to sleep. Oliver works long days and his meals come in fist size portions, and therefore all of the young children in the factory become thin and are on the verge of going into starvation. "Please, sir, I want some more." (Ch. 2, pg. 12) This quotation is a direct reflection of Oliver's hunger, and a child's opinions of the cruelty that they have endured working in this factory in the Victorian era.
Many children, perhaps even Dickens, worked 16 hour days under atrocious conditions. Of course, children of the Victorian time period weren't always being labored; many were verbally and physically abused by their parents, and the upper class workmen of the English society. Dickens shows how parents can be cruel to their children as he does in David Copperfield, how David's step father beats him. Also when he uses such a quotation from David's mother when she says, "Am I a naughty mamma to you, Davy? Am I a nasty, cruel, selfish, bad mamma? Say I am, my child; say Yes', dear boy, and Peggotty will love you; and Peggotty's love is a great deal better than mine, Davy. I don't love you at all, do I?" (Ch. 2, p. 28) She is throwing a great deal of guilt on a young boy such as David, as is recognizable as emotional and physiological abuse from a parent to a child. When young Oliver Twist was framed for stealing a man's gloves, it just shows how children were viewed. The wealthy man accused Oliver for stealing, partially because he was clearly homeless, and was at the wrong place at the wrong time. This shows how children were viewed as by the wealthy, and how they were poorly judged and how paupers were treated as if they were evil from birth. Not all judgment was passed just to the un-wealthy children, but to all of the less fortunate in the Victorian time period. "Stay another moment," interposed Rose. . . . "Will you return to this gang of robbers, and to this man, when a word can save you? What fascination is it that can take you back, and make you cling to wickedness and misery?" "When ladies as young, and good, and...
Bibliography: and Sketch. MaGill 's Survey of World Literature. Vol 2. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1993.
Rahn, Josh. “Victorian Literature.” The Literature Network. January 2011. 2 Feb. 2012 <http://online-literature.com/periods/victorian.php
Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield. Revised ed. Penguin Classics, 2004. 1-1024.
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