Charles Dickens

By Krishnan

Charles John Huffam Dicken was an English author and social critic born in Portsmouth, England, in 1812. He was the second of eight children born to John Dickens and Elizabeth (née Barrow). His father worked as a clerk in the Naval Pay Office. He was always very kind and generous, but in a naïve way that caused him severe financial difficulties for most of his life. His father’s life was the inspiration for the character of Mr Micawber. Dickens had six younger siblings, as well as an elder brother named Frances. His many life experiences lead to many of Charles Dickens novels.

When Charles was four years old, his father was transferred to Chatham, Kent, and his family moved to a big and beautiful home with two maids to serve and care for them, where he spent his younger years until the age of eleven. Mary Weller, one of the servants, served as Charles’ nursemaid. Charles was an active reader who enjoyed reading the writings of Oliver Goldsmith, Henry Fielding, and Daniel Defoe. He went to William Giles’ school and excelled in class. But when he wasn’t studying, he and his siblings would start creating games to play, read poems and songs, and put on his theatrical shows, inspiring an everlasting passion for theatre.

However, the family had to leave Kent in 1824 due to their increasing debts and household expenses, resulting in his father’s imprisonment for failing to repay debt. Everyone in the family travelled with John Dickens, except for 12-year-old Charles, who was forced to drop out of school and work ten hours a day at Warren’s Shoes Blacking Factory to help support the family by sticking labels on boxes. He used to walk daily to work from his boarding house in Camden House. Every very Sunday, he would visit his father. Dickens was deeply affected by the demanding and harsh or severe working conditions, which later inspired his fiction and writings that sparked his interest in improving socioeconomic and labour conditions.

He was introduced to the harsh realities of the real world after his unhappy childhood ended. This was especially true for the working poor, where child labour was common, and there were hardly any adults who ever treated kids kindly. His personal experiences served as a major inspiration for his later books, including Phillip Pirrip, David Copperfield, and Oliver Twist. The period was marked by squalor, meagre pay, and long hours, but the worst part was when his mother pushed him to work at the warehouse, leading him to have a lifelong hatred against her. Fortunately for him, his father was soon released and made arrangements for him to attend the Wellington House School in London, where he studied for almost two years there until March 1827.

He started his writing career as a journalist, much like many others. His father became a journalist, and Charles started with The Mirror of Parliament and The True Sun. He later started working for The Morning Chronicle as a legislative journalist in 1833. With the help of his new contacts in the media, he was able to use the alias “Boz” to publish several sketches. In April 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of the editor of ‘Sketches by Boz,’ George Hogarth. The immensely popular Pickwick Papers’ was published in the same month, putting him on the path to becoming a writer.

Charles Dickens Novels

Dickens is widely recognised as the best Victorian-era author and is credited with creating some of history’s most iconic fictional characters. Throughout his lifetime, his writings attained an extraordinary level of popularity, and by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised his literary talent. Thus, the best Charles Dickens novels are listed below.

  • Bleak House (1853)

Bleak House, one of Dicken’s best works, was serialised in 1852–1853 and released as a book in 1853. The novel features many characters and several subplots and is narrated by two different narrators: Esther Summerson, the book’s protagonist (half the book is written from her point of view), and an unnamed narrator. It possesses many of the most recognisable “Dickensian” characteristics, including criticism of poverty and the situations of the poor, a diverse cast of colourful individuals, and brilliant depictions of London. Dickens criticises the English Court of Chancery through this story, where cases take a long time to settle, and the legal processes are so complex that they have a terrible impact on people’s lives.

Summary: The story of the Jarndyce family, who waits impatiently to inherit money from a disputed fortune of Jarndyce and Jarndyce’s extremely long-running case.

  • David Copperfield (1850)

Charles Dickens’ 1849–1850 serialised novel David Copperfield, titled The Personal Biography of David Copperfield, was also released as a book in 1850. Dickens referred to David Copperfield as his “favourite child”, and it has consistently been one of his most well-read books. Although the titular character differs much from his author in many aspects, David Copperfield is an autobiographical book, and its events are based on Dickens’ own experiences.

Summary: David Copperfield tells the story of a young man’s journey on his way from an unhappy and poor background to discovering his purpose as a successful author.

  • A Christmas Carol (1843)

A Christmas Carol is a novella, not a novel, is one of several Christmas-themed stories written by Charles Dickens and was published in London by Chapman and Hall in 1843 and illustrated by John Leech. Dickens penned A Christmas Carol in six weeks and released it six days before Christmas in 1843. A Christmas Carol has never gone out of print and has been translated into multiple languages; the story has been adapted into film, theatre, opera, and other media numerous times.

Summary: It tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old miser who gets visits from the spirits of Christmases past, present, and soon to come, as well as Jacob Marley, his former business partner. Scrooge is changed into a more likeable, gentler guy as a result of their visits.

  • Great Expectations (1861)

Great Expectations is Charles Dickens’s thirteenth and last written novel. After David Copperfield, it is the second book that is entirely narrated in the first person. Great Expectations features a colourful array of characters and it is also filled with extreme images, including battles to the death, prison ships, and chains. This one is one of Dickens’s best books and perhaps one of the most well-liked among producers for movies and television. It’s been remade several times for both big and small screens.

Summary: The story is about Pip, a blacksmith’s apprentice in a small village. One day he inherits a great wealth from an unknown benefactor; he gets arrogant and abandons his loyal friends, eventually learning many key life lessons about himself and others.

  • Oliver Twist (1839)

Oliver Twist is the second novel by English author Charles Dickens. It was first published in two forms: a serial from 1837 to 1839 and a three-volume book in 1838. He was the first kid to play the main character in an English book. The novel was the first of the author’s writings to accurately portray the underworld of impoverished London and to show how, in his opinion, poverty breeds crime. 

Oliver Twist continues to be beloved for its historical, social criticism and engaging storyline. It has been adapted into movies multiple times, notably in 1948 (directed by David Lean) and 2005. (directed by Roman Polanski).

Summary: The story centres on the titular orphan, who, after having been nurtured in a workhouse, flees to London and encounters a group of young pickpockets led by the old criminal Fagin. There, he learns the truth about his family and tries to re-establish contact with his remaining family.

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