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Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

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Charles Dickens (1812-1870). Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery. ----- Charles Dickens. Dickens Life Experience.

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Annual income twenty pounds,

annual expenditure nineteen six,

result happiness.

Annual income twenty pounds,

annual expenditure twenty

pound ought and six, result


----- Charles Dickens


Dickens Life Experience

Born into a lower middle class withgenteel

pretensions ( his father being fond of living beyond

his means, was imprisoned);

child labour at a blacking warehouse

The strenuous – and often cruel – work conditions

made a deep impression on Dickens, and later

influenced his fiction and essays, forming foundation

of his interest in the reform of socio-economic and

labour conditions.


Dickens’ Life Experience

Junior clerk in a lawyer’s office at 15

(familiarity with lawyers & criminals);

journalist at the age of 20 (better knowledge

of the society)

Pickwick Papers seralized in 1836- 37

death out of overwork in 1870


Dickens’ Major Works

  • Oliver Twist , 1838
  • The Old Curiosity Shop, 1840-1841
  • Dombey and Son, 1846-1848
  • David Copperfield, 1849
  • Bleak House, 1852
  • A Tale of Two Cities, 1854
  • Great Expectations, 1860

Three Phases of Dickens’ Writing

  • Early period (1836- 45):
  • spontaneous flow of imaginative power
  • Exaggeration in character portrayal (innocent, kind, honest, ready to help)
  • Exposure of social evils;
  • Coincidences (Oliver Twist);
  • Vigour & humour– rewarding the good & punishing the bad
  • Life of Children in Cities
  • Poisoning of the soul by money/ selfishness

b. The middle period (1846- 57):

Integration of experience & imagination

Dombey and Son(1846- 48): criticism of arrogance & coldbness (money)

David Copperfield(1849- 50): autobiographical,

child’s psychology, character portrayal;

Bleak House(1852- 53): delay of law, gloomy tone

Hard Times(1854): class struggle– mutual help;

Little Dorrit(1855- 57): bureaucracy


c. The later period (1858- 70):

exploration of man’s inner conflicts

A Tale of Two Cities(1859): selflessness;

Great Expectations(1860- 61): praise of

honest labour;

Our Mutual Friend(1864- 65): criticism of

corruption & selfishness in the society


Features of Dickens Novels

  • a. Character sketches & exaggeration
  • -- vivid outward portrayal (1,900 characters
  • in his novels);
  • b. Broad humour & penetrating satire
  • (Qian Zhongshu learned from him in this)
  • c. Complicated & fascinating plot
  • -- major plots+ minor plots// parallel major
  • plots, suspense & mystery, happy ending
  • (esp. earlier works);

Features of Dickens Novels

  • d. The power of exposure
  • novel as instrument of morality & justice
  • The publication of Oliver Twist helped improve
  • the living conditions of the workers in London)
  • e. Advocation of humanism (love, tolerance,
  • mercy & romantic realism )

Significance of Dickens’ Novels

a. Dickens was praised for having described

London “like a special correspondent for


b. Dickens’ role in the development of Victorian


he was more dramatic than realistic (his

heightening & stylization)-- “Every writer

of fiction, although he may not adopt the

dramatic form, writes, in effect, for the



Controversy over Dickens as a novelist

    • a revolutionary writer?
    • a proletarian writer?
    • a middle-class writer?
  • (Actually Dickens is mainly concerned with the
  • middle class. He is not radical, and his social
  • criticism is confined to moral and ethical issues.
  • His wish for social reform is more related to the
  • improvement of social morality than the change
  • of social structure – and the middle class plays
  • the major role. Dickens is rather dubious about

Dickens is rather dubious about the labour union and revolution. He emphasizes education, but does not propose any concrete plans.

  • Dickens’ political, racial thought:
  • Some believe that Dickens pays no attention to politics, and does not have racial and imperialist ideas, but it’s not true.

Novelists in early 20th C. mostly followed George

  • Eliot & led the current – underestimation of the
  • Victorian novels;
  • Thackeray’s comparison of himself with
  • Dickens at death:
  • “I am played out. All I can do now is to bring
  • out my old puppets… But, if he live to be
  • ninety, Dickens will still be creating new
  • characters. In his art that man is marvelous.”

Great Expectations

Great Expectations is a novel by Charles Dickens. It was first publishedin serial form in the publication All the Year Roundfrom 1 December 1860 to August 1861.

It has been adapted for stage and screen over 250 times


Pip as an Orphan

  • Parents passed away.
  • Pip was raised up by his sister and brother-in-law.

Pip’s Sister

She is not satisfies with her marriage with a

blacksmith, so she hoped Pip might lead a more

decent life.


Joe, Pip’s brother-in-law


Silent and Kind-hearted man


Magwitch and Pip

Pip is an orphan while Magwitch is an convict


Pip’s benevolence towards Magwitch

Pip took some food from his sister’s house and

brought it to Magwitch in the graveyard.


 Miss Havisham

a lady abandoned by her fiancee

She asked Pip to visit her house with the hope

of favoring him


Pip as Blacksmith

Pip was not favored by Miss Havisham, and

became a apprentice to Joe.


A Magical Change

Pip was funded to become a gentleman by one who

would not like to reveal his name.


Empire and Convict

  • Convicts were considered dangerous for the society, so they were sent away to overseas colonies, never to be back to the home country.
  • Austrilia, as a colony for the settlement of convicts

An English Dream to be Gentleman





Pip as a disillusioned man

  • In the novel, Pip asended the rungs of social ladder, it seemed that he had little chance to better his life.
  • Without the financial support from the colony, he would never be a gentleman.

Pip’s dream was broken when Magwitch returned to England and was arrested by the police.