His early life Charles Dickens was born in 1812 in Portsmouth, the son of a Navy pay clerk. When Dickens was 12, his father was put in prison for debts and he had to work in a shoe-blacking factory: this experience was to make him a lifelong campaigner for social justice and reform. After his father was released he continued his schooling until the age of 15, then he started working in a solicitor’s office where he came into contact with courts and the Victorian underworld and conceived a hatred of the Law that he reveals in “Bleak House”.
His writing career • He became a journalist and he was a parliamentary reporter in the early 1830s. • Meanwhile he had begun to publish sketches and stories in magazines. • His first book , Sketches by Boz,was a compilation of these pieces. His first novel Pickwick Papers (1836) made him instantly famous. • His early works belong to the comic tradition, the main source of humour lying in vivid characterization. Dickens is a skillful caricaturist who creates eccentric and grotesque figures.
His writing career II • His distrust of politics and politicians led D. to see the novel as an instrument of social reform, as a means of making people aware of moral and social concerns and issues. • Oliver Twist exposes the plight of poor children in the workhouses created by the 1834 Poor Law • Nicholas Nickleby attacks the school system • Bleak House criticizes the law and the self- interest of lawyers
His writing career III • Hard Times shows the effects of the Industrial Revolution and of utilitarianism on the Midlands town of “Coketown” • In Our mutual friend he attacks corruption • In Little Dorrit he criticizes the prison system and the absurdities of bureaucracy • D. published 14 novels and left one unfinished, The Mystery of Edwin Drood • He also wrote Christmas stories,tales, articles and plays.
MAIN WORKS I • 1836 Sketches by Boz • 1836-37 The Pickwick Papers • 1837-38 Oliver Twist • 1838-39 Nicholas Nickleby • 1840-41 The Old Curiosity Shop • 1843 A Christmas Carol • 1849-50 David Copperfield
MAIN WORKS II • 1852-53 Bleak House • 1854 Hard Times • 1855-57 Little Dorrit • 1859 A Tale of Two Cities • 1860-61 Great Expectations • 1864-65 Our Mutual Friend • 1870 The Mystery of Edwin Drood (unfinished)
His popularity • He founded and edited 2 journals, “Household Words” (1850) and “All the Year Round” (1859) • He visited the US twice and spent some time in France and Italy. • All his life he campaigned for free education for the poor, for public libraries, for better conditions in industry. • An accomplished actor, he often gave public readings of his novels in teatres. • Few other writers had such a great impact on their contemporaries.
His readers Dickens began writing at a time when literacy had greatly risen as well as the public lending libraries. In particular, many middle and lower – class women were now learning to read and wanted amusing but also respectable edifying entertainment. D. was a great story-teller and his major novels were published in monthly instalments in periodicals. Sometimes audience reaction even affected how D. developed the story.
CHARLES DICKENS TYPES OF NOVELS Charles Dickens’s novels combine humour with a sentimental plea for reform in favour of the less fortunate. They constitute the bulk of what is called “the humanitarian novel” or “the novel of purpose”
The characters • D. was interested in describing the characters, habits and language of the middle and lower classes in modern London • He was always on the side of the poor, the outcast and also the working classes • He shifted the social frontiers of the novel: from the 18-century realistic upper middle-classes to the lower orders. • Many of his characters have been compared to caricatures since they are either extremily good or utterly evil .
Style D. employed the most effective language and accomplished the most graphic and powerful descriptions of life and character ever attempted by any novelist, by means of a careful choice of adjectives, repetition of words and structures, juxtapositions of images and ideas, hyperbolic and ironic remarks.
Dickens’s most popular novels • The exploitation of children, the condition of poor orphans and the inhumanity both in schools and in the factory system are some of the themes that made Dickens immensely popular among his contemporaries. We can find all of them dealt with in D. ‘s most popular novels:
BIBLIOGRAPHY • Grellet, LITERATURE IN ENGLISH, Einaudi Scuola • Cattaneo – De Flavis, LITERARY TRACKS, Carlo Signorelli Editore • Spiazzi – Tavella, ONLY CONNECT, Zanichelli