Charles Dickens Essay, Research Paper
No writer since Shakespeare has occupied as important a place in popular culture as Charles Dickens (Wilson 34). Dickens never forgot his impoverished childhood, filling his novels with poignant details that dramatized the problems of a grimy industrial England. Although Dickens treated social problems realistically and became an outspoken voice for social reform, he tempered his criticism with humor (Price 12). Many of his characters are comic caricatures in which a particular human foible or vice is exaggerated. Dickens also showed a sentimental side, providing happy endings for many of his plucky heroes and heroines. All in all, Dickens eloquently molds his characters to show a reflection of his views on the society of Victorian England.
Many unforgettable characters from Dickens novels are vividly used as examples in pointing out the selfishness of society. One of these characters is the old miser Ebenezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol who realizes that he has been living a life of greed after having a nightmare about three ghosts who show him his past, present, and future (Wilson 182). It is through his epiphany that Scrooge changes into a warm and unselfish person. It seems that Scrooge s character emphasizes the need of generosity and love in Victorian England. Another character who proves Dickens criticism of greed in society is Mr. Dombey of Dombey and Son who believes that all relationships are matters of bargain and sale and that money commands everything. After Mr. Dombey goes bankrupt, he begins to humble his pride until he comes to depend gratefully upon the love of the daughter he had despised and the kindness of those he had scorned (Mackenzie 127). This stresses the evils of the Victorian admiration for money through Mr. Dombey, a self egotist whose pride cuts him off from the warmth of human love. Money had become the measure of all personal relations and the goal of all ambition during the days of Charles Dickens.
Besides the greediness that Dickens satirically criticizes about in the Victorian society, he also exposes snobbery and the falsity of dreaming of living in a world of luxurious “gentlemanly” idleness through the character of Pip, the protagonist in Great Expectations (Wilson 236). An unknown person provides the young hero Pip with money so that Pip can live as a gentleman. Pip s pride is shattered when he learns the source of his “great expectations.” Only by painfully revising his values does Pip reestablish his life on a foundation of sympathy, rather than on vanity, possessions, and social position. It seems that Pip s “great expectations” were those of the nineteenth century world s ideal: the parasitic opulence of acquiring a fortune and being supported in splendor by the toil of others (Mackenzie 103). Dickens wants to show that the acceptance of that ideal imposed upon Pip reveals the corruption he finds in a society dominated by it.
Dickens is valued chiefly as an entertainer, and above all, as a creator of a huge gallery of comic, pleasant, and villainous characters. His vivid powers of characterization mirror the human struggles within social institutions of London life. In addition Dickens observations of the parliamentary process allow him to become an advocate of reform, and his sympathy for the downtrodden contributes greatly to tell a story through his memorable characters such as the poor orphan boy Oliver Twist. The desire to shame society into treating the poor with respect and generosity is a motivating force that drives him to write about social issues of Victorian England using illustrious characters.