Charles Dickens: The Writer of Political and Social Truths

For one whose first step into the world of literature was Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield, this piece is more than a tribute, it is nostalgia as well. Reading The Pickwick Papers couple of years ago provided many a day of hilarious reading, specially the chapters on the local elections- they could very much have been picked up from an election in contemporary India.

Dickens’ life and work is introduced in the context of the massive political, economic and social convulsions taking place in 19th century Britain, including the recent American and French revolutions, the revolt of the Chartists and the ongoing industrial revolution. According to Rosen, Dickens’ work cannot be understood in abstraction from this context: “He saw how much the working people around him loved reading … and so, for most of his life, his own stories appeared as serials, week by week or month by month, in popular magazines. We call him a novelist and put him in the same group as people who write a book and publish it to be read by a relatively small number of educated men and women, yet really he was part of the world of magazines and chapbooks. Because his stories were so good, they did become books and it was Dickens more than any other writer who turned books into things that anyone who knew how to read felt happy to read. Books were no longer just for people cleverer or richer than you.”

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