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CHARLES DICKENS
(1812 1870) (Based on project work by Karina DRESHPAN)

Early Years
Charles Dickens was born on 7 February 1812 in Portsmouth. His father, John Dickens, was a poor yet easy-going naval clerk. From early years Charles showed his creative bents. Parents encouraged and pampered their child, but the family idyll suddenly ended, when family gone broke. As his father was imprisoned because of debts his mother had to do something to make ends meet. Young Dickens was sent to a shoe-polish factory. There he found his love to the offended and poor, found his understanding of their suffering, and of violence they faced, He learned much about poverty and terrible social organizations, such as schools for the poor and debt prisons, where he visited his father. He witnessed the ruthless exploitation of childrens labor and flourishing of crime in big cities. Dickens had an ambition to rise back to the top of the society and get his liberty back.

The beginning of literary career


Dickens started to write as a reporter. As soon as he had done several reporter tasks, he was noticed and began to go up a career ladder, impressing his colleagues with irony and vivacity of his statement and richness of the language he used. The first of his works, entitled Scratches by Boz, were published in 1836. But the real success came to Dickens later that year, when the first chapters of his humorous Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club appeared. Two years later Dickens wrote his Oliver Twist (see a scene from the film on the right) the story about an orphan, who got to the slums of London, and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. After his journey to America, where public met Dickens with enthusiasm, Dickens wrote his Martin Chuzzlewit , a novel-parody on Americans. Many things in the young capitalist country seemed to Dickens being mad, unrealistic and chaotic, and he did not hesitate to tell the Yankees lots of truth about them. His novel caused lots of rough protests from the transatlantic publics side. The Victorian cult of coziness, comfort, gorgeous traditional holidays was expressed in Dickenss Christmas Books in 1843 the Christmas Carol was published, which were followed by The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man. All the aspects of Dickenss talent are brightly visible in one of his best novels Dombey and Son (1848). Then David Copperfield (which full title is The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery), a mostly autobiographical novel, appeared,

59 published as 5 separate parts in 1849 and as a book in 1850. The novel Hard Times is the authors strongest literary and artistic blow on capitalism. Then the readers appreciated Little Dorrit (1855-1857) and A Tale of Two Cities (1859) a historical novel, dedicated to the French Revolution. One more novel with autobiographical features belongs to the same time Great Expectations (1860). Dickens managed to publish his last novel in 1864, and his swan song was not weaker than his previous works. In his last novel Our Common Friend the author collected all powers of his humor, escaping from melancholy, which seized him with the help of wonderful, funny and cute images of this idyll. Probably, this melancholy was about to engulf the readers in his next detective novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but the work was not finished.

Authors oddity and death


Dickens spontaneously and frequently fell into the state of trance, was exposed to visions and sometimes experienced state of dj vu. It was also said, that every word, before it was written down, was heard by Dickens, and his characters constantly were nearby and communicated with him. Thats why the writer loved to wander along populous streets. Dickens died of stroke at the age of 58 on June 9, 1870 in Gad's Hill Place, Higham, Kent not so old, but exhausted with titanic work, quite chaotic life and great number of different troubles.

VOCABULARY NOTES
bent pamper vivacity orphan slums dedicate obscure rush on

Peculiarities of Dickenss creativity


Period I. 1830s (Pickwick, ..) II. 1840s(Dombey&Son) Characters No phychologism or evolution of; no determination principle Occurrence of phychologism, occurrence of evolution elements; utopian conception of personality Expressed psychologism, presence of changing consciousness, utopian conception of personality Conflict Unrealistic way of solving the conflict Expressed tragic element; melodramatic way of conflicts solution; no ethical or fable unambiguity Genre Comical utopia

III. 50-60s (David and Big Hopes)

Social psychological lyrical philosophical novel Detective with social-psycho symbolical sense implied

VOCABULARY NOTES
determination unambiguity occurrence , imply

Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837)


The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club was written by accident. The comic novel was initially planned to be just a line of explanations to pictures, devoted to adventures of several gentlemen. But

60 during the printing the text acquired more and more important meaning, and finally turned into a grandiose comic epopee. The Pickwick Club is an imaginary association which members are Samuel Pickwick, Tracy Tupman, Augustus Snodgrass and Nathaniel Winkle, who travel around the counties adjacent to London. The author takes an obligation to inform the club about their surveys, observations over people and customs recreate the pictures of local life and induced thoughts by them. The club members travels supplied the author with plentiful material for comic sketch of daily occurrence, illustrating the eccentric adventures happened to characters. According to Pickwicks theory, they consider good will and trust to be the foundation of peoples relationships. The nobleness of their ideas accompanied with looking for the pleasures of life create farcical situations, when members of the club face the real order of things. But their inexperience represents their strong belief in decency and magnanimity as being inherent to human nature. Nave odd fellows become heroes, expressing treasured Dickenss persuasions. In debt prison, where Pickwick finds himself, refusing to accept the role of crooks victim because of his principles, one of his cellmates notices: If I knew life was so bad, Id better be drowned. As if not noticing surrounding vulgarity, the Pickwickists create special environment around themselves. Inside this environment we can find high ethical criteria and desire of happiness, which is impossible without atmosphere of pleasure, prosperity and peace. This atmosphere has been established at Wardle Manor Farm, where many episodes take place and where the Pickwickists finally find harmony. Noble and altruistic relationships between members of the Pickwick Club sharply contrast with surrounding world of bourgeois reality and cause something like travelling idyll inside that world. But Dickenss comical heroes, at all their imperfections of appearance, become the carriers of the authors optimistic belief in the best moral qualities and, at the same time, their presence indirectly criticizes the bourgeois world. In the chapters about elections in an English town Dickens shows the imperfections of parliamentarism, the system of payoffs and deceives. Creating portraits of judicial officials, he shows bureaucracy and corruption. The episodes, connected with Mr. Pickwicks stay in prison are full of sharp criticism. However, generally, the Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club proclaims the cheerful optimistic point of view, due to its light carefree humor. The romantic attitude, peculiar to Dickens, appears in the utopian picture of happy existence of nice people. Heroes destinies are arranged happily. The atmosphere of joy prevails, humanistic principles triumph. Dickens glorifies gladness, responsiveness and humanism. When he was writing this novel, he was only 25 years old.

VOCABULARY NOTES
adjacent magnanimity

61 survey , oppressive crook decency payoff peculiar ,

Characters
Central characters
Samuel Pickwick the main protagonist and founder of the Pickwick Club. Following his description in the text, Pickwick is usually portrayed by illustrators as a round-faced, clean-shaven gentleman. On the left: Tupman, Winkle, Pickwick and Snodgrass (from left to right) Nathaniel Winkle a young friend of Pickwick's and his travelling companion; he considers himself a sportsman, though he turns out to be dangerously inept when handling horses and guns. Augustus Snodgrass another young friend and companion; he considers himself a poet, though there is no mention of any of his own poetry in the novel. Tracy Tupman the third travelling companion, a fat and elderly man who nevertheless considers himself a romantic lover. Sam Weller (on the right) Mr Pickwick's valet, and the source of idiosyncratic proverbs and advice. Alfred Jingle (on the left) a strolling actor and charlatan, noted for telling bizarre anecdotes in a distinctively extravagant style.

Supporting characters
Joe the "fat boy" who consumes great quantities of food and constantly falls asleep in any situation at any time of day; Joe's sleeping problem is the origin of the medical term Pickwickian syndrome which ultimately led to the subsequent description of the Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. Job Trotter Mr Jingle's servant, whose true slyness is only seen in the first few lines of a scene, before he adopts his usual pretence of meekness. Mr Wardle owner of a farm in Dingley Dell. Pickwick's friend. Joe is his servant. Rachael Wardle the spinster aunt who tries in vain to elope with the unscrupulous Jingle. Mr Perker an attorney of Mr Pickwick Mary "a well-shaped female servant" and Sam Weller's "Valentine" Mrs Bardell Mr Pickwick's widowed landlady Emily Wardle one of Mr Wardle's daughters Arabella Allen a friend of Emily Wardle

62 Ben Allen Arabella's brother, a dissipated medical student Bob Sawyer Ben Allen's friend and fellow student Mr Serjeant Buzfuz Mrs Bardell's lawyer in legal dealings with Mr Pickwick

VOCABULARY NOTES
inept valet consume apnea spinster dissipated elope - meekness stroll subsequent slyness attorney unscrupulous ,

Conclusion
Charles Dickens is generally considered to be one of the greatest English novelists, and he is one of the few whose works did not become unpopular after his death. Although Dickenss prose varies in quality, it is always readable. In his works he describes and attacks numerous kinds of unpleasant people and places bad schools and schoolmasters, corrupt governmental departments, harsh prisons, dirty houses etc. Among his characters there are thieves, crooks, murderers, men in debt, beggars, homeless tramps, unwashed men and women, hungry and sick children. Some of the scenes are quite unpleasant. Some of his gentler characters are very weak. Some of the sad situations are too miserable to be convincing. The author seems to use the excessive amount of black paint in his descriptions. However, Dickenss aim was to raise kindness and goodness in his readers hearts, and he used both tears and laughter to achieve that.

Comprehension Questions
1. 2. 3. 4. What kind of ambition led Charles Dickens to literary activities? What way did Dickenss works reflect the social trends in Great Britain of that period? What is Pickwicks Theory? Why is it sometimes difficult to read Dickenss novels?