- Hardcover: 896 pages
- Publisher: Everyman's Library; Reprint edition (December 15, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679417257
- ISBN-13: 978-0679417255
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.7 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 315 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Little Dorrit (Everyman's Library) Hardcover – December 15, 1992
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“One of the most significant works of the nineteenth century.”—Lionel Trilling
From the Inside Flap
Of the complex, richly rewarding masterworks he wrote in the last decade of his life, Little Dorrit is the book in which Charles Dickens most fully unleashed his indignation at the fallen state of mid-Victorian society. Crammed with persons and incidents in whose recreation nothing is accidental or spurious, containing, in its picture of the Circumlocution Office, the most witheringly exact satire of a bureaucracy we possess, Little Dorrit is a stunning example of how thoroughly Dickens could put his flair for the theatrical and his comic genius the service of his passion for justice.
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Arthur is this genuine, sweet, good hearted soul who just wants to do the right things.
Little Dorrit is a sweet girl who does her best for her family.
Fanny Dorrit is living the best life she knows how given a disposition that has become a bit bitter.
William Dorrit is a mixture of pompous conceit and fragile pathetic character.
Pancks is the guy who gets stuck doing the dirty work of another and still turns out to be a good person.
Poor Flora is this utterly silly woman who you can tell from her character has a lot of feeling but has little ability to express those feelings without seeming ridiculous-- there's at least one person in everyone's past who has made them come off a little ridiculous, isn't there?
There are so very many characters I can't give you a sketch of all of them, but I can say that many of them are likable, all of them are relatable in one fashion or another.
I can't say the story is exactly believable. Of course there certainly were debtor's prisons, and very likely Dickens would know more about them than I would, that's not the part I find hard to believe. It's the rich dead uncle that rescued them all that is about as far fetched as the fairy tales of poor young women being found and married to a prince. Still it was an amazingly enjoyable tale and I will have to move on eventually, but not tonight. Tonight I'll immerse myself in this story and let it play on and on.
Dickens had a keen sense of social justice, and his target in this novel is the pervasive poverty in England and the debtors' prisons to which the impoverished were consigned, some through no fault of their own other than making bad investment decisions, and others who voluntarily take up cells in debtors' prisons so that they may care for family members confined there. Debtors' prisons loom large over Victorian English culture and exert a baleful influence.
At just over 800 pages, this is one of Dickens' longer novels, and the florid, ornate, and stilted writing so characteristic of Victorian writing is on full display here. No doubt Dickens was attempting to make his characters and settings as vivid as possible, and in this regard he is extremely successful. In none of the other Dickens novels I have read thus far are the characters, both major and minor, so thoroughly depicted and realized as lifelike figures.
In this work, for the first time, I see Dickens plunge into the psychology of his characters, and his characters "psychologize" other characters in order to understand them better. To be fair, Dickens cannot be faulted for the highly formal manner in which people, especially members of the opposite sex, spoke to each other in Victorian times; he successfully captures the styles of speech from differing classes. He amusingly depicts the linguistic oddities of his characters in order to make them more unique.
Dickens also lovingly and thoroughly brings the settings to life as well. Settings themselves are clues to the meanings and intentions of the novel. Although the Marshalsea debtors' prison had fallen into ruins by the time Dickens wrote of it, he still very well captures its oppressive atmosphere.
Some readers may find the excessive filigreeing of detail to their liking. Personally, I would have taken an editor's red pen and ruthlessly cut lines from this text. A single descriptor works very well; Dickens' mastery of creative prose permits a single phrase to bring a character or setting into sharp relief. The second or even third rhetorical flourish becomes overbearing, for this reader, anyway.
For the devotee of the Victorian novel, however, one who appreciates the extensive degree of filigree work which, admittedly, is impressive, this novel is highly recommended. Some students of the Victorian novel consider this text to be Dickens' finest work, an accolade I do not believe is misplaced.
Of particular interest as a group (although they were individually rather boring) were the Barnacles of the Circumlocution Office. Dickens’ portrayal of these people and the institution they infested (whose avowed purpose was to see that nothing got done) was hilarious. The Barnacles bear too much resemblance to people still living and serving in the government of our own country to suppose that they, in particular, were not drawn true to life.
The Barnacles and the Circumlocution Office, however, are really only tangential to the lives of the main characters. True, they may have caused the financial ruin of some of the parties at various times, but this seems to have been more of an accident than anything else. They are too large an interest for anything or anyone else to be of much consequence to them.
Poor Arthur Clennam seems unable to win for losing. Raised by a mother so strict she seems to be made of ice or metal, he was sent to China with his father twenty or more years earlier expressly to keep him away from a girl he had taken a fancy to. Now returning to London all these years later after his father’s death, he renounces all interest in the family business (which seems to be some sort of banking and/or money-lending business). He visits his old love, to discover that she is now another man’s widow and a hopeless airhead, although she evidently still has a basically good heart. He visits a friend he met on his way back to England several times, but deliberately decides not to court the friend’s daughter, telling himself he is now too old for that sort of thing. Partly as a consequence of this, she winds up married to a man who turns out not to be worthy of her.
In the process of winding up his father’s affairs at this mother’s house, Clennam sees but isn’t more than barely introduced to, a young woman who is referred to there as Little Dorrit. Clennam takes it into his head that his mother has taken this obviously poor girl on to do sewing as a sop for some serious injustice done to her family at some time in the past, and he resolves to do his best to make it up to her somehow. This resolve is reinforced when he finds out that Little Dorrit and her father live in the Marshalsea Prison.
The strange turns their lives take after this are enough to keep you reading all through the long novel.