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Little Dorrit (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 27, 2004
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“One of the most significant works of the nineteenth century.”—Lionel Trilling
About the Author
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Landport, Portsea, England. He died in Kent on June 9, 1870. The second of eight children of a family continually plagued by debt, the young Dickens came to know not only hunger and privation,but also the horror of the infamous debtors’ prison and the evils of child labor. A turn of fortune in the shape of a legacy brought release from the nightmare of prison and “slave” factories and afforded Dickens the opportunity of two years’ formal schooling at Wellington House Academy. He worked as an attorney’s clerk and newspaper reporter until his Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Pickwick Papers (1837) brought him the amazing and instant success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. In later years, the pressure of serial writing, editorial duties, lectures, and social commitments led to his separation from Catherine Hogarth after twenty-three years of marriage. It also hastened his death at the age of fifty-eight, when he was characteristically engaged in a multitude of work.
Stephen Wall is a Fellow of Keble College, Oxford.
Helen Small is a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.
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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.
Other than that, the story is fairly interesting, as is usual for Dickens. There are lots of weird, interesting characters, lots of wry comments on the human condition, especially as it relates to law or government, and so forth. Although there is an orphan in the book, we don't realize it until 80% of the way through, and then, she's not exactly a major character, although an important one. We do, however, get our fair share of eccentric old maids, grifters, ne'er-do-wells, shady lawyers and all the other characters who make up Dickens' menagerie, and of course, a couple of poor but extremely good hearted people.
While this is not my favorite Dickens book by a long shot, it is still well worth reading.
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More seriously, the characters in this one are a bit thin compared to his usual creations, and the...Read more
However, not at all as described:
"Little Dorrit Paperback – Large Print, March 5, 2015".Little DorritRead more