In 2012, the whole civilized mankind will mark the 200th anniversary since the birthday of the world-famous English novelist Charles Dickens. He was one of the brightest representatives of critical realism in English and world literature and showed the many-sided life of English society of his time.
His books gained an enormous popularity all over the world and were edited in millions of copies, translated into hundreds of languages. His novels attracted attention of film producers, many of them were screened and had many remakes.
His characters are alive today and appeal to us because Dickens wrote them with fervour.
The author isn’t indifferent to his heroes: his hearty laughter, his tears and his anger, his ability to treat every character as it were his personal friend or enemy make the pages of his novels alive and warm.
That’s the reason why I love and admire this immortal English writer and advise everybody to make friends with his novels.
Dickens was born in a middle class family in Portsmouth, on February 7, 1812. Little Charlie was the eldest child in a large family. When he was seven, he was sent to a boys’ school. Never a strong child, Charles wasn’t good at any sport and his chief pastime was reading.
In 1821 the Dickens family moved to London and little nine-year-old Charles left behind him the happiest years of his childhood. For about this time the life of the family changed for the worse. Mr. Dickens had got heavily into debt, and was at last put into the Marshalsea prison until he could pay his creditors what he owed them.
The Dickens family now lived in the Marshalsea, and their poverty was so great that Charles grew to know the pawnbroker’s shop very well.
Moreover: the boy, though only ten years old was forced to earn money, and a place found for him in a blacking factory. The months he passed at this warehouse were a torture to the delicate little boy. But it
Fortunately, about this time a relative of the family died, and quite unexpectedly left Mr. Dickens a legacy, which enabled him to pay his debt and leave the Marshalsea. He now decided to continue Charles’ education, and sent him to school.
On leaving school Charles entered an employment of a lawyer. But he used to spend his evenings acting small parts at a small theatre in the neighborhood. Indeed, at once he wanted to make a stage his profession. He would have made a fine actor had he done so, but probably the books by which we know and love him would never have been written.
Mr. Dickens had lately taking up the work of reporting speeches in Parliament, and Charles learned shorthand in order to do the same. He did it so well that at 23 he was considered the best parliamentary reporter in London. He surprised the public by his irony, lively depiction and reach language. This work led naturally to journalism, and journalism – to novel writing. In 1836, when only 24-year of age, Charles published his first book, a collection of sketches and stories, under the title of “Sketches by Boz”. These were followed by the “The Pickwick Papers” and “Oliver Twist” . Then came “Nicholas Nickleby” , “Dombey and Son” , “David Copperfield” and many other equally famous novels.
His popularity grew with every new publication. Now he wished to broaden his life experience and to get acquainted with American democracy. In January 1842 he left England for the North America.
Dickens was disappointed seeing the American democracy. His impressions were embodied in “The American Notes” and the novel “Martin Chuzzlewit” – a bitter satire and partly a parody of the Americans.
In 1857 Dickens took up public readings from his novels. The audience was delighted for the writer worked at his “readings” very hard and created powerful impression.
This tremendous activity lasted till his last days. He certainly was overworked, for never ceased writing new novels. His heart was undermined by colossal work and at 58, not old in years, Dickens died.
His literary legacy is so great, that we can make only some efforts to analyze it.
Dickens achieved phenomenal success at 24, when the first chapters of the “Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club” appeared. He portrays the good-natured optimistic and excellent old fellow Mr. Pickwick, and wins the English public by the enjoyment of such purely English positive and negative types as Pickwick himself, his funny friends, the unforgettable Sam Weller, Jingle and other characters of the novel.
But the following novels, which appeared two years later, were a brighter contrast to the first one. “The Adventures of Oliver Twist” is a tragic story of a boy drawn into the slums of London. We see the dreadful sin of the life which poor little orphans lead in English workhouses – the disgrace of the country.
The other novel “Nickolas Nickleby” is a blow at the English school education. Here Dickens shows a new side of his talent: his ability to expose the grim sides of the society, the contrasts of poverty and riches. This is how he arouses kind and pure feelings giving the lessons of love for man.
Here comes one of his best novels “Dombey and Son”. The main trade of Dickens’ literary style – strict division of characters into positive and negative – black and white – is clearly seen here.
His next great novel “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is to a large degree autobiographical. In this book Dickens put with striking sincerity and truth all that he learned in his hard childhood and youth of life in London full of contrasts, its social injustice and varied population, with the never dying humor. We can mention the family of Peggoti and Steerforth then undying image of a hypocrite – Uriah Heep.
In the fifties Dickens reaches the peak of his fame. His literary activity is marked by serious and excellent productions. In “Little Dorrit” he brings forth his childish impressions of the prison for debtors.
The famous “Tale of Two Cities” is a historical novel dealing with the French revolution.
His last novel “Our Mutual Friend”, being full of artful detective intrigues, has no social themes and gives a lot of pages of fine English humor.
All Dickens’ works bear the signs of his stylistic peculiarities, the main of them are: strict division of characters into positive and negative, the victory of virtue over evil, sincerity and fervour in writing and laughter that sometimes exposes the stings but is also a means of relieving the horrors of life.
So, from all the above-written we can draw the conclusion that Dickens was a great exponent of the suffering of the English middle class and “common people”, he expressed their likings and their hatreds and their efforts to somehow bring harmony to their fate. His realism, full of humanism, made a great influence on the development of Russian classical and realistic literature. And Dickens’ popularity is quite deserved all over the world.