Evaluate Charles Dickens as a Novelist | Analysis of Dickens’s Novels

Charles Dickens as a novelist

Charles Dickens as a novelist

As a novelist, Dickens stands out without a parallel in English literature. He is certainly the most famous, most read author of the Victorian age. He is also found to be the most typical novelist of his age. In fact, he remains as the central attraction of Victorian fiction, as Tennyson of Victorian poetry. Both of them, in their own sphere, represent their age perfectly.

Born of a poor, debt-ridden family, with a hard, unhappy childhood, Dickens had enough bitter experiences in his life, including his ignoble drudgery in his boyhood, in a blackening factory. By perseverance and honest industry, he well applied his talent to earn fortune, win fame and make a name in the contemporary literary circle.

Dickens’s wide experience of acute poverty and suffering and of subsequent success and affluence is found to be the materials of his fictional world, that is so varied and so potential. And he remains, perhaps, the most popular fiction writer in the English tongue. There is hardly any novel on the self of a well-stocked library which has been read more than his David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop, or even Picwick Papers. If popularity indicates literary excellence, Dickens’s place must be at the top of the literary men of his race, at least in the fictional world.

Dickens is a prolific author to whose credit is found a long list of novels, including Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Christmas Carol, Domby and Son, David. Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, His last unfinished novel is Edwin Drood on which he was working at the time of his death in 1870. But it is not the number of novels that celebrates Dickens’s name as a novelist. It is his art of fiction writing that is the keystone of his triumph as a novelist. His greatness as a literary man lies not in the bulk of his production, but in the immense range of his contributions to the world of fiction.

As a novelist, Dickens is a social chronicler. Social conscience is the first strength of his fictional world. He is found to have introduced social novels in a much broader sense. Before him, in the literary history of the eighteenth century, the novel is more or less concerned with individual love, happiness, suffering, tragedy, and so on. But Dickens has gone to the lower depth and treated society in its grim reality, in its poverty and ignorance, in its want and filth. In David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, or in The Old Curiosity Shop, the novelist’s canvas is broad social life. He brings to the light the dark. state of the underdogs of the English society of his age, with a genuine sympathy and a noble humanitarian zeal. In fact, Dickens may be deemed as the first effective social chronicler in fiction. His significance is here immense in the world of English fiction. This is definitely an inspiration for subsequent fictional authors.

In the second place, Dickens’s contribution to the world of fiction is found in his gift of story-telling. He tells his story admirably well, and here he seems to teach his subsequent generations how a story is to be told with an effective appeal. In the sphere of story-telling, Dickens’s influence is far-reaching. Here he seems to excel his great predecessors and inspire his immediate successors,

In this connection, Dickens’s plot-structure may well be mentioned. His plot is, no doubt, bulky, but he manages this well and retains the suspense of his story till the end. His gift of story-telling and plot-construction is, too, a matter of emulation for his contemporaries and successors.

In the realm of characterisation, Dickens’s uniqueness is no less remarkable. He has created a host of unforgettable men and women. Sidney Carton, Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Micawber, Betsey Trotwood, Little Nell, Mrs. Gump and many others are the Dickensian figures who live ever in people’s memories. His art of characterisation indicates how the pages of the novel can be immortalised with men and women, drawn from the ordinary walks of life. This is certainly another point of strength of his fictional artistry. Here, again, Dickens has given a sound base to English fiction and instructed his fellow novelists and enriched their craft with immense materials.

Another element which shows Dickens’s contribution to the art of novel-writing is his priceless gift of humour with which his fictional world is enriched. In him is found a boundless faculty of conceiving humour in a free, vivacious and irresistible manner. The fountain of his fun never seems to run dry. His humorous situations as well as characters, marked with his exceptional gifts of exaggeration and caricature, may not appear always real, yet they live for ever in the heart of a sincere reader. His humour, however, is closely allied to his humanism. This well reveals his ability to mingle pathos with fun, tears with laughter, irony with sympathy..

One more remarkable feature of Dickens’s creative strength is the intensely forceful emotional power with which much of his fiction is inspired. This is well marked in his treatment of love, integrity, death and suffering and nobel self-sacrifice. The death of Paul Dombey in Dombey and Son or of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop, Mr. Micawber’s optimistic assertion, in a state of desperation, in David Copperfield and Sidney Carton’s noble self sacrifice in A Tale of Two Cities may be cited as illustrative instances.

Dickens’s emotionalism is a part of his idealism and didacticism. His moral visions and views are openly and frankly given out, without any neutralistic pose or naturalistic gloss. Of course, his literary craft is in no way impaired by his openly didactic approach.

Finally, there is the poetry of Dickens’s prose fiction. He is a poet in that his descriptive writing has an imaginative range to turn even dull, sordid affairs of mechanical urban life into some piece of

masterly imagery. The account of the London fog in the opening chapter of Bleak House or of the marshland background at the beginning of Great Expectations seems to have a lyrical grace.

Dickens, no doubt, has his faults in his exaggeration, sentimentalism, and bulky stories, but his merits far out-weigh his weaknesses. His creative imagination is illustrated in whatever he has written. In the world of novels, his name is surely imperishable.

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