Charles Dickens is one of the brightest stars in the history of literature. A writer and a passionate social critic, he was the champion of the lowest class in the United Kingdom and the whole world, the advocate of the poor and the haggard ones.
This man gave the world a huge line-up of widely known characters that are still quite popular. During Dickens’s lifetime, his novels were incredibly successful and always topped the national and international sales charts. The critics are calling him the best novelist of the XIX century.
To this day, his works are just as relevant, resonating and engaging. A genius, a man with exceptional writing skills, a freedom fighter, and the voice of the morally rich people – that’s who he was.
Charles Dickens Summary
Charles came to this Earth in Portsmouth and had no other choice but to grow up fast and work hard every single day in a factory to get by. The authorities locked his father up in what was known back then as a debtors’ prison; therefore, the boy had to make a living. The lad never finished school, but managed to grow up into one of the finest men of his century.
Overall, he wrote fifteen novels, five novellas, numerous short tales/articles, and had been running a popular journal for 2 decades in a row. Furthermore, Dickens was a big fan of lectures and live performances. Plus, he was a tireless letter writer and has dedicated his life to fighting injustice and standing up for the rights of the little ones, proper education, and many other socially-vital reforms.
It’s safe to say that Dickens did more for his country as a socially-active citizen than the majority of the politicians of his time. His first breakthrough novel was The Pickwick Papers that came out in ’36. It took him a couple of years after that to turn into a “celebrity” around the world.
The readers appreciated his fascinating sense of humor, sharp satire, lovely characters and meticulous observations of society and all of its flaws. As a general rule, the majority of his works were introduced to the world in weekly/monthly installments. Dickens single-handedly invented the concept of “serial” publication of fictional stories. Later, this approach became dominant in literature.
An Innovator And A Hard Worker
This chapter-by-chapter format allowed the writer to create cliffhangers and to leave his fans begging for more. He worked on every single chapter like it was the last one and did everything in his power to get the audience “hyped up”.
Dickens appreciated the feedback from his fans and was quick to fix things that they didn’t like. The semi-literate folks used to spend halfpennies to have every new installment read to them. That’s how popular his works were.
As the mightiest literary giant of his time, Dickens influenced and inspired a huge line-up of followers and disciples. And even today, more than 150 years after the original publication, many of his immortal novels are being adapted into movies, TV shows, and theatrical performances.
Praise For Charles Dickens And His Literary Legacy
A Tale of Two Cities, the master’s finest work, is often called the greatest historical fiction to ever be written. He created his own style by mixing harsh realism with comedy, satire, introducing memorable characters and criticizing injustice and inequality.
World-famous writers like Tolstoy and Orwell gave him the highest praise, while James, Wilde, and others slammed him for the ridiculous characters and the “shallow narrative”. While there is some truth to it, the images created by Dickens in his best novels are both admirable and memorable.
The term Dickensian is pretty popular these days and is often used to describe a story/event/something else that reminds of the writer and/or his tales (comical, ludicrous characters and horrible social conditions).
Growing Up Without A Father
Charles was born in 1812 (February 7th, to be exact). He was the 2nd child in the family – he had 7 siblings in total. John Dickens, his dad, used to be a clerk in the NPO (Navy Pay Office). He asked Mr. Huffam, a well-respected and influential man, to be his son’s godfather.
The Dickens scholars claim that this man inspired the master to create the character of Mr. Dombey from his 1848 bestseller, Dombey and Son. As a child, Charles used to move around a lot because of his father’s work and got to see the better half of the United Kingdom.
The lad spent most of his time outdoors; at the same time, he was a huge fan of books and read pretty much everything he could find, including the legendary children’s books and many novels intended for a much older audience.
The idyllic life didn’t last for long – it ended in ’24 when the family debts forced his dad to leave his family and go to prison. His spouse and the little kids joined him (that was a common practice in the XIX century). Charles, on the other hand, stayed behind with Elizabeth, his parents’ friend. She inspired him later to create Mrs. Pipchin.
Facing The Harsh Reality Of Life At An Early Age
But he had to leave her house and move in with another family. On Sundays, the boy used to visit his dad with his sibling. Yet, in order to be able to pay for his board and to provide for the family, Charles left school and started to work 10 hours a day at the local warehouse.
The harsh environment and the hard work inspired Dickens to become a writer and talk about the importance of changing the labor conditions for the low-class workers. If not for his father’s imprisonment, Dickens might’ve never chosen to follow the writer’s path.
Soon, when his great-grandmother died, his father received 450 pounds from her, which allowed him to free himself from the creditors and leave the prison. However, his mom wasn’t quick to save her boy from the terrifying work at the workhouse.
Her lack of proper care has left the young Charles disappointed and frustrated. So, he went on to work as a clerk and fell in love with theater. In 1830, he met Maria, the first girl he really liked, but her parents didn’t support their friendship and sent her away.
A Young Writer On His Path To Greatness
In 1832, Charles was 20-years-old, and he dreamed of being wealthy and popular. His first story was published a year later. In ’36, he wrote “Sketches”, his peculiar collection of tiny-yet-engaging stories. Chapman and Hall, the company that published his book, offered him to write explanatory remarks for the illustrations made by Mr. Seymour.
After the man took his own life, Dickens dedicated himself to turning his work into a success story. That’s when he created The Pickwick Papers that became insanely popular after the introduction of Mr. Weller, one of the finest characters in history. Oliver Twist came out in 1838. To this day, it’s among the writer’s best-known stories. The rest is history…
Charles Dickens is not just another popular writer who talked about resonating topics. He created a whole movement, a generation of men and women who were not afraid to stand up for themselves and to change the world around them for the better.
The Charles Dickens themes include poverty, inequality, harsh working conditions, the barbaric laws that cripple both the kids and the grown-ups, and the moral corruption of the most fortunate ones. He was a religious man and believed in the Greater Good.
However, Dickens used to be the biggest critic of the hypocritical new waves that stood against true Christianity, not with it. He was socially active and helped shape the future of his country. He had a beautiful wife and ten children. But his greatest legacy is, of course, his novels.
Dickens was greatly inspired by the famed novels from the XVIII century that he came across in his dad’s office, and introduced something new to the genre, something that turned him into a world-famous writer. Linguistic creativity, cruel satire, bright images and noble heroes – that’s what Dickens is known for.
The master died in Kent on June 9, 1870, but his spirit lives on!