Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Analysis of Major Characters
Thomas Gradgrind is the first character we meet in Hard Times, and one of the central figures through whom Dickens weaves a web of intricately connected plotlines and characters. Dickens introduces us to this character with a description of his most central feature: his mechanized, monotone attitude and appearance. The opening scene in the novel describes Mr. Gradgrind’s speech to a group of young students, and it is appropriate that Gradgrind physically embodies the dry, hard facts that he crams into his students’ heads. The narrator calls attention to Gradgrind’s “square coat, square legs, square shoulders,” all of which suggest Gradgrind’s unrelenting rigidity.
In the first few chapters of the novel, Mr. Gradgrind expounds his philosophy of calculating, rational self-interest. He believes that human nature can be governed by completely rational rules, and he is “ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you what it comes to.” This philosophy has brought Mr. Gradgrind much financial and social success. He has made his fortune as a hardware merchant, a trade that, appropriately, deals in hard, material reality. Later, he becomes a Member of Parliament, a position that allows him to indulge his interest in tabulating data about the people of England. Although he is not a factory owner, Mr. Gradgrind evinces the spirit of the Industrial Revolution insofar as he treats people like machines that can be reduced to a number of scientific principles.
While the narrator’s tone toward him is initially mocking and ironic, Gradgrind undergoes a significant change in the course of the novel, thereby earning the narrator’s sympathy. When Louisa confesses that she feels something important is missing in her life and that she is desperately unhappy with her marriage, Gradgrind begins to realize that his system of education may not be perfect. This intuition is confirmed when he learns that Tom has robbed Bounderby’s bank. Faced with these failures of his system, Gradgrind admits, “The ground on which I stand has ceased to be solid under my feet.” His children’s problems teach him to feel love and sorrow, and Gradgrind becomes a wiser and humbler man, ultimately “making his facts and figures subservient to Faith, Hope and Charity.”
Although Louisa is the novel’s principal female character, she is distinctive from the novel’s other women, particularly her foils, Sissy and Rachael. While these other two embody the Victorian ideal of femininity—sensitivity, compassion, and gentleness—Louisa’s education has prevented her from developing such traits. Instead, Louisa is silent, cold, and seemingly unfeeling. However, Dickens may not be implying that Louisa is really unfeeling, but rather that she simply does not know how to recognize and express her emotions. For instance, when her father tries to convince her that it would be rational for her to marry Bounderby, Louisa looks out of the window at the factory chimneys and observes: “There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke. Yet when the night comes, Fire bursts out.” Unable to convey the tumultuous feelings that lie beneath her own languid and monotonous exterior, Louisa can only state a fact about her surroundings. Yet this fact, by analogy, also describes the emotions repressed within her.
Even though she does not conform to the Victorian ideals of femininity, Louisa does her best to be a model daughter, wife, and sister. Her decision to return to her father’s house rather than elope with Harthouse demonstrates that while she may be unfeeling, she does not lack virtue. Indeed, Louisa, though unemotional, still has the ability to recognize goodness and distinguish between right and wrong, even when it does not fall within the strict rubric of her father’s teachings. While at first Louisa lacks the ability to understand and function within the gray matter of emotions, she can at least recognize that they exist and are more powerful than her father or Bounderby believe, even without any factual basis. Moreover, under Sissy’s guidance, Louisa shows great promise in learning to express her feelings. Similarly, through her acquaintance with Rachael and Stephen, Louisa learns to respond charitably to suffering and to not view suffering simply as a temporary state that is easily overcome by effort, as her father and Bounderby do.
Although he is Mr. Gradgrind’s best friend, Josiah Bounderby is more interested in money and power than in facts. Indeed, he is himself a fiction, or a fraud. Bounderby’s inflated sense of pride is illustrated by his oft-repeated declaration, “I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown.” This statement generally prefaces the story of Bounderby’s childhood poverty and suffering, a story designed to impress its listeners with a sense of the young Josiah Bounderby’s determination and self-discipline. However, Dickens explodes the myth of the self-made man when Bounderby’s mother, Mrs. Pegler, reveals that her son had a decent, loving childhood and a good education, and that he was not abandoned, after all.
Bounderby’s attitude represents the social changes created by industrialization and capitalism. Whereas birth or bloodline formerly determined the social hierarchy, in an industrialized, capitalist society, wealth determines who holds the most power. Thus, Bounderby takes great delight in the fact that Mrs. Sparsit, an aristocrat who has fallen on hard times, has become his servant, while his own ambition has enabled him to rise from humble beginnings to become the wealthy owner of a factory and a bank. However, in depicting Bounderby, the capitalist, as a coarse, vain, self-interested hypocrite, Dickens implies that Bounderby uses his wealth and power irresponsibly, contributing to the muddled relations between rich and poor, especially in his treatment of Stephen after the Hands cast Stephen out to form a union.
Stephen Blackpool is introduced after we have met the Gradgrind family and Bounderby, and Blackpool provides a stark contrast to these earlier characters. One of the Hands in Bounderby’s factory, Stephen lives a life of drudgery and poverty. In spite of the hardships of his daily toil, Stephen strives to maintain his honesty, integrity, faith, and compassion.
Stephen is an important character not only because his poverty and virtue contrast with Bounderby’s wealth and self-interest, but also because he finds himself in the midst of a labor dispute that illustrates the strained relations between rich and poor. Stephen is the only Hand who refuses to join a workers’ union: he believes that striking is not the best way to improve relations between factory owners and employees, and he also wants to earn an honest living. As a result, he is cast out of the workers’ group. However, he also refuses to spy on his fellow workers for Bounderby, who consequently sends him away. Both groups, rich and poor, respond in the same self-interested, backstabbing way. As Rachael explains, Stephen ends up with the “masters against him on one hand, the men against him on the other, he only wantin’ to work hard in peace, and do what he felt right.” Through Stephen, Dickens suggests that industrialization threatens to compromise both the employee’s and employer’s moral integrity, thereby creating a social muddle to which there is no easy solution.
Through his efforts to resist the moral corruption on all sides, Stephen becomes a martyr, or Christ figure, ultimately dying for Tom’s crime. When he falls into a mine shaft on his way back to Coketown to clear his name of the charge of robbing Bounderby’s bank, Stephen comforts himself by gazing at a particularly bright star that seems to shine on him in his “pain and trouble.” This star not only represents the ideals of virtue for which Stephen strives, but also the happiness and tranquility that is lacking in his troubled life. Moreover, his ability to find comfort in the star illustrates the importance of imagination, which enables him to escape the cold, hard facts of his miserable existence.
Thomas Gradgrind - A wealthy, retired merchant in Coketown, England; he later becomes a Member of Parliament. Mr. Gradgrind espouses a philosophy of rationalism, self-interest, and cold, hard fact. He describes himself as an “eminently practical” man, and he tries to raise his children—Louisa, Tom, Jane, Adam Smith, and Malthus—to be equally practical by forbidding the development of their imaginations and emotions.
Thomas Gradgrind (In-Depth Analysis)
Louisa - Gradgrind’s daughter, later Bounderby’s wife. Confused by her coldhearted upbringing, Louisa feels disconnected from her emotions and alienated from other people. While she vaguely recognizes that her father’s system of education has deprived her childhood of all joy, Louisa cannot actively invoke her emotions or connect with others. Thus she marries Bounderby to please her father, even though she does not love her husband. Indeed, the only person she loves completely is her brother Tom.
Louisa Gradgrind (In-Depth Analysis)
Thomas Gradgrind, Jr - . Gradgrind’s eldest son and an apprentice at Bounderby’s bank, who is generally called Tom. Tom reacts to his strict upbringing by becoming a dissipated, hedonistic, hypocritical young man. Although he appreciates his sister’s affection, Tom cannot return it entirely—he loves money and gambling even more than he loves Louisa. These vices lead him to rob Bounderby’s bank and implicate Stephen as the robbery’s prime suspect.
Josiah Bounderby - Gradgrind’s friend and later Louisa’s husband. Bounderby claims to be a self-made man and boastfully describes being abandoned by his mother as a young boy. From his childhood poverty he has risen to become a banker and factory owner in Coketown, known by everyone for his wealth and power. His true upbringing, by caring and devoted parents, indicates that his social mobility is a hoax and calls into question the whole notion of social mobility in nineteenth-century England.
Josiah Bounderby (In-Depth Analysis)
Cecelia Jupe - The daughter of a clown in Sleary’s circus. Sissy is taken in by Gradgrind when her father disappears. Sissy serves as a foil, or contrast, to Louisa: while Sissy is imaginative and compassionate, Louisa is rational and, for the most part, unfeeling. Sissy embodies the Victorian femininity that counterbalances mechanization and industry. Through Sissy’s interaction with her, Louisa is able to explore her more sensitive, feminine sides.
Mrs. Sparsit - Bounderby’s housekeeper, who goes to live at the bank apartments when Bounderby marries Louisa. Once a member of the aristocratic elite, Mrs. Sparsit fell on hard times after the collapse of her marriage. A selfish, manipulative, dishonest woman, Mrs. Sparsit cherishes secret hopes of ruining Bounderby’s marriage so that she can marry him herself. Mrs. Sparsit’s aristocratic background is emphasized by the narrator’s frequent allusions to her “Roman” and “Coriolanian” appearance.
Stephen Blackpool - A Hand in Bounderby’s factory. Stephen loves Rachael but is unable to marry her because he is already married, albeit to a horrible, drunken woman. A man of great honesty, compassion, and integrity, Stephen maintains his moral ideals even when he is shunned by his fellow workers and fired by Bounderby. Stephen’s values are similar to those endorsed by the narrator.
Stephen Blackpool (In-Depth Analysis)
Rachael - A simple, honest Hand who loves Stephen Blackpool. To Stephen, she represents domestic happiness and moral purity.
James Harthouse - A sophisticated and manipulative young London gentleman who comes to Coketown to enter politics as a disciple of Gradgrind, simply because he thinks it might alleviate his boredom. In his constant search for a new form of amusement, Harthouse quickly becomes attracted to Louisa and resolves to seduce her.
Mr. Sleary - The lisping proprietor of the circus where Sissy’s father was an entertainer. Later, Mr. Sleary hides Tom Gradgrind and helps him flee the country. Mr. Sleary and his troop of entertainers value laughter and fantasy whereas Mr. Gradgrind values rationality and fact.
Bitzer - Bitzer is one of the successes produced by Gradgrind’s rationalistic system of education. Initially a bully at Gradgrind’s school, Bitzer later becomes an employee and a spy at Bounderby’s bank. An uncharacteristically pale character and unrelenting disciple of fact, Bitzer almost stops Tom from fleeing after it is discovered that Tom is the true bank robber.
Mr. McChoakumchild - The unpleasant teacher at Gradgrind’s school. As his name suggests, McChoakumchild is not overly fond of children, and stifles or chokes their imaginations and feelings.
Mrs. Pegler - Bounderby’s mother, unbeknownst as such to all except herself and Bounderby. Mrs. Pegler makes an annual visit to Coketown in order to admire her son’s prosperity from a safe distance. Mrs. Pegler’s appearance uncovers the hoax that her son Bounderby has been attesting throughout the story, which is that he is a self-made man who was abandoned as a child.
Mrs. Gradgrind - Gradgrind’s whiny, anemic wife, who constantly tells her children to study their “ologies” and complains that she’ll “never hear the end” of any complaint. Although Mrs. Gradgrind does not share her husband’s interest in facts, she lacks the energy and the imagination to oppose his system of education.
Slackbridge - The crooked orator who convinces the Hands to unionize and turns them against Stephen Blackpool when he refuses to join the union.
Jane Gradgrind - Gradgrind’s younger daughter; Louisa and Tom’s sister. Because Sissy largely raises her, Jane is a happier little girl than her sister, Louisa.
Thomas Gradgrind, a wealthy, retired merchant in the industrial city of Coketown, England, devotes his life to a philosophy of rationalism, self-interest, and fact. He raises his oldest children, Louisa and Tom, according to this philosophy and never allows them to engage in fanciful or imaginative pursuits. He founds a school and charitably takes in one of the students, the kindly and imaginative Sissy Jupe, after the disappearance of her father, a circus entertainer.
As the Gradgrind children grow older, Tom becomes a dissipated, self-interested hedonist, and Louisa struggles with deep inner confusion, feeling as though she is missing something important in her life. Eventually Louisa marries Gradgrind’s friend Josiah Bounderby, a wealthy factory owner and banker more than twice her age. Bounderby continually trumpets his role as a self-made man who was abandoned in the gutter by his mother as an infant. Tom is apprenticed at the Bounderby bank, and Sissy remains at the Gradgrind home to care for the younger children.
In the meantime, an impoverished “Hand”—Dickens’s term for the lowest laborers in Coketown’s factories—named Stephen Blackpool struggles with his love for Rachael, another poor factory worker. He is unable to marry her because he is already married to a horrible, drunken woman who disappears for months and even years at a time. Stephen visits Bounderby to ask about a divorce but learns that only the wealthy can obtain them. Outside Bounderby’s home, he meets Mrs. Pegler, a strange old woman with an inexplicable devotion to Bounderby.
James Harthouse, a wealthy young sophisticate from London, arrives in Coketown to begin a political career as a disciple of Gradgrind, who is now a Member of Parliament. He immediately takes an interest in Louisa and decides to try to seduce her. With the unspoken aid of Mrs. Sparsit, a former aristocrat who has fallen on hard times and now works for Bounderby, he sets about trying to corrupt Louisa.
The Hands, exhorted by a crooked union spokesman named Slackbridge, try to form a union. Only Stephen refuses to join because he feels that a union strike would only increase tensions between employers and employees. He is cast out by the other Hands and fired by Bounderby when he refuses to spy on them. Louisa, impressed with Stephen’s integrity, visits him before he leaves Coketown and helps him with some money. Tom accompanies her and tells Stephen that if he waits outside the bank for several consecutive nights, help will come to him. Stephen does so, but no help arrives. Eventually he packs up and leaves Coketown, hoping to find agricultural work in the country. Not long after that, the bank is robbed, and the lone suspect is Stephen, the vanished Hand who was seen loitering outside the bank for several nights just before disappearing from the city.
Mrs. Sparsit witnesses Harthouse declaring his love for Louisa, and Louisa agrees to meet him in Coketown later that night. However, Louisa instead flees to her father’s house, where she miserably confides to Gradgrind that her upbringing has left her married to a man she does not love, disconnected from her feelings, deeply unhappy, and possibly in love with Harthouse. She collapses to the floor, and Gradgrind, struck dumb with self-reproach, begins to realize the imperfections in his philosophy of rational self-interest.
Sissy, who loves Louisa deeply, visits Harthouse and convinces him to leave Coketown forever. Bounderby, furious that his wife has left him, redoubles his efforts to capture Stephen. When Stephen tries to return to clear his good name, he falls into a mining pit called Old Hell Shaft. Rachael and Louisa discover him, but he dies soon after an emotional farewell to Rachael. Gradgrind and Louisa realize that Tom is really responsible for robbing the bank, and they arrange to sneak him out of England with the help of the circus performers with whom Sissy spent her early childhood. They are nearly successful, but are stopped by Bitzer, a young man who went to Gradgrind’s school and who embodies all the qualities of the detached rationalism that Gradgrind once espoused, but who now sees its limits. Sleary, the lisping circus proprietor, arranges for Tom to slip out of Bitzer’s grasp, and the young robber escapes from England after all.
Mrs. Sparsit, anxious to help Bounderby find the robbers, drags Mrs. Pegler—a known associate of Stephen Blackpool—in to see Bounderby, thinking Mrs. Pegler is a potential witness. Bounderby recoils, and it is revealed that Mrs. Pegler is really his loving mother, whom he has forbidden to visit him: Bounderby is not a self-made man after all. Angrily, Bounderby fires Mrs. Sparsit and sends her away to her hostile relatives. Five years later, he will die alone in the streets of Coketown. Gradgrind gives up his philosophy of fact and devotes his political power to helping the poor. Tom realizes the error of his ways but dies without ever seeing his family again. While Sissy marries and has a large and loving family, Louisa never again marries and never has children. Nevertheless, Louisa is loved by Sissy’s family and learns at last how to feel sympathy for her fellow human beings.
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, and spent the first nine years of his life in Kent, a marshy region by the sea in the west of England. Dickens’s father, John, was a kind and likable man, but he was incompetent with money and piled up tremendous debts throughout his life. When Dickens was nine, his family moved to London, and later, when he was twelve, his father was arrested and taken to debtors’ prison. Dickens’s mother moved his seven brothers and sisters into prison with their father but arranged for Charles to live alone outside the prison, working with other children at a nightmarish job in a blacking warehouse, pasting labels on bottles. The three months he spent apart from his family were highly traumatic for Dickens, and his job was miserable—he considered himself too good for it, earning the contempt of the other children.
After his father was released from prison, Dickens returned to school. He tried his hand professionally as a law clerk and then a court reporter before becoming a novelist. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, became a huge popular success when Dickens was only twenty-five; he was a literary celebrity throughout England for the remainder of his life. At about this time, he fell in love with Mary Beadnell, the daughter of a banker. In spite of his ambition and literary success, Dickens was considered her social inferior in terms of wealth and family background, and Mary’s father prohibited the marriage. Several years later, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth. Although they had ten children, Dickens was never completely happy in this marriage, and he and Catherine eventually separated.
Though the young blacking factory employee had considered himself too good for his job, the older novelist retained a deep interest in and concern for the plight of the poor, particularly poor children. The Victorian England in which Dickens lived was fraught with massive economic turmoil, as the Industrial Revolution sent shockwaves through the established order. The disparity between the rich and poor, or the middle and working classes, grew even greater as factory owners exploited their employees in order to increase their own profits. Workers, referred to as “the Hands” in Hard Times, were forced to work long hours for low pay in cramped, sooty, loud, and dangerous factories. Because they lacked education and job skills, these workers had few options for improving their terrible living and working conditions. With the empathy he gained through his own experience of poverty, Dickens became involved with a number of organizations that worked to alleviate the horrible living conditions of the London poor. For instance, he was a speaker for the Metropolitan Sanitary Organization, and, with his wealthy friend Angela Burdett-Coutts, he organized projects to clear up the slums and build clean, safe, cheap housing for the poor.
Though he was far too great a novelist to become a propagandist, Dickens several times used his art as a lens to focus attention on the plight of the poor and to attempt to awaken the conscience of the reader. Hard Times is just such a novel: set amid the industrial smokestacks and factories of Coketown, England, the novel uses its characters and stories to expose the massive gulf between the nation’s rich and poor and to criticize what Dickens perceived as the unfeeling self-interest of the middle and upper classes. Indeed, Hard Times suggests that nineteenth-century England itself is turning into a factory machine: the middle class is concerned only with making a profit in the most efficient and practical way possible. Hard Times is not a delicate book: Dickens hammers home his point with vicious, often hilarious satire and sentimental melodrama. It is also not a difficult book: Dickens wanted all his readers to catch his point exactly, and the moral theme of the novel is very explicitly articulated time and again. There are no hidden meanings in Hard Times, and the book is an interesting case of a great writer subordinating his art to a moral and social purpose. Even if it is not Dickens’s most popular novel, it is still an important expression of the values he thought were fundamental to human existence.
“Dickens” redirects here. For other uses, see Dickens (disambiguation).
Charles John Huffam Dickens FRSA (IPA: [ˈtʃɑːlz ˈdɪkɪnz]; 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870), pen-name "Boz", was the foremost English novelist of the Victorian era, as well as a vigorous social campaigner. Considered one of the English language's greatest writers, he was acclaimed for his rich storytelling and memorable characters, and achieved massive worldwide popularity in his lifetime.
Later critics, beginning with George Gissing and G. K. Chesterton, championed his mastery of prose, his endless invention of memorable characters and his powerful social sensibilities, yet writers such as George Henry Lewes, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf fault his work for sentimentality, implausible occurrence and grotesque characters.
The popularity of Dickens's novels and short stories has meant that none has ever gone out of print. Dickens wrote serialised novels, which was the usual format for fiction at the time, and each new part of his stories was eagerly anticipated by the reading public.
 Early years
Charles Dickens was born in Landport, Portsmouth in Hampshire, the second of eight children to John Dickens (1786–1851), a clerk in the Navy Pay Office at Portsmouth, and his wife Elizabeth Dickens (née Barrow, 1789–1863) on February 7, 1812. When he was five, the family moved to Chatham, Kent. When he was ten, the family relocated to 16 Bayham Street, Camden Town in London.
Although his early years seem to have been an idyllic time, he thought himself then as a "very small and not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy". He spent his time outdoors, reading voraciously with a particular fondness for the picaresque novels of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding. He talked later in life of his extremely poignant memories of childhood and his continuing photographic memory of people and events that helped bring his fiction to life. His family was moderately wealthy, and he received some education at the private William Giles's school in Chatham. However, this time of prosperity came to an abrupt end when his father, after spending too much money entertaining and retaining his social position, was imprisoned at Marshalsea debtors' prison.
A 12-year-old Dickens began working 10 hour days in a Warren's boot-blacking factory, located near the present Charing Cross railway station. He earned six shillings a week pasting labels on the jars of thick polish. This money paid for his lodging in Camden Town and helped support his family.
After a few months his family was able to leave Marshalsea but their financial situation did not improve until later, partly due to money inherited from his father's family. His mother did not immediately remove Charles from the boot-blacking factory, which was owned by a relation of hers. Dickens never forgave his mother for this, and resentment of his situation and the conditions under which working-class people lived became major themes of his works. As Dickens wrote in David Copperfield, judged to be his most clearly autobiographical novel, "I had no advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any kind, from anyone, that I can call to mind, as I hope to go to heaven!" Eventually he attended the Wellington House Academy in North London.
In May 1827, Dickens began work in the office of Ellis and Blackmore as a law clerk, a junior office position with potential to become a lawyer, a profession for which he later showed his dislike in his many literary works. He later became a court stenographer at the age of 17. In 1830, Dickens met his first love, Maria Beadnell, who has been said to be the model for Dora in David Copperfield. Her parents disapproved of their courtship and they effectively ended the relationship when they sent her to school in Paris.
ournalism and early novels
In 1834, Dickens became a journalist, reporting parliamentary debate and travelling Britain by stagecoach to cover election campaigns for the Morning Chronicle. His journalism, in the form of sketches which appeared in periodicals from 1833, formed his first collection of pieces Sketches by Boz which were published in 1836 and led to the serialization of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers in March 1836. He continued to contribute to and edit journals throughout much of his subsequent literary career.
On 2 April 1836, he married Catherine Thompson Hogarth (1816–1879), the daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle. After a brief honeymoon in Chalk, Kent, they set up home in Bloomsbury where they produced ten children:
* Charles Culliford Boz Dickens (6 January 1837–1896).
* Mary Angela Dickens (6 March 1838–1896).
* Kate Macready Dickens (29 October 1839–1929).
* Walter Landor Dickens (8 February 1841–1863). Died in India.
* Francis Jeffrey Dickens (15 January 1844–1886).
* Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson Dickens (28 October 1845–1912).
* Sydney Smith Haldimand Dickens (18 April 1847–1872).
* (Sir) Henry Fielding Dickens (15 January 1849–1933).
o Henry Charles Dickens (1882–1966), barrister. (Grandson)
+ Monica Dickens (1915–1992). (Great-granddaughter)
* Dora Annie Dickens (16 August 1850–April 1851).
* Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens (13 March 1852–23 January 1902). He migrated to Australia, and became a member of the New South Wales state parliament. He died in Moree, NSW.
In the same year, he accepted the job of editor of Bentley's Miscellany, a position he would hold until 1839 when he fell out with the owner. However, his success as a novelist continued, producing Oliver Twist (1837-39), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39), then The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge as part of the Master Humphrey's Clock series (1840-41), all being published in monthly instalments before being made into books.
In 1842, he travelled with his wife to the United States and Canada, a journey which was successful despite his support for the abolition of slavery. The trip is described in the short travelogue American Notes for General Circulation and is also the basis of some of the episodes in Martin Chuzzlewit. Shortly thereafter, he began to show interest in Unitarian Christianity, although he remained an Anglican, at least nominally, for the rest of his life.  Dickens's work continued to be popular, especially A Christmas Carol written in 1843, the first of his Christmas books, which was reputedly written in a matter of weeks.
After living briefly abroad in Italy (1844) and Switzerland (1846), Dickens continued his success with Dombey and Son (1848); David Copperfield (1849-50); Bleak House (1852-53); Hard Times (1854); Little Dorrit (1857); A Tale of Two Cities (1859); and Great Expectations (1861). Dickens was also the publisher and editor of, and a major contributor to, the journals Household Words (1850–1859) and All the Year Round (1858-1870).
 Middle years
In 1856, his popularity had allowed him to buy Gad's Hill Place. This large house in Higham, Kent, had a particular meaning to Dickens as he had walked past it as a child and had dreamed of living in it. The area was also the scene of some of the events of Shakespeare's Henry IV, part 1 and this literary connection pleased him.
In 1857, in preparation for public performances of The Frozen Deep, a play on which he and his protégé Wilkie Collins had collaborated, Dickens hired professional actresses to play the female parts. With one of these, Ellen Ternan, Dickens formed a bond which was to last the rest of his life. The exact nature of their relationship is unclear, as both Dickens and Ternan burned each other's letters, but it was clearly central to Dickens's personal and professional life. On his death, he settled an annuity on her which made her a financially independent woman. Claire Tomalin's book, The Invisible Woman, set out to prove that Ellen Ternan lived with Dickens secretly for the last 13 years of his life, and has subsequently been turned into a play by Simon Gray called Little Nell.
When Dickens separated from his wife in 1858, divorce was almost unthinkable, particularly for someone as famous as he was, and so he continued to maintain her in a house for the next 20 years until she died. Although they appeared to be initially happy together, Catherine did not seem to share quite the same boundless energy for life which Dickens had. Nevertheless, her job of looking after their ten children, and the pressure of living with a world-famous novelist and keeping house for him, certainly did not help.
Catherine had her sister Mary move in to help her, but there were rumours that Charles was romantically linked to his sister-in-law, possibly fuelled by the fact that she remained at Gadshill to look after the younger children when Catherine left. An indication of his marital dissatisfaction was when, in 1855, he went to meet his first love, Maria Beadnell. Maria was by this time married as well, but seemed to have fallen short of Dickens's romantic memory of her.
 Rail accident and last years
On 9 June 1865, while returning from France with the actress Ellen Ternan, Dickens was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash in which the first seven carriages of the train plunged off a bridge that was being repaired. The only first-class carriage to remain on the track was the one in which Dickens was travelling. Dickens spent some time tending the wounded and the dying before rescuers arrived. Before leaving, he remembered the unfinished manuscript for Our Mutual Friend, and he returned to his carriage to retrieve it. Typically, Dickens later used this experience as material for his short ghost story The Signal-Man in which the central character has a premonition of his own death in a rail crash. He based the story around several previous rail accidents, such as the Clayton Tunnel rail crash of 1861.
Dickens managed to avoid an appearance at the inquiry into the crash, as it would have become known that he was travelling that day with Ellen Ternan and her mother, which could have caused a scandal. Ellen had been Dickens's companion since the breakdown of his marriage, and, as he had met her in 1857, she was most likely the ultimate reason for that breakdown. She continued to be his companion, and likely mistress, until his death. The dimensions of the affair were unknown until the publication of Dickens and Daughter, a book about Dickens's relationship with his daughter Kate, in 1939. Kate Dickens worked with author Gladys Storey on the book prior to her death in 1929, and alleged that Dickens and Ternan had a son who died in infancy, though no contemporary evidence exists
Dickens, though unharmed, never really recovered from the Staplehurst crash, and his normally prolific writing shrank to completing Our Mutual Friend and starting the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood after a long interval. Much of his time was taken up with public readings from his best-loved novels. Dickens was fascinated by the theatre as an escape from the world, and theatres and theatrical people appear in Nicholas Nickleby. The traveling shows were extremely popular and, after three tours of British Isles, Dickens gave his first public reading in the United States at a New York City theatre on 2 December 1867.
The effort and passion he put into these readings with individual character voices is also thought to have contributed to his death. When he undertook another English tour of readings (1869–1870), he became ill and five years to the day after the Staplehurst crash, on 9 June 1870, he died at home at Gad's Hill Place after suffering a stroke.
Contrary to his wish to be buried in Rochester Cathedral, he was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. The inscription on his tomb reads: "He was a sympathiser to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world." Dickens's will stipulated that no memorial be erected to honour him. The only life-size bronze statue of Dickens, cast in 1891 by Francis Edwin Elwell, is located in Clark Park in the Spruce Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States of America.
 Literary style
Dickens's writing style is florid and poetic, with a strong comic touch. His satires of British aristocratic snobbery — he calls one character the "Noble Refrigerator" — are often popular. Comparing orphans to stocks and shares, people to tug boats, or dinner-party guests to furniture are just some of Dickens's acclaimed flights of fancy.
The characters are among the most memorable in English literature; certainly their names are. The likes of Ebenezer Scrooge, Fagin, Mrs Gamp, Charles Darnay, Oliver Twist, Micawber, Abel Magwitch, Samuel Pickwick, Miss Havisham, Wackford Squeers and many others are so well known and can be believed to be living a life outside the novels that their stories have been continued by other authors.
Dickens loved the style of 18th century gothic romance, though it had already become a target for parody — Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey being a well known example — and while some of his characters are grotesques, their eccentricities do not usually overshadow the stories. One 'character' most vividly drawn throughout his novels is London itself. From the coaching inns on the outskirts of the city to the lower reaches of the Thames, all aspects of the capital are described over the course of his corpus.
 Episodic writing
As noted above, most of Dickens's major novels were first written in monthly or weekly instalments in journals such as Master Humphrey's Clock and Household Words, later reprinted in book form. These instalments made the stories cheap, accessible and the series of regular cliff-hangers made each new episode widely anticipated. American fans even waited at the docks in New York, shouting out to the crew of an incoming ship, "Is Little Nell dead?" Part of Dickens's great talent was to incorporate this episodic writing style but still end up with a coherent novel at the end. The monthly numbers were illustrated by, amongst others, "Phiz" (a pseudonym for Hablot Browne). Among his best-known works are Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby, The Pickwick Papers, and A Christmas Carol.
Dickens's technique of writing in monthly or weekly instalments (depending on the work) can be understood by analysing his relationship with his illustrators. The several artists who filled this role were privy to the contents and intentions of Dickens's instalments before the general public. Thus, by reading these correspondences between author and illustrator, the intentions behind Dickens's work can be better understood. What was hidden in his art is made plain in these letters. These also reveal how the interests of the reader and author do not coincide. A great example of that appears in the monthly novel Oliver Twist. At one point in this work, Dickens had Oliver become embroiled in a robbery. That particular monthly instalment concludes with young Oliver being shot. Readers expected that they would be forced to wait only a month to find out the outcome of that gunshot. In fact, Dickens did not reveal what became of young Oliver in the succeeding number. Rather, the reading public was forced to wait two months to discover if the boy lived.
Another important impact of Dickens's episodic writing style was his exposure to the opinions of his readers. Since Dickens did not write the chapters very far ahead of their publication, he was allowed to witness the public reaction and alter the story depending on those public reactions. A fine example of this process can be seen in his weekly serial The Old Curiosity Shop, which is a chase story. In this novel, Little Nell and her Grandfather are fleeing the villain Quilp. The progress of the novel follows the gradual success of that pursuit. As Dickens wrote and published the weekly instalments, his friend John Forster pointed out: "You know you're going to have to kill her, don't you." Why this end was necessary can be explained by a brief analysis of the difference between the structure of a comedy versus a tragedy. In a comedy, the action covers a sequence "You think they're going to lose, you think they're going to lose, they win." In tragedy, it's: "You think they're going to win, you think they're going to win, they lose". The dramatic conclusion of the story is implicit throughout the novel. So, as Dickens wrote the novel in the form of a tragedy, the sad outcome of the novel was a foregone conclusion. If he had not caused his heroine to lose, he would not have completed his dramatic structure. Dickens admitted that his friend Forster was right and, in the end, Little Nell died. 
 Social commentary
Dickens's novels were, among other things, works of social commentary. He was a fierce critic of the poverty and social stratification of Victorian society. Dickens's second novel, Oliver Twist (1839), shocked readers with its images of poverty and crime and was responsible for the clearing of the actual London slum that was the basis of the story's Jacob's Island. In addition, with the character of the tragic prostitute, Nancy, Dickens "humanised" such women for the reading public; women who were regarded as "unfortunates," inherently immoral casualties of the Victorian class/economic system. Bleak House and Little Dorrit elaborated expansive critiques of the Victorian institutional apparatus: the interminable lawsuits of the Court of Chancery that destroyed people's lives in Bleak House and a dual attack in Little Dorrit on inefficient, corrupt patent offices and unregulated market speculation.
 Literary techniques
Dickens is often described as using 'idealised' characters and highly sentimental scenes to contrast with his caricatures and the ugly social truths he reveals. The extended death scene of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) was received as incredibly moving by contemporary readers but viewed as ludicrously sentimental by Oscar Wilde:"You would need to have a heart of stone," he declared in one of his famous witticisms, "not to laugh at the death of Little Nell." In 1903 Chesterton said, "It is not the death of Little Nell, but the life of Little Nell, that I object to." 
In Oliver Twist Dickens provides readers with an idealised portrait of a young boy so inherently and unrealistically 'good' that his values are never subverted by either brutal orphanages or coerced involvement in a gang of young pickpockets (similar to Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol). While later novels also centre on idealised characters (Esther Summerson in Bleak House and Amy Dorrit in Little Dorrit) this idealism serves only to highlight Dickens's goal of poignant social commentary. Many of his novels are concerned with social realism, focusing on mechanisms of social control that direct people's lives (for instance, factory networks in Hard Times and hypocritical exclusionary class codes in Our Mutual Friend).
Dickens also employs incredible coincidences (e.g. Oliver Twist turns out to be the lost nephew of the upper class family that randomly rescues him from the dangers of the pickpocket group). Such coincidences are a staple of eighteenth century picaresque novels such as Henry Fielding's Tom Jones that Dickens enjoyed so much. But to Dickens these were not just plot devices but an index of the humanism that led him to believe that good wins out in the end and often in unexpected ways.
 Autobiographical elements
All authors might be said to incorporate autobiographical elements in their fiction, but with Dickens this is very noticeable, even though he took pains to cover up what he considered his shameful, lowly past. David Copperfield is one of the most clearly autobiographical but the scenes from Bleak House of interminable court cases and legal arguments are drawn from the author's brief career as a court reporter. Dickens's own family was sent to prison for poverty, a common theme in many of his books, and the detailed depiction of life in the Marshalsea prison in Little Dorrit is due to Dickens's own experiences of the institution. Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop is thought to represent Dickens's sister-in-law, Nicholas Nickleby's father and Wilkins Micawber are certainly Dickens's own father, just as Mrs. Nickleby and Mrs. Micawber are similar to his mother. The snobbish nature of Pip from Great Expectations also has some affinity to the author himself. The character of Fagin is believed to be based upon Ikey Solomon, a 19th century Jewish criminal of London and later Australia. It is reported that Dickens, during his time as a journalist, interviewed Solomon after a court appearance and that he was the inspiration for the gang leader in Oliver Twist. Dickens may have drawn on his childhood experiences, but he was also ashamed of them and would not reveal that this was where he got his realistic accounts of squalor. Very few knew the details of his early life until six years after his death when John Forster published a biography on which Dickens had collaborated. A shameful past in Victorian times could taint reputations, just as it did for some of his characters, and this may have been Dickens's own fear.
Charles Dickens was a well-known personality and his novels were immensely popular during his lifetime. His first full novel, The Pickwick Papers (1837), brought him immediate fame and this continued right through his career. Although rarely departing greatly from his typical "Dickensian" method of always attempting to write a great "story" in a somewhat conventional manner (the dual narrators of Bleak House are a notable exception), he experimented with varied themes, characterisations and genres. Some of these experiments have proved more popular than others and the public's taste and appreciation of his many works have varied over time. He was usually keen to give his readers what they wanted, and the monthly or weekly publication of his works in episodes meant that the books could change as the story proceeded at the whim of the public. A good example of this are the American episodes in Martin Chuzzlewit which were put in by Dickens in response to lower than normal sales of the earlier chapters. In Our Mutual Friend, the inclusion of the character of Riah was a positive portrayal of a Jewish character after he was criticised for the depiction of Fagin in Oliver Twist.
His popularity has waned little since his death and he is still one of the best known and most read of English authors. At least 180 motion pictures and TV adaptations based on Dickens's works help confirm his success. Many of his works were adapted for the stage during his own lifetime and as early as 1913 a silent film of The Pickwick Papers was made. His characters were often so memorable that they took on a life of their own outside his books. Gamp became a slang expression for an umbrella from the character Mrs Gamp and Pickwickian, Pecksniffian and Gradgrind all entered dictionaries due to Dickens's original portraits of such characters who were quixotic, hypocritical or emotionlessly logical. Sam Weller, the carefree and irreverent valet of The Pickwick Papers, was an early superstar, perhaps better known than his author at first. It is likely that A Christmas Carol is his best-known story, with new adaptations almost every year. It is also the most-filmed of Dickens's stories, many versions dating from the early years of cinema. This simple morality tale with both pathos and its theme of redemption, for many, sums up the true meaning of Christmas and eclipses all other Yuletide stories in not only popularity, but in adding archetypal figures (Scrooge, Tiny Tim, the Christmas ghosts) to the Western cultural consciousness. Some historians consider this book to have played a major factor in redefining the holiday and its major sentiments. A Christmas Carol was written by Dickens in an attempt to forestall financial disaster as a result of flagging sales of his novel Martin Chuzzlewit. Years later, Dickens shared that he was "deeply affected" in writing A Christmas Carol and the novel rejuvenated his career as a renowned author.
At a time when Britain was the major economic and political power of the world, Dickens highlighted the life of the forgotten poor and disadvantaged at the heart of empire. Through his journalism he campaigned on specific issues — such as sanitation and the workhouse — but his fiction was probably all the more powerful in changing public opinion in regard to class inequalities. He often depicted the exploitation and repression of the poor and condemned the public officials and institutions that allowed such abuses to exist. His most strident indictment of this condition is in Hard Times (1854), Dickens's only novel-length treatment of the industrial working class. In that work, he uses both vitriol and satire to illustrate how this marginalised social stratum was termed "Hands" by the factory owners, that is, not really "people" but rather only appendages of the machines that they operated. His writings inspired others, in particular journalists and political figures, to address such problems of class oppression. For example, the prison scenes in Little Dorrit and The Pickwick Papers were prime movers in having the Marshalsea and Fleet Prisons shut down. As Karl Marx said, Dickens, and the other novelists of Victorian England, "…issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together…". The exceptional popularity of his novels, even those with socially oppositional themes (Bleak House, 1853; Little Dorrit, 1857; Our Mutual Friend, 1865) underscored not only his almost preternatural ability to create compelling storylines and unforgettable characters, but also insured that the Victorian public confronted issues of social justice that had commonly been ignored.
His fiction, with often vivid descriptions of life in nineteenth-century England, has inaccurately and anachronistically come to globally symbolise Victorian society (1837–1901) as uniformly "Dickensian," when in fact, his novels' time span is from the 1770s to the 1860s. In the decade following his death in 1870, a more intense degree of socially and philosophically pessimistic perspectives invested British fiction; such themes were in contrast to the religious faith that ultimately held together even the bleakest of Dickens's novels. Later Victorian novelists such as Thomas Hardy and George Gissing were influenced by Dickens, but their works display a greater willingness to confront and challenge the Victorian institution of religion. They also portray characters caught up by social forces (primarily via lower-class conditions) but which usually steer them to tragic ends beyond their control.
Novelists continue to be influenced by his books; for example, such disparate current writers as Anne Rice, Tom Wolfe and John Irving evidence direct Dickensian connections. Humorist James Finn Garner even wrote a tongue-in-cheek "politically correct" version of A Christmas Carol.
Although Dickens's life has been the subject of at least two TV miniseries and two famous one-man shows, he has never been the subject of a Hollywood "big screen" biography.
 Adaptations of readings
There have been several performances of Dickens readings by Emlyn Williams, Bransby Williams and also Simon Callow in the Mystery of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd.
 Museums and festivals
There are museums and festivals celebrating Dickens's life and works in many of the towns with which he was associated.
* The Charles Dickens Museum, in Doughty Street, Holborn is the only one of Dickens's London homes to survive. He lived there only two years but in this time wrote The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. It contains a major collection of manuscripts, original furniture and memorabilia.
* Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth is the house in which Dickens was born. It has been re-furnished in the likely style of 1812 and contains Dickens memorabilia.
* The Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs is the house of Miss Mary Pearson Strong, the basis for Miss Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. It is visible across the bay from the original Bleak House (also a museum until 2005) where David Copperfield was written. The museum contains memorabilia, general Victoriana and some of Dickens's letters. Broadstairs has held a Dickens Festival annually since 1937.
* The Charles Dickens Centre in Eastgate House, Rochester, closed in 2004, but the garden containing the author's Swiss chalet is still open. The 16th-Century house, which appeared as Westgate House in The Pickwick Papers and the Nun's House in Edwin Drood, will probably re-open under a related use. The city's annual Dickens Festival (summer) and Dickensian Christmas celebrations continue unaffected.
* The Dickens World themed attraction, covering 71 500 square feet, and including a cinema and restaurants, opened in Chatham on 25 May 2007. It stands on a small part of the site of the former naval dockyard where Dickens's father had once worked in the Navy Pay Office.
* Dickens Festival in Rochester, Kent. Summer Dickens is held at the end of May or in the first few days of June, it commences with an invitation only ball on the Thursday and then continues with street entertainment, and many costumed characters, on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.Christmas Dickens is the first weekend in December- Saturday and Sunday only.
Dickens festivals are also held across the world.
Three notable ones in the United States are:
* The Riverside Dickens Festival in Riverside, California, includes literary studies as well as entertainments.
* The Great Dickens Christmas Fair (http://www.dickensfair.com/) has been held in San Francisco, California, since the 1970s. During the four or five weekends before Christmas, over 500 costumed performers mingle with and entertain thousands of visitors amidst the recreated full-scale blocks of Dickensian London in over 90,000 square feet of public area. This is the oldest, largest, and most successful of the modern Dickens festivals outside England. Many (including the Martin Harris who acts in the Rochester festival and flies out from London to play Scrooge every year in SF) say it is the most impressive in the world.
* Dickens on The Strand in Galveston, Texas, is a holiday festival held on the first weekend in December since 1974, where bobbies, Beefeaters and the "Queen" herself are on hand to recreate the Victorian London of Charles Dickens. Many festival volunteers and attendees dress in Victorian attire and bring the world of Dickens to life.
 Notable works by Charles Dickens
Main article: Bibliography of Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens published over a dozen major novels, a large number of short stories (including a number of Christmas-themed stories), a handful of plays, and several nonfiction books. Dickens's novels were initially serialized in weekly and monthly magazines, then reprinted in standard book formats.
* The Pickwick Papers (Monthly serial, April 1836 to November 1837)
* The Adventures of Oliver Twist (Monthly serial in Bentley's Miscellany, February 1837 to April 1839)
* The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (Monthly serial, April 1838 to October 1839)
* The Old Curiosity Shop (Weekly serial in Master Humphrey's Clock, April 25, 1840, to February 6, 1841)
* Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty (Weekly serial in Master Humphrey's Clock, February 13, 184l, to November 27, 1841)
* The Christmas books:
o A Christmas Carol (1843)
o The Chimes (1844)
o The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
o The Battle of Life (1846)
o The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848)
* The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (Monthly serial, January 1843 to July 1844)
* Dombey and Son (Monthly serial, October 1846 to April 1848)
* David Copperfield (Monthly serial, May 1849 to November 1850)
* Bleak House (Monthly serial, March 1852 to September 1853)
* Hard Times: For These Times (Weekly serial in Household Words, April 1, 1854, to August 12, 1854)
* Little Dorrit (Monthly serial, December 1855 to June 1857)
* A Tale of Two Cities (Weekly serial in All the Year Round, April 30, 1859, to November 26, 1859)
* Great Expectations (Weekly serial in All the Year Round, December 1, 1860 to August 3, 1861)
* Our Mutual Friend (Monthly serial, May 1864 to November 1865)
* No Thoroughfare (1867) (with Wilkie Collins)
* The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Monthly serial, April 1870 to September 1870. Only six of twelve planned numbers completed)
* The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices (1890)
 Short story collections
* Sketches by Boz (1836)
* Boots at the Holly-tree Inn: And Other Stories (1858)
* Reprinted Pieces (1861)
* The Haunted House (1862) (with Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Adelaide Proctor, George Sala and Hesba Setton)
* The Mudfog Papers (1880) aka Mudfog and Other Sketches
* To Be Read At Dusk (1898)
 Selected nonfiction, poetry, and plays
* The Village Coquettes (Plays, 1836)
* The Fine Old English Gentleman (poetry, 1841)
* American Notes: For General Circulation (1842)
* Pictures from Italy (1846)
* The Life of Our Lord: As written for his children (1849)
* A Child's History of England (1853)
* The Frozen Deep (play, 1857)
* Speeches, Letters and Sayings (1870)
 Dickens as a Character in Fiction
* The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (1942). Morton Lowry portrays Dickens.
* Dickens of London (1976) is a miniseries about Dickens. He is played as an adult by Roy Dotrice.
* Portrayed by Simon Callow in the 2005 Doctor Who episode The Unquiet Dead.
1. ^ Henry James, "Our Mutual Friend", The Nation, 21 December 1865- a scathing review
2. ^ John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens, Book 1, Chapter 1
3. ^ Dickens, Charles (1987). Dickens' working notes for his novels. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226145905.
4. ^ In conversation with Ada Leverson. Quoted in Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), p. 469.
5. ^ G. K. Chesterton, Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens, Chapter 6: Curiosity Shop
6. ^ Marx, Karl (August 1, 1954). The English Middle Classes. New York Tribune. Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved on 2007-06-10.
7. ^ Hart, Christopher (May 20, 2007). What, the Dickens World?. The Sunday Times. Times Online. Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
8. ^ Serial publication dates from Chronology of Novels by E. D. H. Johnson, Holmes Professor of Belles Lettres, Princeton University. Accessed June 11, 2007