Great Expectations Something about Charles Dickens and his ability to take his reader to unbelievable places with his imaginative powers allows him the honor of being the most popular English novelist of the 19th century. Dickens has thrilled his readers for many years with his down-to-earth stories about real people forced into real situations. Charles Dickens has the ability to tell his stories from personal experiences. He fine-tuned his ability to tell his own story through the life of another character or cast of characters. Born on the evening of February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens was the second child of his parents, John and Elizabeth Dickens.
His parents lived in Portsmouth, which is located on England’s southern coast. The family was in the lower division of the middle class. Charles Dickens’ father, John, was a clerk at the Navy Pay Office in Portsmouth. Dickens’s mother was very affectionate and rather foolish in practical matters. John was a vivacious and generous man, but often lived outside the boundaries of his tight pocketbook.
Later in life Dickens used his father as the basis for his fictional character, Mr. Micawber and his mother as Mrs. Nickleby in the Brothers Cheeryble (Constable 25). In 1814 John Dickens was transferred from the post in Portsworth to one in London. Three years later the family moved to Chatham to be closer to their father who was working steadily at the post. Charles Dickens’s mother taught him to read when he was barely five and for the next few years Dickens lived wonderfully, reading every book he could get his hands on.
He quickly read through his father’s collection of Shakespeare, Cervantes, Defoe, Smollett, Fielding, and Goldsmith. Every one of these authors left a mark on the young mind of Charles Dickens which is easy to see in his style and attitude throughout writings (Carey 6). During this time Dickens started attending school where he excelled and pleased his father greatly. Although he was a solitary child, Dickens was observant and good natured and often participated in different comical routines for the class. Looking back on this period of his life, Dickens thought of it as the golden age (Carey 6). In the first novel that he wrote, The Pickwick Papers, Dickens tries to bring back the good old times as he remembers them with their picturesque nature. Gary Carey believes that this novel displays the happiness of innocence and the playful spirit of the youth during the time of Dickens’s youthful days (7). Overtaken by financial difficulties, the Dickens family was forced to move into a shabby suburb of Camden Town. This move must have shown the family how good they had it back in Chatham. There Dickens was removed from school and forced to work degrading menial jobs in an effort to help his struggling father put food on the table. Dickens was put to work in a blackening factory among many rough and cruel employees, probably the worst job in town.
Shortly after Dickens started working in the factory his father was thrown into jail for failure to pay his debts, only to be released three months later. This period of time affected Dickens greatly as he went into a period of depression. He felt abandoned and destroyed by this evil roller-coaster ride of life he was on. From this time period come many of the major themes of his more popular novels. Perhaps the most popular of these novels is David Copperfield. In this novel Dickens depicts a young man who grows up in a very similar way to that of his own (Al len 28). Dickens’ sympathy for the victimized, his fascination with prisons and money, the desire to vindicate his heroes’ status as gentlemen, and the idea of London as an awesome, lively, and rather threatening environment all reflect the experiences he had during his time on his own.
On his own at the age of twelve, Dickens learned many necessary life skills which also developed in him a driving ambition and a boundless energy that transferred into every thing that he did (28). It would be a mistake to think of Charles Dickens as an uneducated man just because he had little formal schooling. Dickens did what everyone should do, learn from life. His entire writing career was a continuing process of development and experimentation. Many of his themes keep repeating themselves throughout his pieces and those themes most certainly stem from his early life.
From his early Pickwick Papers to his one of his last pieces The Mystery of Edwin Drood Dickens never ceased to develop his writing abilities and skill, establishing himself as the major and primary Victorian novelist (Bloom 189). The journey from boyhood into manhood is a momentous one, and definitely something that has a lasting effect on one’s person. Charles Dickens in his novel David Copperfield describes the journey into manhood by telling a story similar to his own life through the life of David Copperfield. There isn’t one underlining theme in this novel there are many. The journey is one that along with David’s is longing for what is lost in the past and the humiliation he feels from being an orphan. Dickens has written an excellent novel describing the troubles of growing up and the benefits of having a rough childhood.
Through the rough experiences that he had, Dickens was able to look back on his early life and write world-famous stories about them. Calvin Brown feel that these experiences also helped shape the man the Dickens became, as do all experiences in life for everyone (Brown 144) The structure of Dickens’s Copperfield has the freeness and the unity of a wonderful journey. As the scene moves from place to place in the story each move also represents a critical step in David’s spiritual journey to manhood. Dickens uses the pattern of changing scenes to provide both variety and contrast of mood. The atmosphere changes as the story moves along from the Salem House to Blunderstone, giving the story diversity. Dickens constantly shows how the life of David would have been much easier had he had a decent father figure in his home while he was growing up. David is constantly searching for what he has lost in the past. He recalls the beautiful world of the Peggottys when he says, It seems to me at this hour that I have never seen such sunlight as on those bright April afternoons, that I h …