Sketch of a Victorian Novelist
The name Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is almost synonymous with the reign of English prose in the Nineteenth century. This compelling Victorian novelist, who was born in 1812 in Portsmouth, produced astonishingly luminous works, and gradually established his position as one of the irreplaceable stars in the dazzling sky of English Literature.
Unlike Jane Austen, one of his contemporary Victorian novelists, whose novels mostly deal with the themes of love, marriages, and individual relationships, Dickens' plots are generally less romantic and more down-to-earth. In his novels he deals with significant social concerns, the struggle of existence, and human survival in adverse circumstances. He repeatedly represents the incessant conflict between the destiny and the individual. At the same time, the conscionable perspectives and the ethical aspects of life are remarkably illustrated in his novels.
However, while comparing Dickens with Jane Austen we must consider the fact that Jane Austen's novels essentially reflect the psychology, which has been influenced by the progression of feminine sensibility of her era. On the other hand, Dickens can be regarded as an ever-young gentleman of experience, who has portrayed the hardships that he has experienced in his own life. Dickens' childhood was affected by constant impoverishment as his father was persistently indebt and eventually imprisoned. Consequently, he was forced to work in Warren's blacking-warehouse. The bleak memories of this period cast a grim shadow upon his psychology and he remained preoccupied by it till the end of his life. He has portrayed his own experiences through the protagonists of his novels such as Oliver Twist, Pip and David Copperfield. Fundamentally, Dickens is a moralist, with a progressive sense of social conscience. His works are chiefly characterized by piercing humor, unadulterated irony and imaginative wit. In his lifetime his eminence reached the zenith, and he is still adulated by millions of admirers all over the world.
His Unforgettable Works:
At the same time, Dickens implicitly represents in the novel the precarious way of life of criminals, delicately underlining the social factors, which often transform a youngster into a reckless delinquent. He touchingly illustrates the basic characteristics of the primitive feelings and emotions that exist in their lives.
Louisa has been lonely from her childhood. She is acquainted with ethics but is untouched by basic human compassions. Her destiny takes her to a dubious position where she finds herself trapped and disoriented as her father persuades her to marry Mr. Bounderby. Mr. Gradgrind eventually modifies his visions after he witnesses his children being victimized by diverse emotional crisis and the lack of human characteristics, established by his authoritarian upbringing which can only mechanize a liberal human soul. The story implicitly represents a relentless conflict between human innocence and the factually meticulous expansion of technological utilitarianism. The novel also portrays the plights of the destitute factory workers, who are struggling to survive in Coketown under the wraths of the capitalist factory owners. From this perspective, it can be argued that the novel manifests Dickens' socialist views.
The climax of the novel is emotional and cathartic. David's young wife perishes but he finds consolation in a new companion. The novel essentially depicts a young man's unrelenting journey from deprivation and destitution to integrity, trust, honesty and triumph.
This voyage of David Copperfield through the path of his life is sensitively characterized by uncompromising hope, optimism, and glorious achievements. Copperfield's life is an epitome of human endeavors, which can transform the concept of cynicism into a promising prospect of resurrected buoyancy.
After everything he realizes the fact that his existence is still insignificant without Stella. Subsequently, like a realistic gentleman of experience, who is not motivated by instinctive fancies or vague illusions of emotive impulses, he boldly rescues Stella from the 'feminist' empire of Miss Havisham that remains preoccupied by the sinister shadow of Havisham's scornful visions and anomalous ideals even after her decease.
A Tale of Two Cities
As the tide of the revolution turns wild in France both Darnay and Carton find themselves deeply in love with Miss Manette, the compassionate young lady adored by all. Darnay, who is fortunate enough to be chosen by the charming lady, travels back to France in order to save a former employee, who has been detained by the over-enthusiastic nationalists.
Although Darnay is liberal in principles, he is a French aristocrat by birth belonging to the cursed Evremonde family. On his return he is arrested by the anarchists and imprisoned without a trial. Miss Manette and Doctor Manette, concerned about Darnay's disappearance return to France to liberate Darnay from the grip of the fierce republicans. They confront the deadliest features of the revolution, as it is inclined to denounce the guilty and the innocents alike. In the meanwhile, Sydney Carton arrives in Paris to aid them. He is ready to forfeit himself for the woman he loves more than his own life and regard this sacrifice 'as a far more better thing that I do, than I have ever done before.'
This romantic novel represents a destructive dispute between political cataclysm and individual passions. In the novel the constructive power of love and sacrifice is sensitively represented against the detrimental forces of tyranny and insurrection.
By KH Asef Safa Kabir (Upal)
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