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The Writer who Changed the World, One Story at a Time

Yesterday was the 65th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne.  It’s an incredible milestone, one no other ruler of England has attained, and she deserves all the honor and respect she gets.  The woman has seen a lot of changes during her reign, but that’s not what England should celebrate today. Today marks the 205th birthday of Charles Dickens, one of the most influential Britons and writers of any time. He didn’t just watch the world change, he changed our language and world with his stories. He was the literary Colossus of the Victorian Age, and his influence is still felt today.   Dickens in his early years The life of Dickens holds enough drama to fuel a multi-season mini-series. His terrible childhood has become so well-known we label all other impoverished, chaotic beginnings as “Dickensian.”  The funny thing is, he tried to hide these facts for years. Destitution was considered a social and character defect in the Regency and Victorian Eras and Dickens spent much of his life’s energy trying to get as far away from his impoverished past as he could. That drive turned him into a law clerk, a court reporter, a freelance journalist and finally…

The past through a prism: A look at David Copperfield.
I know a Good Story / November 24, 2014

“I have in my heart of hearts a favorite child.  And his name is David Copperfield.”  That’s what Charles Dickens said in the preface of his famous novel and I believe he meant it.  History didn’t record how his wife or his ten human children reacted to the statement (that would have been a Jerry Springer show in the making!) but, as sad as the remark probably made them, I doubt if they were surprised.  A large amount of fiction comes from the writer’s re-imagination of his or her own past and much of the novel David Copperfield can be traced to the life of Charles Dickens.  The transfiguration of those experiences in David Copperfield redeemed a lot of the author’s own childhood. It also made a much-loved book. Every fan of fiction knows Charles Dickens had an unsettled childhood.  His father was always in debt and the family moved continually, trying to avoid Dad’s creditors.  That ended when his father was thrown into debtor’s prison and all of the family (except 12 year old Charles and his slightly older sister) were incarcerated there for a time.  His sister managed to stay in her school but his parents forced Charles…

The Villans of Oliver Twist

Full disclosure:  I love the novel Oliver Twist but I can’t say I love the title character.  He cries far to easily for my taste and he’s altogether too sweet for words.   Dickens wanted to show Oliver’s basic gentle nature couldn’t be corrupted by the environment he lived in but basically his protagonist is a Casper Milquetoast.  When people are kind to him, he laps it up and soaks them with tears of joy.   When they are unkind, he leaves and cries on himself.  A very soggy kid, needing someone to rescue and rehydrate him.  Occasionally, Oliver will stand up to a bully but on someone else’s behalf, like his dead mother. In this book it’s a lot easier to like the bad guys. They have all the best lines in this book.  No one has ever developed supporting characters as thoroughly and lovingly as Charles Dickens and the villains in Oliver Twist are either strong and bad (like scary Bill Sikes) or weak and bad.  You know who the fun ones are, right? Of course there’s Fagin.  A fence and corrupter of children, Fagin sees himself as the ultimate pragmatist.  People do have a habit of buying things that…

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