So to the socialists who think Dickens is one of them, Orwell says, “Come again? Orwell speaks of Dickens’ refreshing lack of nationalism, another reason why socialists wanted to claim him. (It’s also probably one of the reasons why Dickens’ books have traveled so far and lasted so long: they are not rooted in a time and place, they do not read as propaganda for a cause, as so much of the literature done by Dickens’ contemporaries does.Orwell makes the accurate observation that Dickens does not “exploit” the “other” in his works. Dickens’ books are about people, not politics.) I absolutely love this section: The fact that Dickens is always thought of as a caricaturist, although he was constantly trying to be something else, is perhaps the surest mark of his genius.Because this is Orwell we are talking about it, his essay on Dickens also has a political component.
Yet he managed to do it without making himself hated, and, more than this, the very people he attacked have swallowed him so completely that he has become a national institution himself. He observes that Dickens did not write about the famous “proletariat”.
He did not write about agricultural laborers or factory workers, the heroes of Socialist thinking.
He wrote about bourgeois people: shopkeepers, bar owners, lawyers, innkeepers, servants: These are middle-class people, albeit with a grotesque edge.
Dickens obviously had a social critique in his work, but unlike more proselytizing writers, he did not offer solutions, so much as present the problem. By one of those coincidental plot-points that operates so often in Dickens, where he is removed from the squalor of the streets into the glory of a wealthy neighborhood.
Wealth was supposed to change hands, collectively, from the wealthy to the peasant class. Dickens understood that element of the French Revolution, and also understood the fearsome underbelly of revolutions which produce terrifying personages such as Robespierre. ” Dickens is pretty contemptuous, overall, about the English education system. Schoolmasters and teachers were ridiculous figures to him, pompous, cruel, unfair, and worthy of parody. This may not be as easily seen today, or it may not be seen as very important, because questions of nationalism are not as paramount as they were in the 30s and 40s, when nations were behaving like a bunch of lunatics. But the time in which Orwell was writing, as well as his socialist Marxist background, informs his analysis in a way that is quite interesting.
Essays Written By Charles Dickens
Once the purges begin, they are nearly impossible to stop: at one point does a whole culture say, “Okay. Once you cut off the heads of your own monarchs in a public square, all bets are off. Dickens’ book, especially with the inclusion of Madame Defarge, really gets that. Schools suck, in Dickens’ world, which was probably an accurate reflection of what was going on (and something Orwell would clearly relate to, as we saw in his essay about his experience in an English boarding school). It’s hard to find a good example of a teacher in Dickens’ work, which speaks volumes. Orwell finds Dickens’ lack of patriotism refreshing.
The mental atmosphere of the opening chapters was so immediately intelligible to me that I vaguely imagined they had been written by a child.
And yet when one re-reads the book as an adult and sees the Murdstones, for instance, dwindle from gigantic figures of doom into semi-comic monsters, these passages lose nothing.
The rest of the book involves clattering London streets, nice little apartments, shops and inns, and carriages.
The Defarge couple hang over that book like a guillotine, reminding us of the horrors of revolution (Madame Defarge is one of Dickens’ most brilliant creations). Dickens’ description of the mob violence in the French Revolution is still frightening to read today, because you can see what madness it is.