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Contextualization (Ch.D)

CHARLES DICKENS (1812-1870)

HISTORY:

  • Britain reaches heights of wealth and power during Queen Victoria’s reign;
  • Colonial expansion continues in Asia and Africa; India is the most valuable of all British colonies.

ECONOMY AND SOCIETY:

Social reforms:

  • Education becomes a universal right;
  • Improvement of health services;
  • The number of people who can vote doubles;
  • The cheap postal system is introduced.

Industrialisation continues and more factories are built;

England becomes the world’s workshop, and London becomes the world’s banker;

Population growth leads to overcrowded towns. Rural communities disappear due to increased urbanization and traditional values disintegrate. Many children work in mines and factories, are treated harshly, and live in dreadful conditions.

IDEOLOGY AND CULTURE:

The Victorian Age is defined by strong religious and moral principles, known as Victorian values:

  • Hard work;
  • Respectability;
  • Duty;
  • Charity.

Literary trend: REALISM

Principles of Realism:

  • normal situations and ordinary characters are described in familiar settings;
  • lower strata of society are emphasized;
  • very little use of metaphors;
  • literature strives to be true to reality and “hold up a mirror to life”.

Realistic novel traits (the novel is the best form of expression for realism, as it describes the world faithfully and doesn’t idealize it):

  • Major theme: the place of the individual in society, the aspiration of the main character for love or social position;
  • Long, dense, with complicated plots;
  • Physical descriptions of characters are realistic;
  • Lots of characters, most of them belong to the middle and lower classes;
  • A new type of character: the one who transcends social barriers through marriage, hard work, or legacies.

THE AUTHOR AND HIS WORK

He had an unhappy childhood (his father was imprisoned for debt and he was forced to start work in a warehouse at 12);

Gained public attention with the humorous texts “The Pickwick Papers”;

As he grew older his mood became darker – he could not forget his traumatic childhood and could not tolerate the injustice of the social system.

Social novels:

  • “Oliver Twist”
  • “Nicholas Nickleby”
  • “Bleak House”
  • “Hard Times”
  • “David Copperfield”
  • “Great Expectations”