Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is a raw, poignant novel about the realities of poverty, especially for children, in Victorian England.

The book centers around a young orphan named Oliver, who was given to an orphanage at birth after the death of his mother. Worked to the bone and severely malnourished, Oliver falls in with a gang of pickpockets and quickly turns to a life of crime. What follows is a powerful tale of Oliver’s desperate struggle to survive in the heartless world he lives in.

Although this book was quite bleak and depressing, I really appreciated it as an accurate retelling of poverty in Victorian times. The deep class divides affecting society even then are tangible, and Dickens’ fury and contempt towards the excesses of the rich are clearly felt throughout the novel. Overall, I would recommend it!

-Vaidehi B.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations (Dover Thrift Editions): Charles Dickens: 9780486415864:  Amazon.com: Books

With sympathetic and nuanced prose, the book portrays Joe, Pip and Biddy as unpretentious little men of kindness. Pip lives in his sister’s family, living a hard life, his dream is to be a blacksmith like his brother-in-law; he did not want to be a gentleman. Then he wanted to be a gentleman because of a change in circumstances. The theme of love runs through the story of Great Expectations. Pip’s unwavering love for Estella, Pip’s brotherly love for Herbert, Magwitch’s misshapen but deeply hidden love for Pip are all described in detail. But what moves us most is Jonah’s unselfish, unsentimental love, and Dickens’s most intimate description of the relationship between Pip and Joe. Then, when Pip’s hopes of inheritance were so completely dashed, and he fell seriously ill, it was Joe again, who not only gave him great moral support, but quietly helped him to pay off his debts. This kind of love leads Pip to return to conscience gradually in the constant inner struggle between right and wrong. In Great Expectations, the happy life of Joe and his wife Biddy contrasts sharply with Pip’s pursuit of a gentlemanly life. In them, we can see the writer’s praise for the valuable quality and sincere feelings of the ordinary people at the bottom of the society. Dickens’s characterization of people is not just a description of their appearance, but a detailed analysis of people through his unique humor and exaggerated language. He not only depicts the characters from the external environment, but also depicts the characters with the help of the detailed description of the characters’ movements, behaviors, gestures, expressions and so on. In the novel Great Expectations, the author Dickens portrays Pip as the first person perspective in the form of autobiographical in order to be able to express Pip’s psychological activities and action language in detail in the work.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times - Kindle edition by Dickens, Charles . Literature & Fiction  Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Hard Times is a novel by Charles Dickens, published in 1854. It describes life in an industrial town. Dickens was now 42 years old. The setting for this book is a time of intense industrial tensions in British society. Josiah Bounderby, a banker and textile mill owner, was friends with Thomas Gradgrind, a retired hardware wholesaler, Congressman and educator. Together they controlled the town’s economic system and educational institutions. They are materialistic and unsentimental, pretentious, and live by the principle of utilitarianism. Bounderby was attended by the widow Mrs. Sparsit. He taught his children to be practical and down-to-earth. When they learned to walk, they were put into classrooms and spent their days dealing with numbers. They were not allowed to read poetry or stories. Gradgrind marries his young daughter Louisa to the much older Bounderby, and the widow Mrs. Sparsit, jealous of her, inflicts pain on her, leading to the breakup of her marriage. At Gradgrind’s own educational initiative, his son Tom was forced to help Bounderby with his work. He led a dissolute life and was heavily in debt. He stole money from The Bounderby Bank and ran away, hiding in the circus and playing the role of a clown. After a series of painful lessons and the influence of Sissy Jupe, a circus girl, he gradually changed his attitude towards life and was sent to America by his father. Bounderby liked to boast of his self-made wealth, and to accuse workers of being dissatisfied with their delusions of luxury. Five years later Bounderby died of a stroke on the streets of Cookstown, and Louisa remarried.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield (Charles Dickens collection) - Kindle edition by Dickens,  Charles . Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

The artistic charm of David Copperfield lies not in its winding and vivid structure, or its ups and downs of plots, but in its realistic life atmosphere and lyrical narrative style. What attracts people in this work are the fleshy characters, the specific and vivid world and customs, as well as the personality characteristics of different characters. Such as Miss Bessie, David’s aunt, in her manners and speech, her dress, her likes and dislikes, and even her actions, though not without exaggeration, paint a vivid picture of an old woman with a strange nature and a kind heart.

As for the portrayal of Peggotty, the maid, this is even more accurate. The setting, especially the storm at Yarmouth, is powerful, vivid and immersive. Dickens was also a master humorist, whose witty one-liners and exaggerated caricature of characters can often be found between the lines of his novels. The chapters of David’s early life show a childhood world that has long been forgotten by adults from a child’s psychological perspective, and are vividly and movingly written. David, for example, has a special childhood sensitivity towards the cruel, cruel and greedy businessman Murdstone who pursues his mother from the beginning.

When Murdstone reached out his false hand and patted David, he saw that it had touched his mother’s unceremoniously, and angrily pushed it away. David repeated to his mother the time when Murdstone had taken him out to play. When he said that one of Murdstone’s friends kept mentioning a beautiful little widow in their conversation, she laughed and asked him to repeat the story again and again. It is told entirely from the point of view of the innocent child, who does not know that it is his mother who is being told, and the young widow, who asks for a reunion, whose fervent hopes for a happy life are already on the page.

David went to her brother’s house with his nurse, Peggotty, whose brother was a fisherman. David saw him coming back from his work at sea to wash his face and thought he had something in common with shrimp and crab, for his black face turned red when the hot water burned it. This strange association is full of childlike interest and Dickens’s characteristic humor. In David Copperfield, Dickens resorts to the cartoonist exaggeration and transformation techniques, with simple language humor to create lifelike characters, leaving us with an unforgettable impression. These cartoon characters fully demonstrate the artistic charm of Dickens’s novels.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Dombey and Son (Cronos Classics) eBook by Charles Dickens - 9782378073671 |  Rakuten Kobo Greece

In this work the author presents his views on the relationship between money and human nature. Dombey was haughty, imperious, and cruel when he had a great deal of money. After he went bankrupt, he confessed to his daughter and became both weak and kind. Florence and Gay took him in, and old Dombey, loving his grandson, lived a quiet and happy old age. Dombey and Son also truly reflects the development of industrial capitalism in Britain in the 1830s and 1840s, especially the development of the railway industry occupies an obvious place in the novel.

The work describes the vanity and hypocrisy of small citizens and the evil of the marriage system in Victorian England. The author tries to show the great corrosive and destructive effect of money on family relations (mainly father-son relations and husband-wife relations), which reflects the social reality that family relations have been reduced to the naked money relations in capitalist society. Paul’s premature death and Florence’s failure to seek her father’s love powerfully reveal the dominance of money and the fact that money is doomed to failure when it competes with emotion.

However, while criticizing the money relationship, the author tries to counter the money relationship with emotional education and moral influence. In fact, the root cause of Dombey’s transformation was his subsequent change in rank, and not the result of his daughter’s warmth. It must also be pointed out that it is obviously one-sided and inadequate for the author to attribute the monetization of family relations only to the conflict between money and emotion, which reflects the limitations of the author’s world view. Dombey and Son is a tightly structured novel created by Dickens, which is quite different from the loose structure in his earlier works.

The appearance of all the characters, and the development of the story, is arranged around the development of Mr. Dombey’s destiny, and the events are organically bound together, and the story is very lively and interesting. The artistic techniques Dickens used in his novels are varied. There are biting sarcasm, humor with a smile, objective descriptions, deliberate exaggerations, direct and simple statements, and also witty metaphors. Dickens’s characters are all alive. They have their own unique character, but also their own unique language. Even a dog, a parrot, a pair of tongs, and a curtain sometimes give vivid expression to their thoughts and feelings.

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: 9780553212440 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

The novel is mainly about a miser. A miser had saved a lot of money, yet he was unwilling to add a lump of coal to the clerk’s fire. His nephew kindly invited him to the Christmas Eve party, but he thought his nephew was just trying to take advantage of him by refusing. Activists asked him to give a little Christmas food to the poor, but he was mercilessly rebuffed. He went home at night, and in the darkness he saw a face. Was it really a ghost? Or is it his vision? However, the appearance of the ghost has changed him completely.

Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by three Christmas spirits: Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Christmas Past shows him how his sister cared for him in his lonely childhood, and how, as an apprentice, his kind boss, Fitzwig, danced with the crowd and entertained his staff on Christmas Eve. His heart began to soften, and he regretted his treatment of his employees and his transformation from a poor but happy young man to a rich but friendless boss. Present took him to a Christmas party at the home of one of his subordinates. It was a little clerk on a poor salary. There were no Christmas presents, no turkeys, but everyone had a happy smile on their faces. Yet to Come showed him the loneliness of being in bed with no family or friends to see him at Christmas when he was old. He began to rethink the meaning of life, and found that giving was happier than receiving. All this gradually awakened the other side of his humanity — compassion, kindness, love and joy. In an instant, his inherent selfishness and coldness collapsed and disappeared, and he became a good Samaritan.

So on Christmas morning, the morning after the ghost’s visit, Bob, an employee, arrives late for work, expecting Scrooge to be angry. But instead scrooge said to him, “Merry Christmas to you, my good fellow! I’ll give you a raise, and I’ll do my best to help your poor family. Get the fire lit quickly and buy a coal basket.” Then he bought a very big Turkey and had it sent to Bob’s family. Then, on his first visit to his nephew, he greeted people on the street with “Merry Christmas” and they smiled kindly at him. For the first time in his life Scrooge felt truly happy. His heart was laughing, and he felt the real joy of life in his charity.

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

The Old Curiosity Shop (Penguin Classics): Dickens, Charles, Page, Norman:  9780140437423: Amazon.com: Books

The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) describes the tragic fate of the collapse of bourgeois in capitalist society. An old man with whom the author has deep sympathy runs an antique shop in a small alley in London. He had to fight against fate to get rich gambling, only to lose the antique shop to the loan shark instead. He and his little granddaughter Nell were ejected from the store. Two people later drifters to the remote countryside and died in the suffering. The kind-hearted little Nell and her grandfather lived together in an old antique shop, a place as magical as a fairy-tale cave. But little Nell did not know that her grandfather, who loved her dearly, hid a secret from her.

There was a crisis lurking in their seemingly uneventful lives — to make a living, and to leave little Nell a legacy that would enable her to live happily ever after. Desperate to get rich, he secretly gambled and borrowed money from the usurious upstart Daniel Quilp. Little did Grandfather think that they had fallen into the clutches of Quilp. Quilp tried to take over the old antique shop and the beautiful Nell. Nell’s sinister cousin, Freddy, had long coveted the business. He teamed up with his friend Dick Swiveller in an attempt to get Dick to marry little Nell, and then they could divide her inheritance between them, but grandfather found out.

Later, Daniel Quilp and his lawyer collect from turent, the old antique shop owner, an insatiable vampire who not only uses usury to take away all the old antique shop’s property, but also wants to take possession of beautiful Nell. Later, Quilp and his lawyer came to collect money from Grandfather, the owner of the old antique shop. The insatiable vampire not only used the usury to take away all the property of the old antique shop, but also wanted to take possession of the beautiful Nell. For the sake of his grand-daughter’s happiness, the old grandfather had to give up his old shop, which he had run for so many years, and take Nell with him to flee from home.

The two were forced to flee London and live a vagrant life of begging. On their way to escape, the two meet a variety of people, some good, some evil intentions, but Quilp has never stopped tracking them. In desperation, a good priest took them in and took them to his orphanage. But here, unfortunately, little Nell became very ill. In the end, the little Nell, who was physically and mentally injured and mentally exhausted, passed away.

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (complete, unabridged and with all the original  illustrations from first publication) - Kindle edition by DICKENS, CHARLES.  Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Nicholas Nickleby is a boarding school teacher, an ambitious young man who is left penniless by the death of his father. His usury uncle not only refused to extend his hand to help, but uses his sister’s beauty for his own profit. He was upright and kind, and fled back to London to help abused schoolchildren. After many trials and tribulations, he fought with bad guys and exposed his uncle’s plot. Finally, he succeeded and married the girl he loved. Through his experience, the author reveals that at that time, the so-called poor run schools were actually profit-making places, the students suffered from hunger all day long, and whipping became the most important means of education.

Like most of Dickens’ works, Nicholas Nickleby is set in a contemporary setting. Most of the action takes place in London, with some episodes in Portsmouth and some in Yorkshire and Devon. This work satirizes social injustice in the form of irony. In the subject matter of this book, the main one is the education at that time. Dickens strongly criticized the education system at that time. He believes it is a serious crime that the British education system allows poorly functioning boarding schools to abuse children. Kindness and compassion are the main themes of this book. Noggs also plays the role of guardian angel because he is kind and upright. The friendship between Smike and Nicklyby further shows Dickens’ pity for some unfortunate people.

Greed is also an important theme of the novel. All characters make others suffer for their own financial gain. Most of their mistakes are caused by the love of money. Just as the Bible says: Money is the root of all evil. The book also deals with sexism and the passage of teenagers into adulthood. The book tells the story in the third person. Sometimes, the feelings of the characters are directly written out, and sometimes the feelings or thoughts of the characters are indirectly expressed through some small actions or facial expressions. When Dickens describes the abused children in chapter 8, he employs different rhetorical devices such as exaggeration, metaphor, alliteration and personification to leave readers with images of those children.

Authors We Love: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens - Wikipedia

Dickens lived and wrote in the early years of the Victorian Era in the mid-19th century. Dickens’ activities and creations throughout his life kept pace with the trend of the times. He exposed the hypocrisy, greed, baseness and cruelty of the upper class and the bourgeoisie in a realistic way, and showed the miserable situation of the lower class, especially women, children and the elderly, with great indignation and deep sympathy. And with a serious and cautious attitude he describes the awakening of the struggle of the toiling masses. At the same time, he also eulogizes the truth, goodness and beauty in human nature with idealism and romanticism, and looks forward to a more reasonable society and a better life. Dickens embodies the core spirit of the English, a kind of joy and satisfaction from the heart. But there is another British spirit in Dickens, a kind of self-conscious reflection and critical spirit. He spoke for the disadvantaged groups, pursued social justice, explored the core values that can make human beings live in harmony, and expressed the aspirations and dreams of many people with 15 novels and a large number of prose works.

In Dickens’s early works, the reader sometimes finds his affirmation of commercial value. But the later Dickens took a more derogatory attitude towards business. His work also tends to show in a violent way the subversive power of money in an increasingly industrialized society. In the real society, there is a philosophy that ignores human nature everywhere. All spiritual life, including religious life, has hopelessly become a vassal of money and a quantifiable index. With the development of Victorian society, the ethical and moral concepts of the aristocracy were inevitably impacted by the culture of the middle class. The ethics and morals of the middle class have gradually and widely influenced people’s way of life. The development of ethics reflected in the culture is the development of Victorian culture, thus breaking the original monistic cultural values.

Thus, it can be said that Dickens is not only criticizing the inequality of social classes in his novels, but also commenting on the culture of that society, especially its moral concepts. From this we can see his concern and thinking about the future of that society, and also reflect his deep thinking about the human life itself. Dickens’ early novels are grand, popular and fluent, humorous and pungent, and full of sentiment, in which the criticism of the society is generally confined to local institutions and fields. For example, “Oliver Twist”, “Nicholas Nickleby”, “The Old Curiosity Shop“, “The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit”, “Christmas Carol” and so on. After “Dombey and Son”, Dickens’s writing became more mature. “David Copperfield” further explores the struggle of life and is autobiographical. It is a long picture that reflects the middle and lower classes of Britain in the mid-19th century.

“Bleak House”, “Hard Times” and “Little Dorrit” are three politically conscious masterpieces. Dickens’ later works clearly reflect the deepening of the creation of the theme, technical maturity and various aspects of exploration. “Great Expectations” can be seen as a negative of “David Copperfield,” but it is more realistic and apocalyptic in its approach to life, and the author’s early optimism is markedly diminished. The hero Pip is also an orphan. However, he can not withstand the temptation of the environment and loses his original simple nature. After experiencing harsh hardships, he realizes repentance and starts to live again, and the whole novel is more concise in structure. “Our Mutual Friend” is another critical novel that goes deep into the society. The human nature exploration and life philosophy contained in it are also more profound. The symbolism and detective novel techniques used in the novel add more to its artistic charm.

Dickens’ final novel, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”, is only 23 chapters long, but it is also exquisitely written, scrupulously conceived, and seductive with suspense and mystery. He describes a large number of people in the middle and lower classes, which is unprecedented in literature. With his high artistic generalization, vivid detail description, witty humor and meticulous analysis, he created many unforgettable images that truly reflected the social face of Britain in the early 19th century, which had great appeal and cognitive value, and formed his unique style. He reflects the breadth and variety of life, the depth and power of it. Instead of preaching or conceptualizing his tendencies, he tends to inspire his readers’ indignation, hatred, sympathy and love with vivid artistic images. Most of his characters have distinct personalities. He is good at using artistic exaggeration to highlight some features of the characters and reveal their inner life and mental outlook with their customary movements, gestures and words.

Dickens’ works have a strong romantic atmosphere, and the things he describes seem to have some kind of spirituality that can match the feelings and temperament of the characters, which enhances the appeal of the works.


In A Tale of Two Cities, a historical novel which is written by Charles Dickens. Sydney Carton, one of the main character, achieved a form of resurrection by sacrificing himself. At the beginning of the novel, he used to be a drunken lawyer, lacking true care for others, but then Carton literally changes his characteristic. “I am the resurrection and the life says the Lord: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believeth in me, shall never die” (Carton 372). Sydney Carton goes through several levels of spiritual renewal. His Christian sacrifice allows Charles Darnay to survive and thrive.

This selfless act and his good deeds for the world saves Charles’s life. He has never done anything good for anyone in his life, including himself. He shows his great love for Lucie. Later on, they exchange successfully. The moment when Sydney Carton stayed in prison alone gives rise to the sense of empty and fearful. “The door closed, and Carton was left alone. Straining his powers of listening to the utmost, he listened for any sound that might denote suspicion or alarm” (Dickens 417).

Sydney Carton saves Charles Darnay from being convicted and executed in England, agrees to switch places with him in the Conciergerie. Heavily religious language surround these resurrections which compare Carton’s sacrifice of his own life for others’ sins to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He proves the most vital character in the novel. He dies for love which fulfills the happiness for Lucie and achieves the value of his own life and spirit.

-Xiaoyu Z.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive