Charles Dickens life and biography




Charles Dickens life and biography


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Charles Dickens




Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England on February 7th, 1812, the second of eight children. His father was a clerk working for the Navy Pay office and was imprisoned for debt when Charles was very young. Due to the lack of funds, Dickens went to work at a blacking warehouse when he was twelve. His brush with hard times and poverty affected him deeply, and he would later recount his experiences in the semi-autobiographical David Copperfield. Furthermore, a concern for social justice and reform which surfaced later on in his writings, grew out of the neglect and harsh conditions he experienced in the warehouse. Although he had little formal schooling, he was able to teach himself shorthand, leading him to a job as a parliamentary reporter at a newspaper. While he published several sketches in magazines, it was not until he wrote The Pickwick Papers from 1836-7 that he experienced true success. A publishing phenomenon, The Pickwick Papers was published in monthly instalments and sold over forty thousand copies for each issue. The year 1836 also saw his marriage to a Catherine Hogarth, who was the daughter of a fellow co-worker at the newspaper. Their marriage was not a happy one, but the two would have ten children together before their separation in 1858.

Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby subsequently followed; both were published in monthly installments and reflected simultaneously Dickens' understanding of the underclass and his comedic genius. In 1843, Dickens published one of his most famous works, A Christmas Carol. In this story especially, it was evident how Dickens was becoming disenchanted with the economic philosophy of the world; he blamed much of society's ills on people's obsession with earning money and acquiring a status based on money.
His travels abroad, first to America and then all over Europe, in the 1840s began a different stage in his life. His writings became more serious and involved more planning on his part. David Copperfield (1849-50) clearly paralleled his own. Within the story, readers found the same flawed world that Dickens had discovered as a young boy. Other novels were to follow. In the weekly periodicals he started, "Household Words" (1850) and "All the Year Round" (1859), he published such well-known novels as Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations.

Dickens first thought of setting a novel in the time of the French Revolution when he read Thomas Carlyle's book The French Revolution, which was first published in 1839. He read this book faithfully every year, but used it sparingly in researching his novels. Dickens finally came up with a way to use it in 1857, when he acted in Wilkie Collins' play, The Frozen Deep. Dickens played a self-sacrificing lover in the play; this role inspired him so much that he wanted to use it in his own novels. He eventually decided to place his own sacrificing lover in the revolutionary period, a period of great social upheaval. A year later, Dickens went through his own form of social change as he wrote the novel; he separated from his wife, and revitalized his career by making plans for a new weekly literary journal called All the Year Round. In 1859, A Tale of Two Cities premiered in parts in this journal. It was popular, not only from the fame of its author, but also for its short length and radical (for Dickens) subject matter.

Dickens' health started deteriorating in the 1860s. The fact that he had started doing public readings of his works in 1858 exacted even greater a physical toll on him. On June 9, 1870, Charles Dickens died and was buried in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Though The Mystery of Edwin Drood was unfinished at the time of his death, he had written fifteen substantial novels and countless shorter pieces by then. His legacy is clear. While he pointed out problems within society, a blinding and mercenary greed for money, neglect of all sectors in society, and a wrong inequality, he offered us, at the same time, a solution. Through his books, we come to understand the virtues of a loving heart and the pleasures of home in a flawed, cruelly indifferent world. In the end, the lesson to take away from his stories is a positive one. Alternately insightful and whimsical, Dickens' writings have shown readers over generations the reward of being truly human.


Main works

Charles Dickens lived during a time of great social change in Europe. Having published novels during the late 19th century, the subject of his writing typically focused on class structure, poverty, and treatment of the especially underprivileged. Dickens was particularly interested in the years immediately preceding...and leading up to his own adulthood. Between the 1770s and the 1840s, England underwent a sweeping transformation from a sleepy agrarian society to an intensely industrial one. For the first time, the English merchant was able to acquire wealth and power, the likes of which had previously only been available to the noble. However, the flip side of this situation was that England acquired a new class of poor people - ones that were even poorer than their predecessors. The fate of the new poor is described unflinchingly in Charles Dickens’ shortest novel, Hard Times.

In similar theme comes the novel "Great Expectations" which is both an absorbing mystery as well as a morality tale. It centres around the story of "Pip" (Philip Pirrip), a poor village boy, and his expectations of wealth. First published serially in 1860-61, it was released as a book in 1861. "Great Expectations" was certainly one of its author's greatest critical and popular successes. The story is told as a first person narrative with Pip explaining his life and times. Raised by his unpleasant older sister and her husband, the first evidence of friendship in the book is the relationship between Pip and his brother-in-law, Joe Gargery. However, the reader learns in Chapter Two how Pip views their relationship: "Has she been gone long, Joe?' I always treated him as a larger species of child, and as no more than my equal."
Dickens' depictions of poverty were often quite profound. Indeed, every society has had its poor, and the poor never live as well as the rich. But there is a difference between, say, a teenaged girl like A Christmas Carol’s Martha Cratchit who worked as a maidservant for a wealthier family, and the grimly hardscrabble existence of Dickens' Oliver Twist. Oliver was literally worked to the bone, and he was literally starved -- deliberately so. Dickens, always ready to serve as commentator, observes that "I wish some well-fed philosopher, whose blood is ice, whose heart is iron; could have seen Oliver Twist clutching at the dainty viands the dog had neglected. I wish he could have witnessed the horrible avidity with which Oliver tore the bits asunder with all the ferocity of famine" (Twist 53).
   What is remarkable about Dickens’ portrayal of Oliver (one of literature's most famous orphans), however, is not the inhumanity with which nineteenth-century society treated its poor, but the complexity of the relationships of the people trapped within its system. Dickens never allows his characters to be mere cardboard representations of moral attributes, but paints them as fully-fleshed individuals reacting, for better or worse, to the conflicting demands of society and conscience. 
  What can we learn from Dickens? The most enduring legacy of the Industrial Revolution -- a legacy just as tenacious in our own day as it was in Dickens’-- is the complacent belief that the poor are completely responsible for their own situation, and that if they had any spunk, ambition, or brains, they would be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get out of this mess. This is, obviously, a middle class perception unshared by anyone who has ever been poor. In our day, just as in Dickens’, the violent cleavage between classes renders the poor almost subhuman in society’s eyes. Dickens did a tremendous job of combating this smug assumption in Hard Times, but we need to reinforce messages such as his with compassion toward those less fortunate than ourselves...


Great Expectations



Little Philip Pirrip, known as Pip, lives in the Kent marshes with his shrewish sister and her husband, the simply, kindly, blacksmith, Joe Gargery. The story opens in the country churchyard, where Pip is terrified by the appearance of an escaped convict who threatens him with awful vengeance unless some food and file for his fetters are obtained smartly. Pip manages to hide some of his own supper, steals more food from the pantry and, after an encounter with a different, younger convict, finds the original one and leaves him filing off his irons.
The convicts are later captured by soldiers. Pip's convict chivalrously says it was he who stole the food, and Pip is too afraid to confess the truth. Pip is sent for by Miss Havisham, of Satis House in the local market town, taken there by his Uncle Pumblechook, a corn-chandler, and conducted to Miss Havisham by her companion, Estella, a proud, beautiful young girl. Miss Havisham is a middle-aged woman whose whim it is to live perpetually in the bridal dress she wore on the day she was jilted by her lover, surrounded by the debris of wedding feast. She hates all the male sees, and has sent for Pip to enjoy the sight of him being tormented by Estella. On another visit he meets a 'pale young gentleman', Herbert Pocket, one of Miss Havisham's many relations, with whom he has a fight.

When Pip is old enough to become an apprentice blacksmith, Miss Havisham gives Joe twenty-five guineas as a premium for him. Mrs. Gargery is attacked and severely injured by an unknown hand. Pip is sure that her attacker was Orlick, and uncouth journeyman of Joe's. Miss Gargery's injuries have left her an invalid, and Joe takes a young orphan, Biddy, as his housekeeper. Pip tells Biddy of his longing to be a gentleman. He is disgusted and unhappy at the smithy, he says, without telling her that his ambitions are centered on Estella; but Biddy guesses as much.

Jaggers, a lawyer from London whom Pip has seen at Miss Havisham's, informs Joe and Pip that Pip has Great Expectations from an unknown benefactor, whose name he must never try to find out. He is always to be known as Pip, and will be brought up as a gentleman. His indentures are canceled, he buys new clothes, says farewell to Miss Havisham, and goes to London, where he calls on Jaggers at his office in Little Britain. Wemmick, Jagger's clerk, takes Pip to Barnard's Inn, where he meets Herbert, the son of Matther Pocket, Miss Havisham's cousin, who is to be his tutor. Pip recognizes Herbert as the boy he once fought at Satis House. They become close friends, and are to share chambers at the Inn. Pip is also friendly with Wemmick, who takes him to tea at his home, a curious little residence known as the Castle, at Walworth, presided over by his Aged Parent, almost totally deaf but cheerful and contented.

Herbert tells Pip Miss Havisham's story mentioning that the man who jilted her had extracted from her large sums of money, in which her half-brother was thought to have shared; and that Estella's origins are unknown. Pip becomes increasingly sure that his Expectations are from Miss Havisham. Jaggers invites him to dinner: Wemmick advises him to look closely at Jaggers's housekeeper, a 'wild beast tamed'. She proves to be about forty, with a striking face, and Jaggers draws the company's attention to her remarkably strong wrists. Pip takes a dislike to the boorish young man called Bentley Drummle, who is present.
Miss Havisham summons Pip to the old town. Orlick, he finds, is now her porter. He is reunited with Estella, home from being educated in France, grown up and more beautiful than ever. Pip is puzzled by a resemblance to somebody he cannot identify. Miss Havisham begs him, with wild insistence, to love Estella, however much she may hurt him. Soon after, Pip receives a note from Estella saying that she is coming to London. He meets her and escorts her to Richmond. She is friendly but cool, leaving Pip with the realization that he is unhappy both with and without her.

Pip's sister dies just before Pip comes of age. He receives from Jaggers five hundred pounds, the gift of his anonymous benefactor. He visits Estella several times, and reproaches her for encouraging the attentions of Bentley Drummle.

One night Pip has a visitor; he is horrified to recognize the convict from his childhood. The man announces himself as Abel Magwitch, alias Provis, and shocks Pip by revealing that he, not Miss Havisham, is the founder of Pip's fortunes, in gratitude for the help given him long ago. He has got rich sheep-farming in Australia, and devoted all his wealth to Pip: 'Yes, Pip, dear boy, I've made a gentleman of you!' If his return to England were known, it would be death to him, he tells Pip and Herbert. They agree to hide him. He tells them the story of his life and association with a man called Compeyson, the other convict seen by the child Pip, and with Arthur Havisham, Miss Havisham's half-brother. When Magwitch and Compeyson were jointly tried for felony, Compeyson was let off with a seven-year sentence because of his gentlemanly appearance and speech, Magwitch received fourteen years.

Pip visits Miss Havisham and tells of his discovery, asking her to continue to help Herbert, whom he has set up in business. Confessing his love to Estella, he hears that she is to marry Drummle. With a final protestation of love, he rushes away and back to London.

Magwitch and he have been watched. Magwitch has been taken to a safer place, at the house where Herbert's fiancee, Clara Barley, lives with her father, near the Pool of London. A plan is arranged for Magwitch to escape by boat to a foreign vessel. Pip visits Miss Havisham, who is deeply distressed at the realization of what she has done to him and to Estella. What she tells him of Estella's first coming to her confirms his belief that Jaggers's housekeeper is Estella's mother; he later learns that this is true, that she is a murderess whom Jaggers has saved, and that Magwitch is Estella's father. Miss Havisham's clothes catch fire; Pip saves her from burning, but she soon dies of her injuries.

Pip is summoned to a night appointment at the old lime-kiln on the marshes. He finds Orlick there, lying in wait for the man he mistakenly imagines to be his old enemy, his rival for Biddy's affections and the favourite of the forge. He admits to attacking Pip's sister out of hatred for Pip, and threatens to kill Pip and burn his body in the lime-kiln. It is he who has tracked down Magwitch in Pip's chambers, and he is in league with Compeyson to prevent Magwitch's escape. But Pip is rescued in the nick of time.

The operation of rescuing Magwitch is begun. The boat in which Pip and Herbet are taking Magwitcch down the rive to board a foreign steamer is commanded to stop by an officer's boat, in which is Compeyson. The steamer runs them down, Compeyson is drowned, and Magwitch is severely hurt. He is brought to trial, and convicted, but is too ill for imprisonment. Pip visits him in the prison hospital; a new relationship springs up between them. Pip now feels for him tenderness and gratitude, and shame at his own former attitude. Magwitch dies, Pip giving him at the last news that his daughter, whom he thought was dead, lives.
Pip becomes seriously ill. He rouses from delirium to find that Joe has begun nursing him for weeks. As with Magwitch, his feelings change to remorse, for since becoming a 'gentleman' he has viewed poor Joe snobbishly, and been ashamed of him in public. His Great Expectations have done him no good; he is glad to be rid of them. After Joe has left, not waiting for thanks, Pip decides to go down to the country and ask Biddy to marry him, for long ago she seemed fond of him. He arrives to find that it is the wedding-day of Biddy and Joe.
He sells up, pays him many creditors, and leaves England to join Herbert Pocket in business in the East. Returning eleven years later, he pays a nostalgic evening visit to the site of Satis House. Walking in the garden is Estella. She is a widow, after an unhappy married life, from which she has learnt understanding and sympathy at last. But as the evening mists rise and the light grows, he can see no shadow of another parting from her.



Pip - As a bildungsroman, Great Expectations presents the growth and development of a single character, Philip Pirrip, better known to himself and to the world as Pip. As the focus of the bildungsroman, Pip is by far the most important character in Great Expectations: he is both the protagonist, whose actions make up the main plot of the novel, and the narrator, whose thoughts and attitudes shape the reader's perception of the story. As a result, developing an understanding of Pip's character is perhaps the most important step in understanding Great Expectations.
Because Pip is narrating his story many years after the events of the novel take place, there are really two Pips in Great Expectations: Pip the narrator and Pip the character—the voice telling the story and the person acting it out. Dickens takes great care to distinguish the two Pips, imbuing the voice of Pip the narrator with perspective and maturity while also imparting how Pip the character feels about what is happening to him as it actually happens. This skillfully executed distinction is perhaps best observed early in the book, when Pip the character is a child; here, Pip the narrator gently pokes fun at his younger self, but also enables us to see and feel the story through his eyes.
As a character, Pip's two most important traits are his immature, romantic idealism and his innately good conscience. On the one hand, Pip has a deep desire to improve himself and attain any possible advancement, whether educational, moral, or social. His longing to marry Estella and join the upper classes stems from the same idealistic desire as his longing to learn to read and his fear of being punished for bad behavior: once he understands ideas like poverty, ignorance, and immorality, Pip does not want to be poor, ignorant, or immoral. Pip the narrator judges his own past actions extremely harshly, rarely giving himself credit for good deeds but angrily castigating himself for bad ones. As a character, however, Pip's idealism often leads him to perceive the world rather narrowly, and his tendency to oversimplify situations based on a superficial standard of value leads him to behave badly toward the people who care about him. When Pip becomes a gentleman, for example, he immediately begins to act as he thinks a gentleman is supposed to act, which leads him to treat Joe and Biddy snobbishly and coldly.
On the other hand, Pip is at heart a very generous and sympathetic young man, a fact that can be witnessed in his numerous acts of kindness throughout the book (helping Magwitch, secretly buying Herbert's way into business, etc.) and his essential love for all those who love him. Pip's main line of development in the novel may be seen as the process of learning to place his innate sense of kindness and conscience above his immature idealism.
Not long after meeting Miss Havisham and Estella, Pip's desire for advancement largely overshadows his basic goodness. After receiving his mysterious fortune, his idealistic wishes seem to have been justified, and he gives himself over to a gentlemanly life of idleness. But the discovery that the wretched Magwitch, not the wealthy Miss Havisham, is his secret benefactor shatters Pip's oversimplified sense of his world's hierarchy. The fact that he comes to admire Magwitch while losing Estella to the brutish nobleman Drummle ultimately forces him to realize that one's social position is not the most important quality one possesses, and that his behavior as a gentleman has caused him to hurt the people who care about him most. Once he has learned these lessons, Pip matures into the man who narrates the novel, completing the bildungsroman.
Estella - Often cited as Dickens's first convincing female character, Estella is a supremely ironic creation, one who darkly undermines the notion of romantic love and serves as a bitter criticism against the class system in which she is mired. Raised from the age of three by Miss Havisham to torment men and "break their hearts," Estella wins Pip's deepest love by practicing deliberate cruelty. Unlike the warm, winsome, kind heroine of a traditional love story, Estella is cold, cynical, and manipulative. Though she represents Pip's first longed-for ideal of life among the upper classes, Estella is actually even lower-born than Pip; as Pip learns near the end of the novel, she is the daughter of Magwitch, the coarse convict, and thus springs from the very lowest level of society.
Ironically, life among the upper classes does not represent salvation for Estella. Instead, she is victimized twice by her adopted class. Rather than being raised by Magwitch, a man of great inner nobility, she is raised by Miss Havisham, who destroys her ability to express emotion and interact normally with the world. And rather than marrying the kindhearted commoner Pip, Estella marries the cruel nobleman Drummle, who treats her harshly and makes her life miserable for many years. In this way, Dickens uses Estella's life to reinforce the idea that one's happiness and well-being are not deeply connected to one's social position: had Estella been poor, she might have been substantially better off.
Despite her cold behavior and the damaging influences in her life, Dickens nevertheless ensures that Estella is still a sympathetic character. By giving the reader a sense of her inner struggle to discover and act on her own feelings rather than on the imposed motives of her upbringing, Dickens gives the reader a glimpse of Estella's inner life, which helps to explain what Pip might love about her. Estella does not seem able to stop herself from hurting Pip, but she also seems not to want to hurt him; she repeatedly warns him that she has "no heart" and seems to urge him as strongly as she can to find happiness by leaving her behind. Finally, Estella's long, painful marriage to Drummle causes her to develop along the same lines as Pip—that is, she learns, through experience, to rely on and trust her inner feelings. In the final scene of the novel, she has become her own woman for the first time in the book. As she says to Pip, "Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching.... I have been bent and broken, but—I hope—into a better shape."
Miss Havisham - The mad, vengeful Miss Havisham, a wealthy dowager who lives in a rotting mansion and wears an old wedding dress every day of her life, is not exactly a believable character, but she is certainly one of the most memorable creations in the book. Miss Havisham's life is defined by a single tragic event: her jilting by Compeyson on what was to have been their wedding day. From that moment forth, Miss Havisham is determined never to move beyond her heartbreak. She stops all the clocks in Satis House at twenty minutes to nine, the moment when she first learned that Compeyson was gone, and she wears only one shoe, because when she learned of his betrayal, she had not yet put on the other shoe. With a kind of manic, obsessive cruelty, Miss Havisham adopts Estella and raises her as a weapon to achieve her own revenge on men. Miss Havisham is an example of single-minded vengeance pursued destructively: both Miss Havisham and the people in her life suffer greatly because of her quest for revenge. Miss Havisham is completely unable to see that her actions are hurtful to Pip and Estella. She is redeemed at the end of the novel when she realizes that she has caused Pip's heart to be broken in the same manner as her own; rather than achieving any kind of personal revenge, she has only caused more pain. Miss Havisham immediately begs Pip for forgiveness, reinforcing the novel's theme that bad behavior can be redeemed by contrition and sympathy.




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Charles Dickens life and biography



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Charles Dickens life and biography



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Charles Dickens life and biography